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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review of "UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour" in MS MAGAZINE

Abuse and Empowerment: Donna Kaz’s “Un/Masked” Compels Us to Speak Up

November 30, 2016 by Marina Delvecchio

Donna Kaz’s Un/Masked: Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl on Tour chronicles the birth of a feminist. Through a narrative spanning abuse, activism and her urgent struggle to solidify her place in theater, Kaz provides her readers with a dynamic storyline that keeps us turning the pages in search of empowerment—hers and ours.



Applying humor, candor, and in some places, the form that playwrights use when constructing scenes and dialogue, we see how the artistic mind finds solace and empowerment while navigating the trenches of love and abuse.

Kaz is in her early twenties when she meets Bill. Much older than her, and much more experienced in the nuances of relationships, in Bill we encounter a narcissist entrenched in his own self-worth. For the next three years, Kaz becomes the target of his unfettered rage when he feels insecure with his acting or his work.

Eventually, we’re propelled forward twenty years—the late 90’s—during which she becomes involved with the Guerrilla Girls, an activist group of feminists who wear gorilla masks and protest the male-dominated arena of the arts. Along with the gorilla masks, the women’s anonymity is further established when they each assume the moniker of a dead artist in a poetic attempt to represent and give voice to artists, poets, musicians and writers the male industry of the arts renders invisible. Kaz assumes the name of Aphra Behn, the first English female known to have made her living as a writer during the 1600’s. 



Concealed behind the gorilla mask and Aphra Behn’s name, Kaz finds a voice that refutes the secondary and silenced inferiority meant for female artists in an industry that produces plays, music, art and theater only created by men and only honoring men. The Guerrilla Girls spent their free time advocating for their rights to be artists, to produce their own work, to share with the world creative outlets that rest on female power and volition and to open doors for the next generation of female artists entering this very patriarchal and male-run platform of the arts.
Being a Guerrilla Girl and advocating for other women inevitably guarantees Kaz the courage she needed to also express the abuse she suffered at the hands of her intimate partner twenty years earlier. She not only named the abuse, but she also, finally, named her abuser, which cut him off entirely from her life, allowing her to move on, fall in love and marry and pursue her: 



Read more here

Monday, November 28, 2016

Reports from the Front – West Coast Book Tour “UN/MASKED” - post election

Dear Book,

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Aphra Behn here. It is great to be back on the road again and once more heading for the west coast – the place where I wrote part of my memoir, “UN/MASKED” – first at Lit Camp (a three day retreat/workshop) and the second at Mesa Refuge (a longer, self directed retreat for writers).  In addition, about half of “UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour” takes place on the west coast - so it feels oh so appropriate and right to be returning.

Venice Pier

I arrived in LA three days before my Book Soup/Peace Over Violence readings so I could catch up with old friends and get used to the time change. The city was experiencing an unusually hot fall – temperatures were in the 80’s. I stayed at a hotel near Venice Beach and for the first three days was up by 6 and out running on the Venice Pier, stopping for a smoothie on the return. Wow, had so forgotten how incredible the light in Los Angeles is. No wonder female artists love this city! 

After three days of soaking it all up I settled down to the task at hand – choosing, preparing and rehearsing my readings.

Oh yes, authors must prepare as if they are actors. Readings are, after all, a chance to connect with a new audience, not an opportunity to bore people and put them to sleep. Well, I guess if you goal is to lull your audience it is okay to put people to sleep. I remember the environmental performance artist, Bob Carroll, used to do a show downtown NYC in the 70’s called “The Salmon Show” and would start by telling everyone he loved to sleep so if you wanted to nod off, go right ahead. I want to engage, entertain and not drone on so I hunker down to rehearse.


With Daniela Kuper

Monday, November 14, 2016, Book Soup

My friend and fellow author, Daniela Kuper (Hunger and Thirst), met me in LA and helped me prepare. On November 14 we hopped in an Uber and crawled to Book Soup in West Hollywood. It literally took us an hour and 15 minutes to travel what should have taken 20 minutes. #LAtraffic has gotten so much worse.

Book Soup is like walking through an interesting old curio shop – there are tons of books as well as posters, pens, notebooks, cards and other cool stuff to finger through.  Book Soup proudly displayed this awesome poster of my reading in the window.


Many friends and fans showed up and crammed into the small space they reserve for readings.  I shared my story – how it was a bookstore and a book that turned me on to feminism (“Our Bodies, Ourselves”). The night ended with a signing and my west coast book tour was officially launched.

