HOW GUERRILLA GIRLS ON TOUR! BEGAN

By the mid-nineties the anonymous activist group, Guerrilla Girls, had expanded to include not only visual artists, but also actors, directors, playwrights, performance artists, costume designers and filmmakers. In 1997 I, as Guerrilla Girl Aphra Behn, along with Guerrilla Girl Lorraine Hansberry, initiated a GG committee to discuss how we could address the lack of opportunities for women in film and theatre. Because postering had become increasingly difficult and because plays and films were shown inside of theatres, we decided to begin by creating satirical stickers to paste up inside theatre toilet stalls that would amuse and provoke the audience. The stickers read: In this theatre, the taking of photographs, the use of a recording device and the production of plays by women is strictly prohibited.* – The Management. *This theatre will not produce any plays by women this season. We worked our way across Manhattan targeting sexist theatres like the Atlantic Theatre, Vineyard Theatre and The Roundabout Theatre. Some of these theatres quickly added women playwrights to their next seasons.

During the next three years our film and theatre committee created over 16 posters, stickers and actions that used quick, smart humor to focus on sexism, racism and discrimination in the theatre world. We invented the Fax blitz – a series of new posters faxed to theatre producers across the US during Women’s History month. We put on our masks and hit the streets – passing out stickers at the TKTS booth in Times Square and organizing two Tony Awards protests in 1999 and 2000. In 2000 Lorraine and I received a NYSCA grant to research and write a play based on the history of women in American theatre. The play was included in A.S.K’s Common Ground Festival in 2001, the same year the GG’s received the Art is a Hammer Award from the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. Our committee had attracted new GG attention and support and was written about in the Village Voice, BackStage, Mother Jones, Theatre Magazine and the LA Times.

In 2001 the original Guerrilla Girls split into three separate wings and the film and theatre committee became Guerrilla Girls On Tour – Theatre Girls dedicated to bringing the spirit of feminism, activism and performance around the world. We have since become an internationally acclaimed anonymous theatre collective producing new theatre, visual works and performances that tread the ground between entertainment and education, between two and three-dimensional art, between comedy and drama. Our theatrical pieces use comedic, physical, and vaudevillian-like techniques to dramatize women’s history and address current sexist trends. We have worked as an ensemble and with outside communities, creating site-specific works performed with local activists/artists in a variety of languages. In order to put the focus of our work entirely on the issue of discrimination and racism, each member of Guerrilla Girls On Tour performs using the name of a dead woman artist and when in public and on stage wears a gorilla mask to conceal her true identity.

Since 2001 Guerrilla Girls On Tour has proven that feminists are funny in over 200 performances and 100 workshops in theatres, classrooms, art galleries, community centers, cafes and the great outdoors. We have been featured in many festivals in the US, UK, Poland, Argentina, South Korea, Spain, Ireland, Japan, China and France. You can find us at www.ggontour.com

Members of Guerrilla Girls On Tour:
Gracie Allen, Josephine Baker, Aphra Behn, Lili Boulanger, Fanny Brice, Louise Brooks, Coco Chanel, Julia Child, Alice Childress, Cheryl Crawford, Edith Evans, Alexandra Exter, Hallie Flanagan, Lady Augusta Gregory , Lorraine Hansberry, Frances Harper, Edith Head, Laura Keene, Eva Le Gallienne, Lisa Lopes, Dorothy Parker, Diana Sands, Anne Sexton, Sophie Treadwell, Lupe Velez, Ethel Waters, Anna May Wong.

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