Eve Ensler Rising: One of America's Most Amazing Activists Is About to Pull Off Her Biggest Event Yet
Continued from previous page
I think of the theater that brought Eve and me together. We loved the anti-fascist satirist Dario Fo ( Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay). We stuck the same black-and-white portrait of Samuel Beckett on our walls. When Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize, we hadn’t spoken in months, but she immediately picked up the phone to call me, squealing. We thought the theater we were witnessing was theater at its most alive. Similarly, we thought the creative tactics of Abbie Hoffman, ACT UP and the can-can dancers at the Nevada test site were the only tactics tactile enough to touch people’s hearts and move them.
Ensler’s latest play, Emotional Creature, opens at New York’s Signature Theater on Forty-second Street, on November 12. Based on her best-selling book I Am an Emotional Creature, the play explores the lives of girls, sexual abuse, their relationships with power, their own bodies and each other. Eve wants this play to do what The Vagina Monologues did: spark a movement.
In mid-October, on the first day of rehearsals, Eve arrived at the theater emanating urgency. It wasn’t just that the cast was convening barely two weeks before previews. Eve was on fire because she had received word that a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, had been shot in the head in what looked like a Taliban assassination attempt. Yousafzai has been a visible activist for girls’ education since age 11. Eve was on the phone to her V-Day partners in the region offering assistance.
“This is why we’re here,” she told the assembled stage managers, production managers, public relations officers, front-of-house personnel, actors, producers and one journalist. She formally dedicated day one of rehearsal to Yousafzai. Carole Black and Pat Mitchell, producers of Emotional Creature, nodded their coiffed blond heads.
Emotional Creature, said Eve, “is about more than a play. It’s about a new way of seeing the girl cell in all of us and transforming consciousness.”
“It’s a bit of a high bar for a play, isn’t it?” I ask two of the young actresses in the cast. I don’t know what I was thinking. They’ve both not only seen The Vagina Monologues; they’ve been involved in college productions. Said Ashley Bryant, “When she first said that about starting a movement, I thought uh-huh. Then I got it that she means it.” “Not only means it, she’s done it,” said Emily Grosland.
“When you go into theater you go in believing you’re going to change the world; and then the world gradually gives you the message that’s not what’s going to happen, and you lower your goals. Eve is a successful businesswoman, an artist, an activist, and she is changing the world. She’s changed my world.”
Like Carole Black, Pat Mitchell has never produced a play. A Peabody Award–winning documentary producer and the first woman president and CEO of PBS, Mitchell is president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media. She met Ensler when she was working at CNN in 1997. “Glenn Close called and said, ‘You have to come to Sarajevo tomorrow, because I’m doing a play about Bosnian rape victims with Eve Ensler.’”
“I went,” Mitchell told me.
Out of that visit to Sarajevo, where Close was performing in an early incarnation of Ensler’s play Necessary Targets, came a deep, life-changing relationship. Mitchell became the first member of the V-Day board. Black and Mitchell stepped in to produce Emotional Creature at Eve’s request. They’re a formidable team: two of the most powerful women in media and an activist with a taste for the dramatic.