Eve Ensler wants nothing less than to start a revolution, and she is hoping Berkeley will be its epicenter.
Friday night marks Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Emotional Creature, a 90-minute play based on Ensler’s bestselling 2010 book, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World.
In its stage adaption, six young actresses sing, dance, and talk about the promises and perils of being a young woman in the world today. They confront social pressures, homophobia, sexual slavery, female circumcision, factory work and the pressures to conform, but they also celebrate the power of their own voices and convictions.
“What if girls were really encouraged and supported to be their own selves?” said Ensler on Thursday as Berkeley Rep made final tweaks on the production. “How different the world would be. What we tell girls is ‘you are too alive. You are too passionate.’ We put words on it like hysterical and out of control. We put definitions on their life force.”
Since Ensler’s 1996 The Vagina Monologues did spark worldwide discussion about female sexuality and oppression, it is entirely possible that Emotional Creature will do the same. And Berkeley Rep – which Ensler said “has a gorgeous history of pushing the edge, engaging in social issues, and conjuring community,” is taking this challenge seriously. It has pledged to give away as many as 3,000 free tickets to Emotional Creature to local groups around the Bay Area.
And on Sunday, Ensler will join local organizers in the worldwide launch of One Billion Rising Bay Area, “a community ritual dedicated to ending gender-based violence and supporting women and girls.” Local women will come together from 5 pm to 8 pm at Civic Center Park in Berkeley to dance, sing, drum, do spoken word and perform healing ceremonies. Girls will get a special healing blessing at 6:30 pm.
“We aim to give expression to the pain and trauma of violence while coming together as a community to heal, protect our vulnerable, and mobilize and inspire all of us to work for a violence-free community,” said Tina Banchero, one of the organizers of One Billion Rising Bay Area.
Just on Monday, Ensler had a reminder how the power of theater can change society. After Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown was silenced at the state house for uttering the word vagina during discussion on an abortion bill, more than 5,000 women gathered to protest her muzzling. Ensler flew from the Bay Area to Michigan and performed scenes from the Vagina Monologues with Brown and other local officials.
“It was utterly fantastic,” said Ensler. “It was inspirational. It was profound to see 5,000 people come together and that there was this much passion, outrage, and anger. People were coming up to me and telling me how grateful they were because they were feeling so beaten down by this last year,” with all the attacks on reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood, and other issues.
Ensler hopes Emotional Creature taps the “girl cell” in all of us.
“We are hoping for a girl revolution, nothing short of it,” she said.
Emotional Creature runs through July 15. It was written by Eve Ensler and directed by Jo Bonney. Music and music direction is by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.
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