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Saturday, December 2, 2017

That’s A Wrap, 2017!

December 2017

There is always something sad about the last tour stop of the season. This year it was at Marist College where I would present “Act Like aFeminist Artist” for the last time in 2017. Marist did not disappoint! Students and faculty flooded the aisles of Fusco Recital Hall ready with questions – eager to catch a banana. (It was lunch time after all…)

The last banana toss of 2017!
As I clicked through my presentation I thought about all the places I have been lucky enough to visit this year – from Decatur to Carbondale; Missoula to Poughkeepsie. Every tour stop guaranteed me a few interactions with ass kicking feminists - boots on the ground activists, pushing back against patriarchy and #45. Every one inspired and filled me with new strategies to push back against the status quo.
 
Marist College Crowd
Thank you, Marist College, for a great wrap up to the year, especially Dr. Angela Laflen, director of both the writing program and the women’s center. My visit to Marist was the perfect end to a year that began with tears and fears for our country and a women’s march for the history books. Now as the year comes to an end, I know “we got this,” – feminist faith is something that will jettison me into 2018.

Act Like A Feminist Artist 

Stay tuned for “PUSH/PUSHBACK, 9 steps to create change with Activism and Art” – my new talk for 2018 making tour stops in Pennsylvania and beyond.

See you on the road.
Love,






Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Aphra Behn reports on Devil’s Kitchen Lit Festival, Eileen Fisher and “UN/MASKED”.


October/November 2017

Devil's Kitchen Lit Fest flyer

“Congratulations! I have the happy task of informing you that your memoir UNMASKED: MEMOIRS OF A GUERRILLA GIRL ON TOUR has been selected the winner of the 2017 Devil's Kitchen Reading Award in Prose Nonfiction.This was the happy email I received in my inbox in June. As the winner of this award I presented “Act Likea Feminist Artist” at the Devil’s Kitchen Lit Fest which takes place every fall at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

 
Devil's Kitchen Lit Fest Readers! 
 
SIU writing majors

The poetry winner, JehanneDubrow, and fiction winner, Alex Weinstein joined me along with poets BrianFanelli and Judy Jordan for three amazing and inspiring days.

The students and faculty at SIU kept us busy with panel discussions and long meals where we talked writing, reading and the beauty (and isolation) of southern Illinois.

Eileen Fisher turned into readers haven
In November I changed my presentation of “UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour” up a bit with “Let’s Move the Conversation Forward to end Violence Against Women” at the Eileen Fisher shop on Madison Avenue in New York City. Yep, Eileen Fisher not only designs gorgeous clothes and supports many organizations that promote women and girls, they also host book events. The wonderful staff at Eileen Fisher quickly turned the store into a reading room where I shared the darker side of “UN/MASKED” and my surviving domestic violence. I felt blessed to be able to share my story especially in light of the recent avalanche of news of sexual assault in Hollywood and the mass shootings in Texas. I will close with one of the thoughts I shared that night.

“Just like the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman galvanized an awareness of domestic violence, now is the moment when domestic violence and our national security will be forever connected.” – AB

Thank you SIU and Eileen Fisher,
Love,

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"IF YOU CAN STAND THE HEAT: THE HISTORY OF WOMEN AND FOOD"

Audre Lorde, Ada Lovelace and Anne Sexton 
Dear Diary,

OOOOOOH my oh my oh my.  Don't know about anyone else but I've sort of always wanted to get pied in the face just like the cartoon characters used to get on tv when I was younger. FINALLY MY DREAMS CAMES TRUE!! I got to work with Ada Lovelace and Anne Sexton to try and educate people on the toxicity and sexist way food is marketed to us and the effects that such pointed conversations of food have on all our bodies. At first, I was nervous. Really nervous. Nervous to the point where I think I was coming off as almost mean? You know how it goes Diary; you're not sure how you’re going to be able to be the most effective so you sort of shut down instead. Well, thank God I had probably the most intellectual and chipper ladies standing in the room with me. We chatted about our own relationships with food, politics, our families, our INSANE daily lives and feminism. It felt like being back at camp or something! I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have a room to walk in to where you know there is nothing but kind women waiting to work with you.

