Friday, November 11, 2011

Are You Free to Be Yourself? - Penny Arcade Wants You to Be

Local dancer Brent

We walked into the art gallery at Out North just before B!D!F!W! began.  This is the room that had the magnificent lace, where Catherine Senungetuk's retrospective exhibit was held, where my son's post wedding dinner was, and Ted Herlinger's incredible reed and sinew balls floated in air.  And last Saturday night there was loud music, a bar, and a buff gogo dancer.  So many things can happen in the same space over time.

So the evening began.

Inside the theater space, there were more gogo dancers a photographer, video of the dancers, and the not quite so loud beat of dance music.  (The dancers were all local folks who had only had a few days to rehearse.  They were great!)

Penny Arcade (aka Susana Ventura) is worth going to see, just because she is a significant link to part of American cultural history.  From her own website:

Since first climbing out of her bedroom window at age 13 to join the fabulously disenfranchised world of queers, junkies, whores, stars, stalkers and geniuses she has become one of the most influential performers in the world. By fearlessly displaying her singular brand of feminist sexuality and personal conflict she has garnered countless fans worldwide with an emotionally and intellectually charged performance style. Internationally revered as writer, director and actress, she has become the very bedrock that many of the biggest names in the entertainment industry have built their careers upon.
You think that's over the top?  Well, that's part of who she is. Her biography also says:

"Legend, icon, wild-hearted demoness bad-girl bitch. It is impossible to describe the juggernaut that is Penny Arcade without entering the world of hyperbole that she not only inhabits but also personifies."

Penny and local dancer Walter after the show

Penny Arcade was sometimes funny, sometimes rocking, often thought provoking, and sometimes she exposed her inner human vulnerability to the audience to the extent that you just wanted to give her a big hug and comfort her. The subtitle is "Sex and Censorship Show" and that's the theme throughout, from the opening skit where she takes calls to a New York whore house.

There's even a break where the audience is  encouraged to get up and dance - which most did. Penny's life is the thread that ties all the pieces together that reflect on sex, secrecy, hate, homophobia, sexism, and the ideals of the United States. There were times when the pace slipped and the prose was just ordinary - particularly when she was commenting on the most current events. I just assume she was trying out new material.

Anchorage has this visitor from another planet whose population included some of the most talented and outrageous artists of the 20th Century including Andy Warhol (who's work was on display at the Anchorage Museum last year) and Quentin Crisp and she lived through the AIDS epidemic in Manhattan and watch hundreds of her friends die. This is, in my mind, must see stuff. If only to connect first hand to this part of our history. It's here this weekend and next at Out North - on DeBarr almost kitty corner from Costco.

8pm Fridays and Saturdays.   (Go earlier for the bar and dancing in the gallery.)

It's this kind of stuff which continues to make Out North not only a special
Local dancer Bonanza after the sho
place in Anchorage, but from what I can tell, in the US.

And, since I'd been interviewing Brent Scarpo, who has been in town all week talking to folks about how to move from bullying and hate to hope, I thought that in many ways, Penny Arcade's show was the X rated version of the same topic.

This is the kind of stuff that expands both your heart and your head.  I'm sure that there are people who would walk out in disgust.  But I would argue that such people are not doing what Penny is preaching - looking deep into their hearts and being true to themselves, NOT to what others say they should do. *

The exact same advice that Brent Scarpo is offering.  Know, then be, yourself.  It can really be painful getting there.

*OK, OK, I know some of you will react here.  They are not saying the rest of the world should be damned as people selfishly indulge.  But they are saying, carefully consider which of society's messages are important and which are merely attempts to bend everyone into the same narrow mold. 

Determine whether you have been shaped into someone you aren't in an attempt to conform to a single  ideal of a good human being.  Then work to genuinely know that it's ok to be who you are.  And then let all the rest go and follow your own passion.  And be free.

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