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Donna Kaz: An actress, advocate and author

by Nicholas Mazur - Campus Talk Editor
Tue, Feb 27th 2018 10:00 pm

The Writers Forum is a stage for literary artists, onto which any sort of author might enter. Because of this, from one event to another, the forum has the potential to turn on a dime. Donna Kaz, the most recent visitor to this forum and an alumn of The College at Brockport proved just what that phenomenon could produce. 

The previous visitor, Rachel Hall, could not be any more contrasted than with Kaz. Kaz’s energy was instant and apparent from the moment she opened her mouth. Her volume of speech was indicative right from the get go of just how much energy she had. 

Though Hall’s nature was encapsulating and enthralling, Kaz’s upbeat preformative entrance into Brockport’s pantheon of visiting writers was not better, but surprisingly different in a beautiful way. Kaz’s energy most likely comes from her relationship and career with the Theatre and its intrinsic inclinations toward unbridled pizazz.

During the Q&A with students of the Writer’s Craft class, Kaz was energetic and friendly, eager to answer the questions of the students and perhaps even pose a few questions herself. Her attitude toward writing was demonstrated by her “gung ho!” attitude as she explained to one student that the best way to write is to get your first manuscript or piece of work out of the way. She explained that once the pressure of the first is gone, you will feel free and keep writing on and on.

This energy could also be directed inward on herself and toward a blunt fashion of honesty. The experiences in her memoir detail tragic events in her life, yet she seemed as unafraid to confront them in person as she was in her memoir.

Director of the Writers Forum this semester, professor Anne Panning, gave an equally energetic introduction to Kaz, citing her accomplishments, as well as the crowd that Kaz had drawn for her reading. 

“I feel like that with all of that, we have a really great range of experiences, and all of those because of you [Kaz],” Panning said.  

The reading which took place after the Q&A involved a much larger crowd. Kaz’s work is the crossroads of her advacacy with the Guerilla Girls. The Guerilla Girls are a  group of artists who combated and continue to combat sexism in the various corners of the art world. Because of this, the reading drew crowds from the English department, theatre department and women and gender studies department. All three departments intersected at Kaz, whose work involves both sexism and women and gender, the artistic world of the theatre, as well as the literary craft of her newly published book.

Kaz’s reading was varied, as she alternated between her book, pictures on a slide show, and just speaking to the audience about her experiences point blank. She wanted the crowd to be revved up by her reading, and was quick to get the crowd to cheer, particularly the women, and encouraged them to feel empowered. 

As a playwright, memoirist and activist, Kaz had many interesting pieces of advice for the crowd. She repeated several times throughout the night that as an activist, it is important to celebrate, “the little wins,” no matter how small they are.

Kaz was also alive that night with a vibrant sense of humor, showing poorly photoshopped images of herself and famous figures like the pope and former President Obama in a segment about her achievements. She was not afraid to mix sudden humor with her overall struggle against her time with domestic abuse, as well as her work with the Guerilla Girls to protest sexism in the art world.

She left the audience with several nuggets of concentrated advice. 

“If you ever want to fight something, make sure you have the facts,” Kaz said. “Humor is a weapon that disarms people; if you can get people to laugh, you can get them to think.”


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