ALSO DIARY, we went to Jersey for the first time! I know we’ve been all over the world but sometimes that means you forget what your own backyard looks like ya know? The trip up there was so charming and when we finally got there, the lovely people of William Paterson University had SO MUCH FOOD WAITING FOR US!! It was honestly a dream come true. We munched on some great snacks, had a full dinner, then performed our latest show for a group of surprisingly responsive women and a handful of men!

I think the biggest thing I’ll take away from this show is you should never under estimate yourself. There is no telling what you can accomplish if you allow yourself to be open to the people in the room with you and let their energy and light fill you with your own.

Missing my ladies dearly already and can’t wait to see them again!

Sincerely,

Audre Lorde as Edna Lewis (Anne Sexton looks on)

Dear Diary,

Today I went to Wayne New Jersey! We had this massive theatre all to ourselves! I got to do a show about women and food! We talked about important things like body image, and eating healthy and the relationship between food and media and gender. It made me feel empowered. I feel like I can do anything no matter what I look like. We also honored MFK Fisher, Julia Child, and Edna Louis. What amazing women! It really made me want to learn more about women and food. It also made me want to cook more! Actually, if I’m being honest, it really made me hungry.

Love,
Ada Lovelace


Dear Diary,

PIE CALL!  Pie in the face rehearsals
Well, I ditched my vodka tonic for some bread dough at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ over the weekend. I'd lost my voice for the 4 days leading up to the show - I thought of it as a forced silent retreat, minus the retreat with an emphasis on forced. But, the show must go on, and our fearless director, Aphra Behn, said my lines as I mouthed the words and moved about the stage like a wooden marionette all last week.  We toyed with the idea of keeping it that way as an avant garde performance art piece, but in the end, realism reigned and my shaky voice finally came back.  Just in the nick of time!  

The show was grand and exhilarating  - going from the history of women in food, to food activism in America, to learning a bit about 3 colorful femme foodies of America--unsung heroes reclaiming power in a highly male-dominated arena.  We had a better than expected turn-out, but for a school with over 11,500 students, we were surprised that the theatre was not more packed.  If only they'd known they would have a chance to make a baguette with Julia Child or immerse themselves in a positive body-image Lady Gaga singalong... **sigh, sip of aforementioned vodka tonic**

High points in the show were the quality group of proud New Jerseyans screaming "Pumpkin Pie...Fat...Feminist" at the top of their lungs.  I love the words "Pumpkin pie" so much, I took the liberty of yelling them in lieu of my scripted lines at the top of my lungs.  One may interpret that as a mistake, but I interpret it as a delicious, delectable moment of my inner foodie ID stealing a few seconds of the show.  Perhaps that will be the subject matter of my next confessional poem.  "I Will DIE... For Pumpkin PIE"...  

Until next time, lovelies, stay true and stay FULL! 
xoxo, Anne Sexton
Julia Child leads a kneading fest! 




Sunday, October 15, 2017

Maryland to Montana!

Aphra Behn blasts through two book festivals the last week of September.

Rahne Alexander and Aphra Behn
On the 24th I took the train to beautiful Baltimore for the Baltimore Book Festival at the Inner Harbor. It was a very hot September so I was grateful to be at one of the air conditioned venues. Instead of giving a reading I was interviewed by the amazing artist and activist, Rahne Alexander. Rahne arrived armed with some great questions for me and I loved our talk. During the Q and A, a young man stood up to ask if there aren’t just better writers who happened to be white men in the universe to which Rahne and I both responded, “No.”  Touché for us. Rahne and I are big fans of Venus Theatre in DC and hopefully the future will bring some sort of collaboration to support Deb Randall and Venus in the future.
Baltimore Cousins! 

A boat load of cousins from Baltimore attended and it was great to have family time after. Here we are!








