Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Friday, June 21, 2019
Report from Mexico City – Encuentro 2019!
|Street Theatre Workshop|
Every other year the Hemispheric Institute of NYU hosts a conference in the Americas – part academic, part performance, the conference is a gathering of 700 scholars, artists, students and activists who come together for work groups, cabaret, performance, workshops and lectures. I was honored to be asked to present at the 2019 Encuentro and the theme “The World Inside Out: Humor, Noise and Performance.”
|La Pocha Nostra|
Most conferences I have attended are full of events and can be quite overwhelming. magine 8 days of a morning, noon and night schedule to chose from. I managed to catch some incredible performances in both traditional theatre spaces, black boxes and on the street. Discussions of political activism and art not only happened on stages at the University of Mexico City but over cups of strong coffee and flutes of frozen margaritas into the evening hours. There was something for everyone and I was lucky to meet people from all over the world.
For my three hour workshop on creating street theatre – about twenty five savvy activists gathered to create some incredible work. This was, thankfully, one of the first events of the conference and the energy at the workshop was palpable. Check out this piece created by the group “Mujeres/Poder.”
|How Many Feminists Does It Take to Screw in a Lightbulb?|
By day 5 I was ready for my lecture/presentation “How many feminists does it take to screw in a light blub: On creating feminist theatre in the 21stCentury.” Simultaneous translations took place into both Spanish and Portuguese and I was a bit wary that the time lapse would kill some of the humor in my piece but it did not. The audience was incredibly responsive and reactive to my announcement that it was not a lecture but a feminist party!
|Amazing Activists Unmasked!|
I could not leave Mexico City without a visit Frida Kahlo’s home and studio as well as the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
Friends were made along the way – Mexico is a warm and welcoming country and I was happy to bond with brand new colleagues.
|At Teotihuacan - in front of the Pyramid of the Moon|
Thank you Encuentro and Mexico City! Until we meet again.
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
HAPPY WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH!!!
March 3, 2019
I am heading north from New York to Boston on an Amtrak Acela for a gig at UMASS Dartmouth's Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality. This center was founded in 1970 and is the second oldest collegiate Women’s Center in the country. Cool.
As I sip iced coffee and look out the window at the Long Island Sound I feel excited for this trip because it is one of my favorite tour stops - the return visit. Guerrilla Girls On Tour performed at UMASS Dartmouth back at the beginning of the century (feels so weird to write that). Feminist/theatreartist/Centerdirector Juli Parker invited us then and now. This time I head back to the campus sans mask for two reasons. One is to lead a poster making workshop and the other is to give my new talk, PUSH/PUSHBACK 9 Steps to Make a Differencewith Activism and Art.
After arriving in Boston's Back Bay Station I hope in a rental car and make the shortish drive to New Bedford, MA - a harbor town with a whaling museum and ferry boats to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. I find fresh scallops on the menus of most restaurants nearby and am told this is the heart of scallop fishing on the east coast.
|Workshop at UMASS Dartmouth|
That night a snow storm hit the east coast and I wake up to discover that campus is closed on Monday – the date of my workshop. This is why I always put an extra day into travel on tours that take place in winter. Yep, better to be safe than sorry and I am able to reschedule my workshop for the next day.
Tuesday will be a marathon – workshop for 2 plus hours followed by my talk. I really hope my rental car has a snow broom and scraper in the trunk (it does!) because the snow is wet and heavy. It takes me a few starts and stops to get my windshield wipers working but I head off to campus midmorning for the workshop.
Mitch Berube of the Center greets me and we find a perfect parking spot! “That’s odd,” says Mitch, “because Mercury is in retrograde and since the snow storm everything is a bit off.” It seems my publisher has sent a case of the wrong books to UMass Dartmouth and instead of 24 copies of UN/MASKED they received a bunch of books on food styling! Somehow I’ll make this work. (UPDATE: my publisher, Skyhorse, is sending UMASS a bunch of free copies of UN/MASKED. Yeah!)
Workshop was awesome. I am always amazed at the posters created collaboratively in just two hours time. After a quick break to grab coffee and refuel, I present PUSH/PUSHBACK 9 Steps to Make a Differencewith Activism and Art in the campus library to 100 students, faculty and locals. They laughed, they cried, they got the 9 steps. It was swell.
At the end of the day I grab dinner with Juli Parker and JessicaHarris of the Center. We are old feminist friends now. This repeat visit reminds me that feminism is all about community.
Saturday, February 2, 2019
Thursday, December 6, 2018
|Poster Making Workshop|
Burlington Vermont is located on the shore of Lake Champlain. It is quaint and feels wintery, even in the fall. At the end of October, 2018, the tour of PUSH/PUSHBACK, 9 Steps to Make aDifference with Activism and Art, ended with a bang at the University of Vermont, Burlington and the Fleming Museum. Special thanks to Jen Berger for reaching out to Guerrilla Girls On Tour and making this tour happen. Aphra Behn led a workshop at her studio the night before PUSH/PUSHBACK was presented at the Fleming Museum. 30 artists worked away for about three hours, making some bad ass activist art.
|Poster Making Workshop|
The Fleming Museum was packed for Aphra’s Talk – including artists Leslie Fry and Barbara Zucker. Thanks for the warm welcome, museum director, Janie Cohen. Guerrilla Girls On Tour may have said this before but the Vermont Maple Feminist audience was the best ever – and our personal favorite.
|Vermont Maple Feminists|
Amanda Martino made a great video of the talk. View it here.
In other news, Aphra Behn made PAGE SIX. Read her quote below:
At the beginning, people would always ask, ‘Are you saying the work of white men should go away?’People think if everyone has a place at the table, that means white men must disappear . . . This fear mongering that if we promote women, it means we’re not promoting white men — it’s just a fallacy. - Aphra Behn
We are closing out this year by being featured by Surface Magazine’s art issue – on the cover no less!
|Surface Magazine Photo Shoot|
2019 is already heating up. Stay tuned, European feminists, we will kick off our Spring 2019 tour somewhere in your neck of the world.
And PUSH/PUSHBACK, 9 Steps to Make a Difference with Activism and Art is launching as an ebook – hopefully on the eve of the State of the Union address.
Friday, November 16, 2018
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|
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.
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!
|Julia de Burgos|
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
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.
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
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.
|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.
See you on the road! For a complete list of tour stops go here.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
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.
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.