Friday, November 16, 2018

BEHIND EVERY GORILLA MASK...


Aphra Behn here. I am finally off the road, regrouping for my spring tour and taking some time to enjoy New York City.

Aphra Behn with Gerda Taro
I recently had the chance to don my gorilla mask for a photo shoot for the cover of a major magazine (which I cannot tell you about because it's all hush hush until it hits the news stands).

Being behind the mask, with my sister Guerrilla Girls, was cool.  It made me think about being anonymous and faceless and how that works for activists on many levels.

It's empowering - you can say whatever you want and not be afraid of being accused of saying what you said for purely personal gains.

It's fun to wear a costume - and be someone else for a while.

You are different - in a mask, your facial expressions are gone and you have only your body to communicate your humanity.

The downsides....

A mask is a barrier between you and another human being - they cannot tell if you are smiling or crying. There is a disconnect. (Which is why Guerrilla Girls On Tour redesigned our masks to show parts of our faces - as theatre artists we wanted to break down the barrier the mask creates.) 

It's hot and sweaty under all that rubber.  I am good for about an hour, then I can't wait to rip it off.

Was in my old mask for about two hours and even though my hair was a royal mess afterwards, it was super fun to hang with my fellow activists for a day. 

Here are Alejandra Pizarnik, Gene Stratton-Porter, Hilma af Klint, Josephine Baker, Alla Horska, Gerda Taro and Julia de Burgos - GG's at the photo shoot!
GG's all wear different masks 
Relaxing pre photo shoot



Julia de Burgos
Aphra Behn




















BONUS PHOTO!

We LOVE it when fans send photos.  Here is are artists - Lisa Porretti Smith, art history graduate, and her daughter Lucy Wijnands, jazz vocalalist on the march as Guerrilla Girls! #Gobananas 



Saturday, October 27, 2018

671 Miles


October 24, 2018

I landed in Chicago, drove to Peoria. From Peoria I drove back to Chicago. From Chicago I drove to Pewaukee, Wisconsin. From Pewaukee I drove back to Chicago to fly to New York. All in all I drove a total of 671 miles through the mid west. It was an awesome week. 

Bradley University in Peoria – you rock! What a tight knit community of feminists I found. The Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Bradley could not have been more impressive – they assembled about 200 students for my talk “PUSH/PUSHBACK, 9 Steps to Make a Difference with Activism and Art.” There was an article in the Peoria Journal Star before my appearance. Some very smart man wrote a nasty comment about the article and thus, had to great fortune to have my own personal security detail in the form of campus Police and Officer Rossi.  

Thanks so much for this reassuring presence. Yes, these days there needs to be a police presence at feminist events. 

Lynne Swanson, Kim Scott, Mary Brolley, Sarah Glover and all of the rad feminists of Bradley, thanks for making me feel like a member of the Bradley Feminist In-Crowd. 


Thirty students even managed to make a bunch of incredible posters in an hour and a half workshop (this normally takes 2 and a half hours).

The posters were focused on privilege, sexism, climate change and race.  

Thanks to student Hannah Snidman for the great article in the Bradley Scout and Mary Brolley for the fabulous photos. 

Okay, I admit it. Illinois was where I fell in love with Panera. I mean with all that travel, Panera provided great coffee, macaroons, soba bowls and breakfast sandwiches.  


From Bradley it was off to University Chicago and The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. Gina Olson and the Center’s crew organized a feminist party at Midway Studios and the Grey Center – an old artists studio right on campus. My podium was an old easel – apropos. I really enjoyed talking selfies with the audience before the program and schmoozing with the late afternoon crowd.  There was food, drink, music and Center for Gender Studies blue everywhere. Thanks U of Chicago for the packed house. 

 My trip to Pewaukee was to visit an old friend living in a senior center there. He organized a pow wow of the residents. I tried to help them strategize a way for them to demand better food. They promise to keep me posted on their elder actions. 





It was a week on the road in the Midwest. Will not forget the driving – through wind farms, corn fields, Chicago and the Sears Tower, the malls of Pewaukee and through the sprawling O’Hare airport. 

See you again soon, Midwest.
Love , Aphra

Monday, September 3, 2018

And so it begins again...

September 1, 2018

The end of summer means fall is just around the corner and I am back on the road! This year I will kick off my 2018 ART OF ACTIVISM fall tour with a stop at the Spencertown Festival of Books. 
Donna Kaz at Spencertown Festival of Books
Spencertown Festival of Books 

Spencertown Festival of Books has been held every year since 2006 at the Spencertown Academy Arts Center.  A sleepy, verdant hamlet located in Columbia County, NY, Spencertown has a Country Store stocked with homemade pastries and jams and the best BLT I’ve tasted north of Manhattan. There is not much else to do in Spencertown except to experience the Academy – a cultural and community center housed in a landmark 1847 Greek Revival schoolhouse. Each year the Academy hosts a line up of events, one of the most popular being their festival of books – a curated used book sale with some of the best looking used books around. At this year’s festival I slipped a collection of short stories by Rick Bass under my arm and headed for the cashier while my husband, Richard, grabbed up novels by Helen Simonson and Anthony Trollope and followed me. 