Parisa in mask. 
Parisa Amiri of KOBRA TV



Back in New York, a Swedish TV show called KOBRA stopped by our rehearsals for "If You Can Stand the Heat: The History of Women and Food" and we got to hang out with the host, Parisa Amini - who quickly donned a gorilla mask for our interview.  Stay tuned for more on our KOBRA appearance.   

Just four days later I was on a plane bound for Missoula, Montana – a state the Guerrilla Girls On Tour has never been in! Missoula is another blue dot in a red state. I was welcomed by Montana Book Festival volunteers Betsy and Peter at the airport. They drove me to my hotel and in the 20 minutes it took to get there we became fast friends. 

The Pie for "Pie and Whiskey" 
Montana book festival launches with an event called “Pie and Whiskey.” Yep, it is what it sound like. Everyone gathers at an old drinking club downtown, eats pie, drinks whiskey and listens to readings of short works about pie and/or whiskey. The stories were great and the pie delicious. (William Kittridge read - taught at U of Montana for 29 years. I skipped on the whiskey this time around, much to the bartenders chagrin.  7-up is not what you order in Missoula.

Rita's Amazing Traveling Book Store
I did “Act Like a FeministArtist” on the same bill with Lyndey G. who is the author of “Watching Porn.” We were a great team at the Missoula Art Museum (which I am pleased to report was showing way over 50% women artists and artists of color).  Bananas were thrown, posters were given away and "UN/MASKED, Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour" was signed and distributed. Mission accomplished.

Met some incredible people in Montana like Rita Collins of St Rita's Traveling Book Store!  

Too bad I had to rush home to rehearsals for “If You Can Stand the Heat, The History of Women and Food,” as I would have loved to stay in Big Sky country a bit longer.  It was beautiful. 


Big Sky Country - Montana 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

FALL IS BOOK FESTIVAL TIME!

I am just back from the fabulous Decatur Book Festival!  Thanks to all the Atlanta feminists who showed up for “Act Like a Feminist Artist” on September 3rd (including a few who strayed away from DragonCon – also happening on the same weekend). If you have not been to the Decatur Book Festival mark you calendars for Labor Day Weekend of 2018. It is one of the best book festivals I have ever attended – panels, conversations, readings, author signings – nonfiction, poetry and fiction! And here is the best part – as with most book festivals it is FREE!



The weekend kicked off with  Journalism in our Current Environment – a conversation with Brooke Gladstone, Wesley Lowery, Carolyn Ryan.  Carolyn Ryan told a great story about how Trump would call the New York Times regularly during the 2016 presidential campaign and speak to ANYONE, including interns, about how he might get in the paper. Guess it was not the “Failing New York Times” to him back then.
With John T. Edge
I started Saturday by walking the intimate town of Decatur and stopping at the many festival stages including the culinary stage, local poetry stage and children’s stage.  Kettle Corn and BBQ from food truck vendors was my lunch and in the afternoon I was able to catch John T. Edge read from his new book “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South”.  Fabulous!  At the authors reception that night I sat at a table with local book lovers from Decatur who shared with me the fact that Decatur was a blue dot in a red state.

Sunday was my presentation and I could not have asked for a more welcoming crowd!  I HEART DECATUR
The banana toss! 
I was also able to reconnect with a very old friend – Leslie and I had not seen each other for over 25 years.  We worked on many plays together while we both lived in LA.  It was great to see her again.

25 year reunion 
Fall is book festival time and I will be at the Baltimore Book Festival and the Montana Book Festival in the next two weeks. See you there!

SEPTEMBER 24 – I am at the Baltimore Book Festival

September 29 I am at the Montana Book Festival 

SEE YOU ON THE ROAD!

