Penny Arcade (performer)

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Penny Arcade
Born Susana Ventura
(1950-07-15) July 15, 1950 (age 64)
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation Performance artist, playwright
Spouse(s) Chris Rael

Penny Arcade (born Susana Ventura, July 15, 1950), is an American performance artist, actress, and playwright based in New York City.

Ventura's long association with avant-garde performance began at age 17, when she performed with John Vaccaro's Playhouse of the Ridiculous, and appeared in the Jackie Curtis play Femme Fatale, followed by an appearance in the Andy Warhol film, Women in Revolt. She traveled Europe during the 1970s, returning to New York in 1981, where she worked with many underground theatre artists, including Jack Smith, Charles Ludlam and the Angels of Light. She co-starred with Quentin Crisp in the long-running performance/interview piece, The Last Will and Testament of Quentin Crisp.

As Penny Arcade, she has been performing her own monologues since 1985, mostly in New York. In the late 1980s she created a character named Margo Howard-Howard, a 50-year-old drag queen with a scandalous past, for her performances.[1] The New York Times refers to the character as "patently unbelievable", but in a later article acknowledges that her monologue was "based on real Lower East Side residents." Howard-Howard received an obituary in The Village Voice.

The Village Gate Sign on the corner of Thompson and Bleecker streets, January 2006

In the 1990s she toured internationally with her most popular show, Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!, which, like much of her work, was an opinionated commentary on sexuality and censorship; it featured a chorus of amateur reverse strippers. In 1998 she performed at the first Gay Shame event (as opposed to gay pride) at DUMBA in Brooklyn; she appears in the documentary film of the event by Scott Berry, entitled Gay Shame '98. Her 2002 performance New York Values, which also toured abroad, addressed the loss of cultural identity in New York during the Giuliani years. The famous Village Gate marquee in New York is still adorned with her name and the title of her performance piece, although the nightclub no longer exists.[2]

Arcade is a co-founder of the Lower East Side Biography Project, a video production and oral history workshop that trains participants in documentary filmmaking and preserves the stories of Lower Manhattan artists and activists. Recently profiled individuals have included Herbert Huncke, Jayne County, and Marty Matz, among others.

In 2002 Arcade ran for the New York State Assembly as a candidate of the Green Party.[3] She received 1,054 votes out of 32,976 in the 74th Assembly district,[4] losing to incumbent and anti-rent control advocate Steven Sanders.[5]

In January 2011 Arcade had an on stage spat with notorious performance artist Ann Liv Young who was in guise as her alter ego Sherry.[6]

In 2012 Arcade took up residence at London's Arcola Theatre for a run of her show Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! [7]

Penny Arcade was married to musician Chris Rael, with whom she performs all over the world.[year needed]


  1. ^ "Weekender Guide," New York Times, August 4, 1989
  2. ^ Al Giordano (June 4, 2010). "Penny Arcade’s Bad Reputation and a Stage Called Journalism". The Field. 
  3. ^ "New York Dreaming Green". Village Voice. 2002-10-08. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 
  4. ^ "NYS Board of Elections - Assembly - Vote November 5, 2002". Retrieved 2013-11-09. 
  5. ^ "Gotham Gazette's Eye On Albany: New York State Assembly: District 74". Retrieved 2013-11-09. 
  6. ^ "Hipster warfare breaks out during performance artist Ann Liv Young's show at Delancey Lounge - NY Daily News". 2011-01-12. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 
  7. ^ "Arcola Theatre". Arcola Theatre. Retrieved 2013-11-09. 

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