Me and "UN/MASKED" 
But used books are not the only thing Spencertown Festival of Books offers. Every day the festival stage features readings from writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. They even host a young writers contest and I was so happy I arrived early to catch Claudia Maurino read her excellent and moving essay, “Loss,” as the nonfiction prize winner. Read it here.

Saturday, September 1st was my day as a featured author and I was paired with Linda Dahl, the author of the recently published “Fight Doctor.”  Now at first I thought my memoir about surviving domestic violence would not be a good fit for a memoir about boxing. But we were billed as “two formidables” and took our cues from each other, reading about struggles with finding our place as women in the world. 
It was a beautiful, sunny and, thankfully, not very humid day as a solid crowd gathered to hear us read. I so appreciated the nods of recognition from the local crowd as I read my story of being a masked avenger taking on sexism in the arts. As I began to talk about sexual abuse and assault, my thoughts suddenly fixated on my good friend Charles Harper, who I used to visit this area with back in the 80’s.  I write about Charles in “UN/MASKED” and felt him with me during the hard parts of my story. 

Of course my reading would not be complete without a banana toss and a Guerrilla Girl On Tour poster give-away. These have become my signature moves and make my readings more like parties with food and party favors. 

So thank you, Spencertown Festival of Books, for a memorable Labor Day Weekend 2018 and a great kick off of my fall tour. I could not leave without a last look through the great selection of books on sale and a slice of my friend Magadini’s blueberry pie. 

Lee Magadini
See you on the road!  For a complete list of tour stops go here


Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Maplewood South Orange Book Festival

June 9, 2018

Maplewood Book Festival 







June in New Jersey!  On June 9th I boarded an Amtrak Train at Penn Station and headed to the Maplewood South Orange Book Festival to participate in a #MeToo panel, reading and book signing of UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour.

With author Helen Wan 

Local festival organizer, Becky Kraemer, had added the panel to the new book festival because she felt it was important to talk about harassment and abuse in the work place and books that shed light on this issue.  She invited me, along with author Helen Wan, (The Partner Track) to share our journeys from victims to activists.  The panel was moderated by Fordham professor, Anne Fernald. 


UN/MASKED 
My train was an hour late but I made it just in time to sneak downstairs to the reading room at WORDS bookstore in Maplewood.  A nice crowd has assembled, including an old friend of the Guerrilla Girls, Michelle Hartung!

With Michelle Hartung 









Anne led us all through an open and thoughtful conversation about our journeys and how we came to use the truth of our stories for change. The audience asked stimulating questions and many provided stories of their own.

It always feels like this is a conversation that should not end. There needs to be a continual dialogue about how to end violence against women. #Timesup and #MeToo are not movements that have faded. They are important and necessary vehicles for women to speak out and support each other. There is momentum in harnessing the power of truth


Thank you Becky, , Anne, Helen and Maplewood for the memorable afternoon. 






Go Bananas!

Aphra Behn 

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Power of the Push!



Faculty of Wilkes and Kings, PA 
Poster making workshop 
 But first, a classroom full of students and faculty assembled to try their hands at making protest posters during a 3 hour workshop.
You are always perfect - final poster 

Feminist Artists in Workshop 
The Wilkes workshop (which was comprised of feminists from both Wilkes and Kings College in Wilkes-Barre) was one of the most focused I led. Perhaps it is the times we live in, but all participants were eager to hunker down and collaborate on some kick ass posters and sticker campaigns. Their final presentations were inspiring!

A packed house was the perfect ending to the “Art of Activism 2018” spring section of the tour.  Old friends, Karen Anselm of Bloom u and Bob Tevis of NYC Saloon days stopped by. New friends’ smiling faces bloomed from the audience and kept my spirits high all throughout the talk. At the end I sold books to some seasoned and brand new fans. It is always an honor to meet the readers of the memoir that took 4 years to write. I do not regret unmasking for a New York minute.

With Karen Anslem and Bob Tevis 
PUSH/PUSHBACK, 9 steps to make a difference with activism and art (because the world’s gone bananas) now settles down for a summer simmer while I travel to the Marble House Project for a 3 week residency in June to turn the talk into a book.

Fall tour dates are filling up, however.  If you are interested in bringing PUSH/PUSHBACK to your town sign up for the Guerrilla Girls On Tour newsletter here or check out our latest emailblast.

See you in September!

Much love and gratitude,

Aphra Behn

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A return to two towns…Brockport and Scranton

February into March 2018

It is homecoming month for me, Aphra Behn, Guerrilla Girl On Tour and on my way back to two places which have been very important to me – so important that I write about them both in my memoir UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour.

Back to Brockport! 
On February 20th I returned to my alma mater – SUNY Brockport where I received my undergraduate degree in theatre. I wrote extensively about my college days in my book - mostly about the fact that I was sexually assaulted by a professor in the theatre department.

