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Seven Days

Burlington, Vermont USA
Seven Days Newspaper
PO Box 1164, 255 So. Champlain St. Burlington, VT 05402-1164
2001 Da Capo Publishing

cover design by: Glyn Jones

May 9, 2001

Janice Perry in costume. St. Joan, eat your heart out.
Photos: Erik Borg

Twisted Sister Janice

Vermont's international "Gal" crucifies Western religion in a new, one-woman show


Janice Perry wants to meet at Bixby Memorial Library in Vergennes, where, she informs, "I'm the queen." A beat later she qualifies, "Of course, anyone can be queen there."It's a classic Janice Perry line: a bit of gloating followed by self-deprecation. Pride goeth before a joke, you might say. The same tactic works in her one-woman shows - next week at Contois Auditorium in Burlington, Holy Sh*t: Stories From Heaven and Hell will surely be no exception. It's one of her gifts as a performer that, when you can't tell whether she's serious, she usually is.

When I arrive at the library Perry has already made herself at home in a small meeting room - the Vermont history room, actually - in the front. But before the interview she wants to show me around a bit.

The place is, in fact, amazing. Thousands of people motor past it on Route 22A with scarcely a second glance, much less a look inside. Built in 1912, its quietly dignified exterior gives way to a spectacular stained-glass dome three stories high. Perry feels proprietary about the place because, she says, she has all her meetings here - it's conveniently located near her home in Ferrisburgh. And a few years back the Bixby's octogenarian librarian singled her out for her a personal "donation to thearts." "She knew I was in trouble," says Perry, "and she wanted to help me."

This sunny Saturday morning, Perry is still a little jet-lagged; she just returned from one of her European tours, and her internal clock hasn't adjusted yet. Furthermore, she came home to find the mice in her house were ahead. "I've been keeping score,"she explains. "It's mice 31, me 14."What earned them extra points this time was that the mice had a "soap fest" in the bathtub - meaning they chewed the bejesus out of a bar. "I found an impressive mound of mouse shit under the soap dish," Perry says with grudging admiration for the creatures overrunning her 19th-century home - a rural outpost she bought for $3000 in 1974. "Nature has complete access to my house,"she laments.

Her retaliation is swift but gentle: Perry captures the rodents in a Havahart trap and releases them somewhere outside. But not just any place. "I put them near the houses of people I don't like," she confesses. Guiltily, she reveals that she'd released a few near one person's house only to find out he'd moved months earlier.

She's serious. And the anecdote says a lot about Janice Perry, a.k.a. "Gal," a native Vermonter and nature lover whose calling happily includes telling people exactly what she thinks and making them laugh about it. It's a talent that recently won her a Fulbright Scholarship as a "Senior Cultural Specialist." More on that later.

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