Y.M.C.A. from the play Bad Reputation
excerpt from the theatre of Penny Arcade

Steve Zehentner Credits:
Bad Reputation:  stage design/co-direction, video edit

Penny Arcade’s Bad Reputation examines the co-optation of the “bad girl” image by the art and entertainment world, which shuns women it perceives to be truly dangerous. The show reveals what contemporary feminism has always ignored, the way women betray women, which Penny Arcade posits as the real failure of feminism. Bad Reputation exposes what happens to young girls who are branded bad and are rejected by their families, kids their own age, and society all at the same time, leaving them isolated and vulnerable to lives at risk.

Bad Reputation examines the dark labyrinth of rape and sexual abuse and its inherent legacy of humiliation, both in her own life and in society at large, showing the connections between sexual abuse, prostitution and drug addiction.

Bad Reputation is an all-girl revenge show, except for a few gay men who can’t believe they’re not in the show, showing the long historical identification of gay men with bad girls. This excerpt features what Penny describes as the Tom of Finland version of YMCA and was choreographed by Lee Raines and features dancers: Ken “Angel” Davis, Lee Raines, Damien DePaolis, Larry Keigman, J.P. Liguari.  Penny Arcade continues her long use of female erotic dancers this time juxtaposing them with Broadway jazz dancers, to illustrate the good girl/bad girl dynamic at work in society.

Penny Arcade: A runaway at thirteen, a reform-school graduate at sixteen, a performer in the legendary New York City Play-House of the Ridiculous at seventeen, and an escapee from Andy Warhol’s Factory scene at nineteen, Penny Arcade emerged in the 1980s as a primal force on the New York art scene and an originator of what came to be called performance art. Arcade’s brand of high camp and street-smart, punk-rock cabaret showmanship has been winning over international audiences ever since.

Penny Arcade is the author of ten full-length performance pieces including the mainstream hit Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! Her work been presented in venues as celebrated as the Sydney Opera House and as sordid as New York’s Pyramid Club.

With long-time collaborator Steve Zehentner, Arcade is the co-producer of The Lower East Side Biography Project, a video oral history project. Bad Reputation, her first book was published by Semiotexte/MIT Press; and she was recently portrayed by Sex in the City actress Cynthia Nixon in the film, Englishman in New York, the biopic about her friend Quentin Crisp.

If there is an underlying thematic in all of Arcade’s work, it is perhaps this concern to advocate the full expression of our “life force”—creative, sexual, physically and verbally expressive—and to speak out against those societal and political forces that would repress such energizing self-realization.  – Stephen Bottoms, University of Leeds, U.K.