Love, 
Aphra Behn 


Sunday, August 20, 2017

AUGUST PROTEST ROUNDUP

Eileen Green, Sonia Agron, Michele Davidson

August, 13, 2017. One day after alt right, white supremacist groups organized a demonstration that turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, injuring many and killing counter protestor, Heather Heyer. One day after President Trump refused to condemn the Nazi flags, Nazi chants and the racism and hatred on display in Charlottesville. On this day citizens across the US expressed their own outrage via peaceful vigils, marches and rallys from New York to Seattle. In New York City, RefuseFascism.org organized a “Take to the Streets” march from Columbus Circle to Trump Tower.” This Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America,” posted on their face book page. 

Protesting NYC 
Three friends who stood side by side with me during the NYC Women’s March in January joined me at Columbus Circle with about 200 others to listen to speeches from representatives of Refuse Fascism and Black Lives Matter. We stood next to mothers and their children, young people and old people, all races, genders and one man wearing a yellow holocaust star badge with “Jude” printed on it, as nearby an angry guy held up a pro Trump sign. When one of the speakers announced he had just come from Charlottesville, his voice hoarse from protesting, we huddled closer to hear his report.

After speeches and well organized chants, we walked together down 59th Street, shouting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” as tourists and reporters snapped photos, street vendors looked up from grilling hot dogs and hansom cabs waited with their horse drawn carriages for us to stop interfering with their business. It was a short march to Fifth Avenue where we were stopped, prohibited from going beyond 58th street to Trump Tower.


Trump's racism is nothing new. White supremacists who glorify the legacy of slavery and who believe in the oppression of Black people have since been condemned by many including VA Governor Terry McAuliffe, Charlottesville mayor, Michael Signer and Republicans and Democrats alike.

Racist groups have no place in America. Racism is not patriotic. The alt right, white supremacists, Nazi’s must be stopped and stood up to. This is why we all gathered with Refuse Fascism today, to march and chant and hold up signs that said “You can’t repeal and replace Democracy” and “Denounce Domestic White Terrorism.” 

refusefascism.org


UPDATE: President Trump’s statements about the events in Charlottesville began as ambiguous. He initially failed to criticize the white supremacist’s violent behavior. A day later he read a carefully worded statement condemning hate groups, only to reverse himself again during a press conference where he made no distinction between the actions and beliefs of the Nazi’s, alt right and other racist groups and the counter protesters, blaming “both sides.”


Stand up against racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and antisemitism with your voice, your creativity, and your presence. Let us all unite against all forms of hate. Speak up when you hear white nonsense. Call everything like you see it. We are in this together for the long haul.
- APHRA BEHN

Fifth Avenue - Opposite Trump Tower





Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Activist Fatigue - Where do we go from here?

My column in The Clyde Fitch Report has launched!  


The Long Fight, the Big Loss and the Front Lines of Resistance




"Lately, I have felt a great nostalgia for protests, rallies and demonstrations from long ago and not so long ago. And every time I sit down in a theater I find myself yearning for something fresh and fearless. Why isn’t there a constant stream of actions, especially now, addressing issues like immigrant protection, criminal justice reform, pay equity, reproductive rights, gender parity, disability rights, LGBT rights and gun control? Donald Trump is president, for crying out loud. Why is the next big protest not scheduled for tomorrow? Where is the next great musical theater production to reflect these trying times? If a pink-hatted throng is not blocking the streets every day, what are we doing instead?"

READ MORE HERE:

Friday, June 9, 2017

OPED: The Broadway League, Casting Directors and the Tony Awards

Broadway is gearing up to celebrate the best of the season by handing out Tony Awards to directors, designers and performers. Many have argued that casting directors, those savvy women and men who find the talent for Broadway plays and musicals, should be recognized in a new Tony category – Best Casting.  But casting directors are currently seeking another kind of acknowledgment – the right to unionize.

Workers on Broadway have long been member of unions. Actors, stage manager, directors, choreographers, technicians, ushers, and even press agents are represented by 17 Broadway unions. The inspiration for many of these unions came from exploited workers wishing to prevent producers from taking advantage of them. There are now limits to the number of hours an actor can rehearse and who owns the rights to a play or musical a producer helps to develop, all because actors and playwrights are represented by strong unions and guilds.

