Get to know legendary downtown performance artist, actress, poet, and theater maker Penny Arcade, a.k.a. Susana Ventura, who brings a night of word-driven entertainment showcasing her highly quotable wit and authentic spirit to the David Rubenstein Atrium on February 15.


First instrument you played?
I played piano by ear starting at age 4.

Top three influences (musical or otherwise?)
For first-person narrative, London Wainwright lII. For performance poetry, John Giorno. And Patti Smith, another working-class girl in a world of 1960s debutantes who showed me our voices deserved to be heard.

Artist/album you have on repeat?
Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.

Last live performance you saw?
David Cale.

Favorite city to play?
Brunswick Heads, New South Wales, Australia.

Hidden talent?
Whistling.

Favorite book or movie?
Sleep It Off Lady by Jean Rhys.

Top three pieces of advice for aspiring artists?
1. Beware the Not For Profit Industrial Complex. They are there to develop the careers of administrators, not of artists. 2. Remember the Arc of Developement, not taught in art schools. The first ten years you do anything is student work. Play the long game if your goal is greatness. 3. Honor your lineage. Respect and know what formed your tastes, values, and ideas and always seek to promote and acknowledge it.

First live performance you remember seeing?
The Moke-eater by Kenneth Bernard at the Play-house of The Ridiculous in New York City, 1968.

Artist you'd most like to meet (past or present)?
Whoever wrote The Golden Girls!

First paying gig?
At Performance Space 122 in 1985.

Latest/current project?
Longing Lasts Longer, a refutation of nostalgia from the ruins of hypergentrification.

Country (or city) you'd most like to visit?
Uzbekistan.

Artist you'd most like to collaborate with?
Jenny Holzer.

First time you realized you wanted to be an artist?
I was an installation artist at 6 years old. I have always been an artist and knew it but never had any entitlement about it.

What you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
Every goal, every dream, every idea you have is put inside you to be realized.

Practice tips?
Face your insecurity and doubt, they are your greatest tools. Find outside accountability for your projects' deadlines.

You hope someone comes away from one of your performances feeling…?
A sense of inclusion recognition and inspiration.

Next goal or challenge you're setting for yourself?
Write a book that creates the same impact as my live performance and brings my work to a far greater number of people than can see a live performance.

What do you want to be when you "grow up"?
I want to continue to shed my lizard body of shame and fear.