“Kaz is a vivid writer and presenter. Her timely memoir deals with her evolution from abused woman (actor William Hurt) to feminist-activist Guerrilla Girl. At her reading (Book Soup, L.A.) she held the audience close and offered the first sane, creative post-election advise I've heard.” – Daniela Kuper, author of “Hunger and Thirst

Tuesday, November 15 – Peace Over Violence

Thanks for that quote, Daniela.  My work with Peace Over Violence (formerly LA Commission on Assaults Against Women) is detailed in “UN/MASKED.”  It was via this organization that I first identified as a survivor of domestic violence and where I trained to work the LA Rape and Battery hotline for the first time. So, to read and sign books about my experience here was very special.  I decided to read some of the hardest parts of the book for this stop. I had stayed away from reading about domestic violence because, well, it is difficult to read aloud. But Daniela encouraged me and reminded me that Peace Over Violence was the perfect location to test reading these sections of the book. It worked. I got over my fear and the audience thanked me for choosing those passages to read. At the end of the night executive director Patti Giggans joined me on stage and we shared stories from the old days. The conversation with the audience quickly turned to the election and how we can combat violence in America.


Me and Patti Giggans at Peace Over Violence 

November 16. Book Passage, San Francisco

I catch an early flight north to San Francisco! I have just enough time to check into my hotel and grab a bite to eat before heading over to Book Passage in the Ferry Building. What a beautiful store, in a beautiful location with an incredibly warm staff.  Book Passage book lover extraordinaire, Ama, discussed my book with me and then gave the warmest intro I have received thus far.  Even though the audience was small, those present were attentive and asked the most thoughtful questions. My favorite was about how one deals with liability when writing about someone still living. I signed over 20 books for Book Passage locations all over SF and went out for oysters afterwards with two old friends. Later, from my hotel room I could hear the sounds of anti-Trump protests. I heart San Francisco.

November 17 – Travel day

I am off to Seattle where the temperature is in the 40’s. As soon as I land I continue my search for more west coast shellfish and the perfect oysters by having lunch at Taylor’s Seafood near my hotel. This combo seafood shop/oyster bar was a warm welcome to Seattle. After a trip to Whole Foods (through traffic almost as bad as Los Angeles), I get a good nights sleep.

November 18. Hugo House

with Michelle Tea  

Tonight I read with Michelle Tea at Hugo House. The event is actually at Fred’s Wildlife Refuge, an awesome event space on Capitol Hill with terrific lighting, a bar and a small stage.  There are three of us on the bill.  Former employee of Feminist Press, Kait Heacock, begins with a few words and Jordan O’Jordan starts the party off with three songs. Jordan is a warm and caring soul who sings from the heart, his only accompaniment a 5 string banjo.  After that I’m up – reading and throwing bananas to an almost packed audience of 50 or 60.  For the first time I name my batterer, William Hurt, before I read a section about him. It feels natural and good. The audience gives me a really warm reception and I feel terrific bumping into and meeting Michelle Tea for the first time as I exit.  She reads from “Blackwave” – is funny and serious, her comic timing perfection.  Afterwards, Eliot Bay Books  provides copies that Michelle and I sign while chatting with the crowd.

I’m exhausted, spent, craving one more plate of oysters but decide on watching reruns of “Star Trek” and ordering room service.  I sleep soundly, wake up the next morning to a clear sky and a smooth trip back to the big apple.

Thanks for the memories, LA, SF and Seattle.  Until next time, book.

Love, Aphra




Wednesday, November 9, 2016

POST ELECTION PICK-ME-UP - what you can do now

Feeling helpless today?  Here’s a list of 8 things you can do:
  1. Volunteer.  Find a local organization fighting sexism and racism and sign up to help. Find one here https://www.volunteermatch.org/search/org21625.jsp
  2.  Buy a book from a radical bookstore like BLUESTOCKINGS in NYC or WOMEN and CHILDREN FIRST in Chicago. Here’s a list of others. http://www.wheretraveler.com/10-best-independent-bookstores-across-us
  3. Remind your children that everything is alright but there is work to do. Share your feelings with your kids. Get them involved in compassionate projects.
  4. Hug it out. Talk to your friends and family about how you are going to move forward. Make a pact to do it together.
  5. Write about it. Get your thoughts down on paper. Compose an essay, an op-ed, a haiku. Use the activists greatest tool – the pen.  
  6.  Donate to a worthy cause. Find an organization working for peace. Send them a dollar.
  7. Click around the internet. Sign a petition. Start here: https://www.change.org/petitions
  8. Believe. The truth shall prevail. Freedom will reign. We shall overcome.



