Eve Ensler

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Eve Ensler
Eve Ensler at a Hudson Union Society event in March 2011.jpg
Ensler in March 2011
Born (1953-05-25) May 25, 1953 (age 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationPlaywright, writer, performer
Spouse(s)Richard McDermott (1978-1988; divorced)
Website EveEnsler.org

Eve Ensler ( /ˈɛnzlər/ ; born May 25, 1953), also known mononymously as V, is an American playwright, performer, feminist, and activist. Ensler is best known for her play The Vagina Monologues . [1] [2] [3] In 2006 Charles Isherwood of The New York Times called The Vagina Monologues "probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade." [4]


In 2011, Ensler was awarded the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 65th Tony Awards, which recognizes an individual from the theater community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations. Ensler was given this award for her creation of the non-profit, V-Day movement which raises money and educates the public about violence against women and efforts to stop it.

Personal life

Ensler was born in New York City, the second of three children of Arthur Ensler, an executive in the food industry, and Chris Ensler. [5] [6] [7] She was raised in the northern suburb of Scarsdale. [7] Her father was Jewish and her mother Christian, [8] and she grew up in a predominantly Jewish community; [9] however, Ensler identifies as a Nichiren Buddhist and says that her spiritual practice includes chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō and doing yoga. [10] [11] [12]

Ensler says that from the ages of five to 10, she was sexually and physically abused by her father. Growing up, she has said she was "very sad, very angry, very defiant. I was the girl with the dirty hair. I didn't fit anywhere." [7]

Ensler attended Middlebury College in Vermont, where she became known as a militant feminist. [7] After graduating in 1975, she had a string of abusive relationships and became dependent on drugs and alcohol. [7] In 1978, she married Richard Dylan McDermott, a 34-year-old bartender, who convinced her to enter rehab. [7] When she was 23,[ when? ] she adopted Mark Anthony McDermott, her husband's 16-year-old son from his first marriage. [13] Their relationship came to be a close one, and Ensler said that it taught her "how to be a loving human being." [7] After Ensler suffered a miscarriage, Mark took the name she had planned for her baby, Dylan. [7] Ensler and Dylan's father separated in 1988, the former citing that she "needed the independence, the freedom". According to a 2012 article in the Sydney Morning Herald, "After her marriage ended, she had a long relationship with the artist and psychotherapist Ariel Orr Jordan but is single now, which seems to suit her nomadic lifestyle – she has homes in New York and Paris but travels much of the year." [14]

A June 2010 article by Ensler in The Guardian said that she was receiving treatment for uterine cancer. [15] Ensler wrote about her experience with cancer in her memoir, In The Body of the World. [16]

Change of name

After publishing her book The Apology in 2019 where she described sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her late father, Ensler stated she no longer wished to carry his surname and instead invited people to call her V. [17] [18] [19]

The Vagina Monologues

Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues in 1996. [20] First performed in the basement of the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village, the play has been translated into 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Celebrities who have starred in it include Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Idina Menzel, Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, Marin Mazzie, Cyndi Lauper, Mary Testa, Sandra Oh and Oprah Winfrey. Ensler was awarded the Obie Award in 1996 for 'Best New Play' and in 1999 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in Playwriting. She has also received the Berrilla-Kerr Award for Playwriting, the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and the Jury Award for Theater at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. [21] [22]

Subsequent work

Ensler's memoir In the Body of the World was released on April 30, 2013. Booklist reviewed the book, saying, "This is a ravishing book of revelation and healing, lashing truths and deep emotion, courage and perseverance, compassion and generosity. Warm, funny, furious, and astute, as well as poetic, passionate, and heroic, Ensler harnesses all that she lost and learned to articulate a galvanizing vision of the essence of life: "The only salvation is kindness."". [23] On February 6, 2018, she premiered a theatrical version of her memoir, which she performs as a solo monologue, directed by Diane Paulus, at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City. [24]

Ensler has been involved in films, including V-Day's Until The Violence Stops and the PBS documentary What I Want My Words To Do To You, and has appeared on television shows including interviews on CNN, [25] Democracy Now, [26] TODAY, [27] Real Time with Bill Maher (August 26, 2005) and Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry (August 12, 2005).

