Penny Arcade’s ‘Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!’ Returns to the Lower East Side

Posted on: May 16th, 2018 at 5:10 am by

Penny Arcade with film of Taylor Mead. Photo: James Gavin.

She’s often considered one of the creators of performance art (to which she has jokingly said, “I’m sorry”). Arising a handful of decades ago from the raw and creative Lower East Side, Penny Arcade’s shows, as she takes on the world around us, are honest, insightful, hilarious, emotional, brilliant and unapologetic.

Arcade recently brought one of our favorite performances, Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! (aka B!D!F!W!) back to New York. The show, which has toured internationally for 28 years, was created in 1990, partially in response to Senator Jesse Helms’ amendment banning the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) from providing funds for “obscene or indecent art.” B!D!F!W! was Arcade’s – appropriately indecent, of course – way of giving Senator Helms the middle finger.

Photo: James Gavin

Through word of mouth and positive reviews, the show, as Arcade notes, has been a great success “despite no funding from the NEA.”

Employing improvisation, monologue, comedy, erotic dancing, and audience participation (in the form of a massive dance party on stage during the show), themes of the show include AIDS, pornography, censorship, political correctness, the far right and the far left, and prostitution.

Aside from Arcade’s electrifying performance, a reason the show has endured for so long is what Arcade calls “The Drag Factor,” meaning that people drag their friends along. “In New York, people were coming every night and telling me their therapist had recommended the show.”

Photo: James Gavin

We recently saw Arcade perform B!D!F!W! as part of the East Village Series at the newly renovated Performance Space New York (previously known as PS 122). The not-for-profit arts organization, one of the longest standing venues dedicated to contemporary performance art in the city, opened in 1980 after a group of artists took over an abandoned public school and started creating performance art as a rejection of corporate mainstream culture.

Over the years, Performance Space New York has hosted thousands of works by artists such as Arcade, Eric Bogosian, Spalding Gray, Karen Finley, Eddie Izzard, John Leguizamo, Ethyl Eichelberger, Elevator Repair Service, Taylor Mac, Julie Atlas Muz, and Reggie Watts.

Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! has been performed more than 1,500 times in 30 cities internationally and continues to evolve. Citing the concepts of censorship and discrimination, the show is a freedom of speech rallying cry. As Arcade says, “This show was relevant in 1990, and it might even be more relevant today.”

There are three more chances to see B!D!F!W! this weekend on the 17th, 18th and 19th at Performance Space New York.

The East Village Series continues through June and you can find a schedule here.

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