"Nothing's impossible, I have found
For when my chin is on the ground.
I pick myself up,
Dust myself off
And start all over again." 
- Dorothy Fields 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Tale of a Guerilla Girl Now “Un/Masked”

Many know the Guerilla Girls because of their work in the visual arts. They have a contingent dedicated to theater, too, led in part by Aphra Behn — in reality, playwright Donna Kaz. Her memoir, Un/Masked: Memoirs of a Guerilla Girl on Tour is about her journey with, and among, the gorilla-masked gender-parity advocates. Kaz and I spoke recently about the book (available now), her work for the theater, and gender-parity advocacy. The selected quotes in this article are from Kaz’s book with her permission.

"When you fight against something and see very little change it is easy to question whether you are doing any good. As Aphra Behn I sweat and grunt and put in hours of time to provoke the start of a dialogue about sexism in theatre within the theatre community. I hear very little discussion and see almost no change. Of course, change happens slowly, but with my own career to pursue, I question why I am wasting energy fighting something no one else in theatre seems to care about. The silence and same old, same old begins to take a toll on me. Suddenly, feminism is the “f” word, the entire movement is questioned, the past achievements regarded as no longer valid to women today."

READ MORE: 


http://www.clydefitchreport.com/2016/11/guerilla-girl-donna-kaz-memoir/

http://www.clydefitchreport.com/2016/11/guerilla-girl-donna-kaz-memoir/

Sunday, October 30, 2016

BOOK LAUNCH in BROOKLYN and BEYOND - "UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour"

BOOK LAUNCH 
Reading and Book Signing
Celebrating the publication of 

UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour 
by Donna Kaz aka Aphra Behn

Tuesday, NOVEMBER 1, 2016 at 7PM

WORD BOOKSTORE, BROOKLYN
126 FRANKLIN ST, BROOKLYN, NY 11222 · 718-383-0096
For a reservations click here:

UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour follows the surprising 25 year journey of a young, New York City actress swept off her feet by a rising star who carries her to Malibu and back for a three-plus year love affair that is both fantastical and physically dangerous. When Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman are murdered in Brentwood she hears a bell go off, awakening her angry, activist spirit. Always an outsider, she takes one step further into invisibility and becomes a Guerrilla Girl, a feminist activist who never appears in public without wearing a rubber gorilla mask and who uses the name of a dead woman artist instead of her own. As a Guerrilla Girl, Aphra Behn creates comedic art and theater that blasts the blatant sexism of the theater world while proving feminists are funny at the same time.

 ADDITIONAL READINGS and SIGNINGS in Manhattan,
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Long Island. 

Find them here

Add your town to the tour!

“Fierce, funny and shrewd, much like the Guerrilla Girls themselves, Donna Kaz aka Aphra Behn has written a memoir filled with so much hope and frustration it’s impossible to put down.  A page-turning how-to about changing the world, and the challenges therein.” - Theresa Rebeck, playwright (Seminar), television writer (Smash) and novelist (I’m Glad About You)

“Donna Kaz’s book is more than a wildly entertaining snapshot of 80s art culture. More than an answer to the question of, “Who were those crazy feminist activists behind the gorilla masks?” It is a generous, fearless, often hilarious coming of age tale that takes Kaz from being a victim of domestic abuse in Hollywood to becoming an artist and part of one of the most unforgettable art protest groups of our time.” - Elissa Schappell, author of “Use Me” and “Blueprints for Building Better Girls”

“I loved this book by a woman with dreams that don't get realized but she makes her life work, no matter what, and tells her story with such honesty and clarity. An incredible achievement. It is unique, original and Donna Kaz is what Arthur Penn would say, somethin’ else.” —Estelle Parsons, Oscar winning actress 

“A unique chronicle of an artist/warrior’s journey through love, politics, creativity and violence, from someone who has lived through the social issues of our time. A compelling read and ride written in the voice of both an observer and participant of an engaging and relevant life.” Patti Occhiuzzo Giggans, Executive Director, Peace Over Violence

“In alternating chapters and eras, Donna Kaz’s memoir divulges her secret lives. In the ’70s her public identity was that of a struggling actress and girlfriend of a famous Hollywood star, while privately she was a victim of domestic violence, chillingly addicted to her life-threatening relationship. Two decades later she began a nineteen-year career as an activist with the clandestine arts gender-justice warriors The Guerrilla Girls, granting the reader a security pass into a mysterious and renowned revolutionary arts secret society. A compelling and page-turning read, and a testament that fighters for fairness and justice are not born: they are made.” – Kia Corthron, playwright

Monday, October 24, 2016

Behind the Mask, a Survivor and a Storyteller

AMERICAN THEATRE, October 21, 2016 by Simi Horowitz 

In a new memoir, the Guerrilla Girl recounts a life as an art provocateur and a reluctant feminist haunted by abuse.



