Penny Arcade


Ballerina 1

I make friends with cities the way the other people make friends with people. Perhaps it is because my need for solitude and sanctuary has always been so great.

As a child, in my immigrant, Italian mother’s house, even grown up, I was never allowed to close my bedroom door, nor be alone for any period of time.

Instead, I found sanctuary where they could not follow me; the empty railroad tracks behind my house, the black acid plateau below the dump, the jagged granite outcrop, on my way to school, every day, high up, my back against the rock, the sun on my face.

Spread your wings
Come on fly awhile
Straight to my arms
Little angel child

We can find many things in other people but sanctuary and solitude are not among of them. No matter how kind, how non-judgmental, or even how silent, not even a lover can hold our solitude or offer us sanctuary. Solitude cannot be shared. It can only shelter one, and we must never turn another person into a sanctuary.

I know many people cannot fathom New York City as a place of solitude or sanctuary, but for some of us, for many of us, that cacophonous, scurrying, chaotic place held a holy peace. The asphalt jungle they called it in the 1960’s, boundaried by danger and risk - physical, emotional, cultural, intellectual risk.

And we who needed that raw, unmapped landscape, craved it with a desperation as great as the bleakness that emanated from its haunted streets.

SFX 23 – X into Ballerina 3

You know you’re only
Lonely twenty-two story block

That bleakness flowed and met the desolation of our own hearts, the way the sea washes back into its tributaries.

We who fit nowhere else.
We who ground to the granite ignite below our feet.
We who fled the myopic, claustrophobic, Puritanism of America’s interior, breathed free though ragged in its harsh embrace.

SFX 24 – X into Ballerina 4

Crowd will catch you
Crowd will catch you
Fly it, sigh it, try it

People talk about how the world is changing.

Well, I may be wrong

But some of us understand that the world has changed forever.

But something deep in my heart tells me I'm right and I don't think so

There are no more empty places,

You know I saw the writing on the wall

no dark alleyways, no secret corners left anywhere.

Look, New York City is only a small island. It was easy to conquer. The boroughs quickly followed.
Now it is like every other city in the world, it too is now mapped, delineated, bought, sold, branded.


TIME OUT New York, TIME OUT LA, Time Out London
TIME OUT Marrakesh, TIME OUT Istanbul, TIME OUT Bangkok

When I tell people what I miss about New York, they think I am talking about the 60, 70, 80’s They think I’m talking about my past…a past that has been glorified to them.

They come up to me on the street, they say, Oh! Penny Arcade. I read about you in Patti Smith's book Just Kids. They associate me with that lost glory of the 70’s but I stayed underground. I out-Rimbaud-ed Patti, and I equate that time as only glorious defeat.

I know from experience that my point of view is incomprehensible to some people. Why? because my point of view has been honed by a long exile at the edge of society.

SFX 25 – X into Ballerina 5 – But If It Gets To You

But if it gets to you

And sometimes it does.

And you feel like you just can't go on

You can't go on talking to stupid people.

All you gotta do

Yes the world has changed.

Is ring a bell

and you…
….you need look no further than the roses.

Haven’t you noticed that the roses in the shops have lost their scent? That they no longer smell like roses.
Doesn’t that frighten you?
Does anyone know what I’m talking about?
Can I get a witness in this room?

William Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, and what pray tell me is the name of the rose now….

Penny Arcade aka Susana Ventura is a poet, essayist, spoken word, video and theatre maker who creates long form text-based performance art, a form of experimental theatre that investigates the boundaries between traditional theatre and performance based on her poetic practice. Her decades long focus on the creation of community as the goal of performance and her use of performance as a transformative act mark her as a true original in American theatre. Since 1999 she has co-helmed The Lower East Side Biography Project, "Stemming The Tide of Cultural Amnesia" with her collaborator of 30 years Steve Zehentner. She is the author of 16 full length works, hundreds of performances pieces, lectures, interviews all available on Patreon by donation.