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Shelly Mars (b. 1960, Celina, Ohio) is a performance artist, actor and printmaker based in New York. She studied at University of California, Santa Cruz and has a B.F.A. in theater from the California Institute of the Arts. She also studied at American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco.
Since starting performing in San Francisco in the early 1980s, Mars has done everything from improvisational stage work to voiceovers to movies and is best known for her monologues and gender-bending portrayals of various subcultures, with a focus on queer culture.
Film and TV appearances
Her first film role was in Monika Treut's Die Jungfrauenmaschine (aka Virgin Machine), a groundbreaking film about the hedonistic exploration of sexuality. Mars went on to appear in many more films, including Drop Dead Rock with Debbie Harry and Adam Ant, Jennie Livingston's Who's the Top?, Venus Boyz, Mary Harron's The Notorious Bettie Page and a documentary based on her own life, The Dark Matter of Mars.
After Virgin Machine's release in 1988, Mars was at the forefront of the emerging drag king culture in the US and appeared on such television shows as The Kids in the Hall, The Phil Donahue Show, The Montel Williams Show and The Sally Jesse Raphael Show and on HBO's Real Sex and Drag Kings. More recently, she has been featured in Comedy Central's Out There in Hollywood, A&E's Role Reversal and The Jamie Kennedy Experience on The WB.
Her solo shows include Bug Chasers (2005), Whiplash: Tales of a Tomboy (1999), which the New York Times called her “a female Candide”, and Invasion from Mars (1997) working in venues across New York and beyond: Abrons Art Center, PS 122, New York Theatre Workshop, The Kitchen and the Grove Street Playhouse.
She performed in the Night of 100 Stars to raise money for the first New York International Fringe Festival (1997). Mars' autobiographical show, Sex on Mars, enjoyed a five-month run in Provincetown, MA in 2000.
Her Homo Bonobo Project show, which is ongoing, weaves themes of sexuality, love, and violence into a educational piece about the bonobos of the Congo.
Recently, Mars has been Artist in Residence at NYC's Museum of Sex and has received grants from the New York State Council on the Arts (2010), the Arcus Foundation, the Gill Foundation, and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art.
She is currently hosting a performance series at Dixon Place called Bulldyke Chronicles that she co-hosts with Kirby the Bulldog.
She has taught others the how-tos of performance art and creating one's own monologue; her own monologues have been published in Creating Your Own Monologue.
Mars has recently started doing printmaking and textile work with paper, metal and tee shirts in a style that reflects the intensity, sexuality and darkly layered aspects of her performance art.
- Martin—Sleazy, middle-management Wall Street hot shot
- Peter Powell—Fashion photographer and ACT-UP activist with AIDS dementia
- Susan Powell—Peter's mother, a WASP from Greenwich, CT
- Damon Corson—Beat poet and independent filmmaker
- Zana Ana Rosen—Jewish lesbian separatist poetess from Northhampton, MA
- Dr. Ghislaine Pussait—Belgian French primatologist and ethologist, who studies Bonobo Apes and queer behavior
- Margerite Baker—Mars' grandmother's housekeeper
- Laura Martinelli Cantaloni Pizza—member of Italian jet-set
- The Performance ARTist—51-year-old pretentious performance artist
- Official website
- Shelly Mars on the Homo Bonobo Project website
- Shelly Mars on YouTube
- Shelly Mars on IMDb
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