“I now believe if you work hard at your art and are true to yourself as an artist—in a world where you have to identify yourself as early career, mid-career, or emerging artist—you are a success,” she said. “If you take all your rejection letters, put them in a drawer, and keep creating theatre, whether that’s in Scranton or someone’s basement or your own living room, that’s success, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time. You’re always going to come up against no. The artist has to define her own success and not be afraid to say it out loud, ‘I’m a success.’

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How the Guerrilla Girls Used Ape Outfits to Expose the Art-World Patriarchy


WORD UP:  Read Aphra Behn's interview by Nicole Disser in today's BedfordandBowery.com

"“You know, after a while, wearing that rubber gorilla mask is really hard,” said Donna Kaz. She was describing one of the stranger realities of her double life. For the last 20 years, Kaz has worked as an artist/playwright deftly navigating the New York City theater world– this was the serious, successful woman I met at a coffee shop in Midtown last week. But for the rest of it, she’s donned a gorilla mask, deterred neither by sweat nor fear of suffocation. (Hell, even furries, the most diehard animal-suit lovers, agree that wearing such restrictive headgear can be punishing.)"

MORE HERE:

http://bedfordandbowery.com/2016/09/how-the-guerrilla-girls-used-ape-outfits-to-expose-the-art-world-patriarchy/



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

ONLY 6 MORE WEEKS TO THE PUBLICATION of UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour

6 WEEKS TO THE PUBLICATION of UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour by Aphra Behn 
The publication of Guerrilla Girl On Tour, Aphra Behn's first book is almost here. UN/MASKED, has gone to print. Want your copy on November 1? Here's how: 

ORDER YOUR COPYADVANCE ORDERS for the book are now live at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Get your copy now.

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY! My publisher, Skyhorse, is giving away 10 copies of UN/MASKED on GOODREADS, from September 22 to September 30. Enter to win here.


NOVEMBER 1, 2016 also marks the start of Aphra's book tour! From New York
to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle and back here is where she will be:

November 1, 2016 – Book Launch of UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour at WORD in Brooklyn - 7PM. (126 FRANKLIN ST, BROOKLYN)
November 10, 2016 - Bluestockings, Lower East Side, NYC- 7PM (172 Allen Street, NYC)
November 14, 2016 – Book Soup, Los Angeles - 7PM (8818 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood)
November 15, 2016 – Peace Over Violence, LA, TBD
November 16, 2016 – Book Passage, San Francisco - 6PM (1 Ferry Building San Francisco)
November 18, 2016 – Hugo House, Seattle, WA -  8PM at Fred Wildlife Refuge on Capitol Hill (128 Belmont Ave E. - Michelle Tea and Donna Kaz Dual Book Launch with Musical Guest Jordan O’Jordan)
November 30, 2016  - NYU  Bookstore - 6PM (726 Broadway, NY, NY)
January 2, 2017 – London, UK TBD



Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring tours to North Seattle and Reed College – a lesson in survival

There are savvy students everywhere. Feminist students come to see me when I tour to colleges. I preach to the choir more often than not.

A commuter school, like North Seattle College, makes me smile. I know from experience that the students will be smart and ask good questions. From the moment I step onto campus I feel I am part of an open space where the exchange of ideas is encouraged.

At North Seattle College this week, I presented, “Act like a feminist artist – what no one told youabout starting a grassroots organization.” Organized by the Women’s Center it was their most well attended event to date.

It is great to feel the audience right there with me – laughing, nodding in agreement, listening intently, taking notes and posing poignant questions at the end of it all.

After Seattle I headed south to Portland and Reed College to present the same lecture. The week before I arrived a controversy erupted over one of Guerrilla Girls On Tour’s posters - displayed on campus to promote my talk.

The poster, created in 2008, is entitled “Female By Birth…” and was inspired by a t-shirt we saw while on tour that read: “American by Birth, Christian by Choice.” The spirit in which we wrote the words “female” and “feminist” was meant to be inclusive of any person who identifies as female and/or feminist.

