Eve Ensler of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ Turns Her Body Inside Out

in Nonfiction by

Just when it seemed impossible that Eve Ensler had anything left to expose about her life, her art, her activism and her vagina, she proved us wrong by turning her body and soul inside out.

Her book, In The Body of the World (2013, Metropolitan Books), chronicles her Stage 4 uterine cancer diagnosis and treatment, and makes surprising connections between her disease and the cancers of war, poverty and pollution that plague our planet.

And now through March, Ensler performs her play, also titled “In the Body of the World,” at the Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City Center Stage 1. Reviews call the play, directed by Tony winner Diane Paulus, dazzling, gritty, unblinking and hopeful. (Ticket information is at 212-581-1212; http://bodyoftheworldplay.com/).

As Ensler steps on stage every night before audiences of mostly women, she turns pain into power. Cancer never had a chance.

In 2010, Ensler was working with Congolese women who had been gang raped or tortured, victims of systematic gender violence in the area’s wars. Women who survived were horribly mutilated, suffering internal injuries that left them infected, incontinent, in pain or unable to bear children.

Courtesy American Repertory Theater

As Ensler worked to help the women of the Congo build their dream of a sanctuary called City of Joy, a place of safety and healing, she learned that she herself was wounded inside: there were tumors on her uterus that were spreading to other internal organs.

“Cancer, a disease of pathologically dividing cells, burned away the walls of my separateness and landed me in my body, just as the Congo landed me in the body of the world,” wrote Ensler in her book.

Ensler’s earlier work, “The Vagina Monologues” transformed the personal to the universal and became V-D, a global fund-raising effort, with annual Valentine’s Day protests to stop violence against women and girls. Ensler’s new work about cancer has also become an outreach to others who may be healing themselves, or seeking to understand the afflicted.

Following select performances of Ensler’s play, audience members are invited to join discussions featuring Mayo Clinic oncologists and special guest speakers, including Tony Award-winning actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, and Christine “Mama C” Schuler Deschryver, director of V-D Congo and the City of Joy.

Over the past 20 years, Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologies” has been translated into 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. The play has added untold names for that piece of women’s anatomy to the lexicon (who can forget coochi snorcher?), and has raised more than $100 million to end violence against women and girls through more than 13,000 programs and safe houses in war-ravaged countries.

Consistently named to prestigious lists (“Best Leaders.” “125 Women Who Changed Our World,” and “100 Most Influential Women”), Ensler received a Tony Award in 2011 recognizing her volunteerism and humanitarian service.

After months of painful treatments for her cancer, Ensler found healing and hope, and wrote: “I am standing at the entranceway to a new city. I am still thin and weak. My body is not fully mine, in the last stages of this cancer conversion. I am not sure who I will be when all this is over or where I will live or even what I will want to do with my life. But I know for sure there will be joy.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image courtesy of vday.org

Eve Ensler is an internationally bestselling author and Tony Award–winning playwright whose theatrical works include the Obie Award–winning The Vagina Monologues, as well as Necessary Targets, The Good Body, and Emotional Creature. She is the author of the political memoir Insecure at Last, the New York Times bestseller I Am an Emotional Creature, and a critically acclaimed memoir, In the Body of the World, which she has adapted for the stage and will premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in January 2018.

Ensler is the founder of V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls that has raised more than $100 million for local groups and activists. She is also the founder of One Billion Rising, the biggest global mass action campaign to end violence against women in human history, which is active in more than two hundred countries, and the co-founder of the City of Joy, the revolutionary leadership center for survivors of gender violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

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Joanna Poncavage had a 30-year career as an editor and writer for Rodale’s Organic Gardening magazine and The (Allentown, Pennsylvania) Morning Call newspaper. Author of several gardening books, she’s now a freelance journalist.

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