She contributed the piece "Theater: A Sacred Home for Women" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium , edited by Robin Morgan. [28]

From October 2005 to April 2006, Ensler toured twenty North American cities with her play The Good Body, following engagements on Broadway, at ACT in San Francisco, and in a workshop production at Seattle Repertory Theatre.[ citation needed ]The Good Body addresses why women of many cultures and backgrounds perceive pressure to change the way they look in order to be accepted in the eyes of society.[ citation needed ]

Ensler's play, The Treatment debuted on September 12, 2006, at the Culture Project in New York City.[ citation needed ] This play explores the moral and psychological trauma that are the result of participation in military conflicts.[ citation needed ] It stars her adoptive son, Dylan McDermott.[ citation needed ]

In 2006, Ensler released her first major work written exclusively for the printed page. Insecure at Last: Losing It In Our Security-Obsessed World (Villard; Hardcover; October 3, 2006).[ citation needed ] In Insecure at Last, she explores how people live today, the measures people take to keep themselves safe, and how people can experience freedom by letting go of the deceptive notion of "protection."[ citation needed ] In 2006 Ensler also co-edited A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer, an anthology of writings about violence against women.[ citation needed ]

Ensler's work I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around The World, a collection of original monologues about and for girls that aims to inspire girls to take agency over their minds, bodies, hearts and curiosities, was released February 2010 in book form by Villard/Random House and made The New York Times Best Seller list.[ citation needed ] The book was workshopped in July 2010 at New York Stage and Film and Vassar College, moving toward an Off-Broadway production.[ citation needed ] The theatrical production of the piece, titled Emotional Creature, had its United States debut at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in Berkeley, CA in June 2012. [29] In February 2012, The South African production of Emotional Creature was nominated for a 2011 Naledi Theatre Award for Best Ensemble Production/Cutting Edge Production.

Ensler was a consultant on feminism and women's issues for the 2015 action film Mad Max: Fury Road . [30]

In 2019, Ensler published the book The Apology, where she imagines what her now dead father would say if he was able to apologise for the sexual and physical abuse he inflicted on her as a child. After completing the work, Ensler said that she had ceased to feel any bitterness towards her father, but that she no longer wished to carry his name, inviting folk to call her V. [17] [18] [19]


Ensler is an activist addressing issues of violence against women and girls. In 1998, her experience performing The Vagina Monologues inspired her to create V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day raises funds and awareness through annual benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues. In 2010, more than 5,400 V-Day events took place in over 1,500 locations in the U.S. and around the world. As of 2014, the V-Day movement had raised over $100 [31] million and educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it, crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns, launched the Karama program in the Middle East, reopened shelters, and funded over 12,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. These safe houses provide women sanctuary from abuse, female genital mutilation and 'honor' killing. [32] The 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

In February 2004, Ensler, alongside Sally Field, Jane Fonda and Christine Lahti, protested to have the Mexican government re-investigate the slayings of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, a city along the Texas border.[ citation needed ]

Ensler is a supporter of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and went to Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. She supports Afghan women and has organized many programs for them. [33] She organized one event named the "Afghani Women's Summit For Democracy".[ citation needed ]

Ensler has led a writing group since 1998 at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, which was portrayed in What I Want My Words To Do To You. [34] Judy Clark, Kathy Boudin, and Pamela Smart were among the writing group's participants featured in the film.

In 2011, V-Day and the Fondation Panzi (DRC), with support from UNICEF, opened the City of Joy, a new community for women survivors of gender violence in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). City of Joy will provide up to 180 Congolese women a year with an opportunity to benefit from group therapy; self-defense training; comprehensive sexuality education (covering HIV/AIDS, family planning); economic empowerment; storytelling; dance; theater; ecology and horticulture. Created from their vision, Congolese women run, operate and direct City of Joy themselves.[ citation needed ] The City of Joy celebrated its first graduating class in February 2012.[ citation needed ] The story of the City of Joy, including V's involvement, is portrayed in the documentary City of Joy, screening on Netflix.

In 2012, along with the V-Day movement, Ensler created One Billion Rising, a global protest campaign to end violence, and promote justice and gender equality for women. On February 14, 2013, V-Day's 15th anniversary, women and men in countries around the world held dance actions to demand an end to violence against women and girls. [35] [36] [37]

In 2016, Ensler co-signed a letter to Ban Ki-Moon calling for a more humane drug policy, along with Warren Buffett, John Legend and Elizabeth Warren. [38]

In 2017 in an opinion piece in The Guardian Ensler voiced harsh criticism of the newly inaugurated president of the United States, Donald Trump, referring to him as a "self-confessed sexual assaulter" and "our predator-in-chief". [39]

In 2020, Ensler endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the 2020 election. [40]

Selected awards and honors

Ensler has received numerous awards for her artistic and humanitarian work:

Selected works




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