This poster angered students at Reed College who felt it was transphobic. When I learned of this I wrote to Reed and said:

“…guilty as charged…but hopefully I can turn this into a discussion about how feminist groups are not perfect and what we do when we fail and how we can all help each other understand each other as well as how to look at older work in the context of when it was created.  That poster is 8 years old - a great deal of awareness has happened since that time and again, the spirit we wrote it in was honest. BUT I would like to challenge the students at REED: Change and rework the GGOT poster “Female by Birth” so that is not Trans-phobic.  I will accept any and all ideas to this email address and will happily display and discuss them in my talk.  AND I also challenge the students to make posters that are pro-transgender and anti-transphobic and plaster them all over campus before I arrive - especially in my green room. Please send out the call!

The faculty sent the call out. They even provided tape in the green room to display responses. I kept checking my inbox for replies.  None came.

I learned, sadly, that the students had created posters and responses but chose to share them privately, only among themselves. They did not let me or anyone on the faculty see their reactions.

I gave my talk. It was sold out. One student questioned me about the "Female by Birth..." poster and I repeated what I said above, reminding them of my challenge – extending it and hoping to have a further dialogue with the students about it.

Today, I visited a class of made up of a number of art history, art studio and theatre students who gathered for an hour to have an informal dialogue with me. I loved talking with the students. Their questions were well thought out and honest. Yet, I sensed some of the students were still very angry, suspicious and unwilling to engage with me. 

After the class visit I learned every copy of the “Female By Birth” poster, which had been placed all around campus, had been taken down by students. An act of protest. Fine. But nothing had been put up in response. What offended them had been simply removed from sight.

Dear Reed College Students – you have to create an alternative message in order to change the world. Differing ideas and new experiences are what make college campuses incubators for the next generation of activists and artists. Just removing images, ideas, text which offend you, does nothing to change the status quo. 


The world is full of discomfort and offense. It is up to us all to respond publically to it. If we act as passive bystanders and only share our outrage with our friends on facebook we limit ourselves. As feminists of different genders, classes, races, identities, we must engage with each other to survive.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saint Patrick, pray for the activists.

March 14, 2016

SETON HALL UNIVERSITY

Dear Diary,

In 2004, Guerrilla Girls On Tour! appeared at John Carroll University - a private, coeducational, Jesuit Catholic university located in University Heights, Ohio. Weeks before our show the University received emails protesting our booking, namely because we were pro-choice co-sponsors of the March For Women’s Lives held in Washington, D.C. the same year. John Carroll’s PR department decided that in order to quell the protests they would issue a statement, explaining to concerned students and citizens that Guerrilla Girls On Tour! is “wholesome and fun, with a decidedly Christian message.”

Guerrilla Girls On Tour’s mission is to advocate for equality and justice, two basic principles of Christianity. Our message, however, is that reproductive rights are human rights.  Unlike the Roman Catholic Church we are pro-choice and support Planned Parenthood.

So, what’s a Guerrilla Girl On Tour! to do when booked, twelve years later, at another Catholic University (Seton Hall) and, four days before you are to appear, discover that the University has “lost” your paperwork and demands you sign a brand new contract with new stipulations which are impossible to follow? (They wanted, among other things, for us to provide our own insurance in the amount of three million dollars and to list Seton Hall as an additional insured).

Was the University playing politics? Did they wish to censor Aphra Behn’s scheduled talk at Seton Hall entitled, “Act Like A Feminist Activist?” Was someone afraid of the “F” word?

Statue on campus of Seton Hall University 

Guerrilla Girl On Tour!, Aphra Behn’s talk, is about her early work as a member of the Guerrilla Girls. In 1997 Aphra led the GG’s foray into  addressing gender parity in theatre. The contents of Aphra’s talk would be deemed by any layperson, priest or nun to be anything but controversial.

Universities are supposedly institutions of free speech. Censorship is in direct opposition to the search for knowledge. What was going on at Seton Hall?

After summarizing and submitting the content of Aphra’s talk to the Dean she was able to proceed with her talk as scheduled The students and faculty who attended were open to ideas. During the Q and A one student asked if Guerrilla Girls On Tour! believed in LGBTQ rights. Yes!  Absolutely, we do. Another asked about transgender rights. Yes! Yes, again. Transgender people are discriminated against in all aspects of their lives and deserve equality on a range of issues.

In the end the Seton Hall talk was an eye opener. The search for knowledge continues, even in places with policies that attempt to thwart free speech. Our experiences as activists and artists and feminists teaches us that we are enriched as human beings by sharing our ideas. We are reminded that there are women and men on the front line of the fight for equality, working for the free and open exchange of concepts, even within the sacred walls of colleges and universities where ideas are supposed to flourish.

Yes, Guerrilla Girls On Tour! certainly are fun; some of us are even wholesome. Our message remains: the end of sexism will mark a more peaceful, just and equal world.

Love,