Casting directors who work in film and television have only recently been provided protection by the Teamsters union which negotiates contracts for them. When a casting director casts a movie they receive benefits like health care coverage, pension plans and a decent wage. About a year ago, 40 Broadway casting directors took a nod from their film and television counterparts to become members of Theatrical Teamsters Local 817. They asked the Broadway League, the bargaining organization that recognizes all of Broadway’s unions, to recognize them. The League declined, stating in a letter that casting directors were “…independent contractors…separate businesses with their own employees and typically work on more than one show at a time within and outside our industry.”

Yet, the Broadway League depends heavily on casting directors who usually become involved in plays and musicals at the critical early stage, when a shows development rests on getting the best actors on the team. Casting directors are the conduit between producers and celebrities, those unionized stars who can guarantee the financial backing of a production.

During the 2016/17 season almost 13 million people attended Broadway shows which grossed almost a billion and a half dollars. It was the highest grossing season in Broadway history and the second-best attended season on record. So why is the Broadway League pushing back against adding the all-important casting directors to the list of unions the League negotiates with?  
  
Right now only 12% of the musicals on Broadway are directed by women - members of the stage directors union. There is just one women out of the eight nominations for a Tony for Scenic Design and two women out of the eight nominations for Best Lighting Design. Broadway designers are represented by United Scenic Artists. There are zero women nominated for Best Orchestrations whose nominees are all members of the Musicians Union. About half of the 40 or so Broadway casting directors seeking recognition from the League are women. In an industry notorious for its lack of women in top positions, it makes sense that the occupation with no benefits and low wages, the casting director, would have 50% women employed. When you think about it, these casting directors are presenting producers with an opportunity to creep towards greater gender parity on Broadway.

The Tony Awards are co-produced by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. As you watch the actors, directors and designers accept their Tony Awards on Sunday night, remember they all have a strong labor association behind them. Perhaps there has never been a Tony for casting because it would force producers to acknowledge the value and input casting directors have on their continued success and, like the other nominees, recognize and negotiate with the union which represents them.   


To support Broadway Casting Directors #fairnessforcasting 
-       


Thursday, June 8, 2017

WOMEN IN THEATRE FESTIVAL NYC

On June 3, 2017 I had the honor of performing ACT LIKE A FEMINIST ARTIST at the 2nd annual WOMEN IN THEATRE FESTIVAL produced by Project Y Theatre. 


Here's more about WIT from PROJECT Y Theatre

In an effort to broaden opportunities for women playwrights, Project Y Theatre Company has commissioned nine female playwrights in two separate productions, Great Againan evening of plays by Crystal Skillman and Chiori Miyagawa, and The Hrosthvitha Project, 7 adaptations of the 10th century female-written play “Dulcitius” written by playwrights Caridad Svich, Pia Wilson, Julienne Hairston, Michole Biancosino, Lia Romeo, Stacie Lents, and Erin Mallon.

How can you not love the fact that PROJECT Y wants to create #GenderParity in theatre by going #BeyondParity and flooding NYC with new plays by women, directed by women, supported by women-led companies, and featuring lots and lots of... yes, women actors! Kudos to co producers Michole Biancosino and Andrew W. Smith. 

With Project Y CO-Producer Michole Biancosino 
Join me in supporting this important festival -- Do not miss Great Again, an evening of plays in two parts: Test by Crystal Skillman (directed by Jessi Hill) and In the Line by Chiori Miyagawa (directed by Kristin Horton and choreographed by Sonoko Kawahara). Both plays were commissioned by Project Y Theatre Company and written as a response to the November 2016 election. Read a recent REVIEW



   For info about other events at the WOMEN IN THEATRE FESTIVAL click HERE OR check out their FACEBOOK PAGE!


            GLAD TO SEE SOME OLD FRIENDS AT #WITFESTNYC
 
With Laura Henry and Tara Rubin 


With fellow SUNY Brockport Alum, Richard Price