With Dr. Panning and Dr. LaSavoy 

I was a bit nervous about my return the Brockport so I contacted the coordinator of Brockport’s Writers Forum, Dr. Anne Panning, to discuss with her how I could maximize my impact on campus. I should not have been worried for Anne Panning completely understood how important it might be for me to talk about sexual assault to the current student body on the very grounds where it happened. She was completely with me when I told her this was an important moment for me and talked about how I might make the most of my return to Brockport. We decided to take advantage of time and she scheduled a full two days for me to mingle and talk with as many students and faculty as time would allow. 

Women's and Gender Studies Rock Star Students at SUNY BROCKPORT 
I flew into Rochester and rented a car.  So many times I had taken the road to Brockport but since it had been about 35 years since I had been to Brockport I found myself driving on new roads and unfamiliar routes. No wonder I made a stop at the Brockport Diner as soon as I found it in the same spot I left it.  My first waitressing job was at the Diner – the graveyard shift from midnight to 7AM. 
Back at the Brockport Diner

SUNY Brockport’s campus is twice the size it once was but the main road through campus was the same. It was raining when I parked illegally in the faculty parking lot at the Fine Arts Building and dashed inside for a quick look at the theatre department. It was deserted – none of the bustle and noise of the days when the department boasted 200 majors. I found the main stage open – a half painted set in the middle of the stage.  A floodgate of memoires opened and washed over me. Everything was eerily familiar. I knew my next stop would be the creepy predator professor’s old office. I had to laugh when I found it was now a janitors closet.  Revenge is sweet.

Creepy Professor B's former office. 
After that all apprehensions melted away. My return to Brockport turned into one big love fest.

Lucky me - I got to speak to students at a Women’s and Gender Studies class (with Dr. Barb LeSavoy), a theatre class (with P. Gibson Ralph and Dr. Davida Bloom). The smiling face of Dr. Oh-Kon Cho appeared – he came to Brockport just as I was graduating and gave me a very warm welcome back. We reminisced about the days I was a student and there were 17 full time theatre faculty on staff.

With Dr. Oh-Kon Cho
Interviewed by Barb and Anne for Writers Forum Brockport

During my visit I was interviewed by Dr. Panning and Dr. LeSavoy for the Writers Forum archives which date back to 1968 and include interviews with major authors including (Guerrilla Girl) Anne Sexton. I had lunch and got to chat with some amazing Women’s Studies students. I fielded smart, funny questions from an English creative writing class (who had all ready my book). And I had the chance to make a trip back to the Lift Bridge Bookstore – the site of my feminist awakening. (See UN/MASKED and the story of finding a copy of “Our Bodies Ourselves” there circa 1974.)  Of course it was kismet that they had a used copy of Our Bodies Ourselves which I snapped up for a giveaway at my reading that night.


With the winner of "Our Bodies, Ourselves"
What can I say about the Brockport audience that won’t sound mushy except to report that they sure knew how to welcome me home. As I walked onto the stage they held hand made gorilla masks to their faces and laughed. What a welcome. Even the awesome Brockport President, Dr. Heidi Macpherson, was there. I signed many books and left with my heart full of a tremendous feeling of gratitude at how far my journey has come.  Thank you, Brockport.
Decorated Gorilla Masks 
The crowd at Brocport 
Onwards to kick off Women’s History Month at another town full of memories - Scranton Pa – the city which hosted the world premiere of my play, JOAN, in 1999 (which won a Jason Miller Prize from the Scranton Times for best production).  In Scranton, I was artistic director of the now defunct TNT theatre for two years.


At U of Scranton 
I am in Scranton at the invitation of the University of Scranton (and Dr. Jamie Trnka) which is the home of many super savvy feminist students. 17 of them participated in my poster making workshop the evening I arrived, creating 4 provocative posters (which now grace the walls of the women’s center).

U of Scranton Workshop Artists! 






The following evening I presented “PUSH/PUSHBACK, 9 steps to make a difference withart and activism” that night as part of U of Scranton’s Schemel Forum. A mix of students and Scrantonites filled the audience, mostly the back rows.  One audience member explained it this way, “We’re catholic. We like to sit in the back!”

The U of Scranton Audience 
With Peggy Lee of local Chanel 16
The local news showed up and so did the campus paper.  While the Jesuits were a more subdued crowd then Brockport they nonetheless offered crisp attention, spurts of laughter and many nods of support for the feminist issues I raised. And of course they had some of the smartest questions I have ever received during the ending Q and A.

U of Scranton POSTER by Workshop Participants 
It was pouring rain as I left both Brockport and Scranton.  But my spirits were as high as they have ever been. As I drive home from Scranton, I recall the strong poster on racism a group of students created during the poster workshop - expressions of pain rain down on women of color. I have shared some of my own pain as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence and it feels right. I have shared some of the tactics of the Girls with the hopes that that others may now utilize them to push against our predator president and patriarchy. These past few days remind me how lucky and grateful I am to have had the opportunity to go back and meet new people from the places where I have so much herstory.

With much love,
Aphra

Full Circle - Back at the Lift Bridge Book Store where a Book inspired me to be a feminist.