Eve Ensler hopes to spark “girl revolution”

Eve Ensler, the author of Emotional Creature, poses with Jo Bonny, who is directing the play at Berkeley Rep. Photo: Kevin Bern

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.

Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Emotional Creature features six talented young women: (l to r) Joaquina Kalukango, Sade Namei, Olivia Oguma, Ashley Bryant, Emily S. Grosland, and Molly Carden.

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.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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  • aperson

    The Vagina Monologues set back the women’s movement at least 20 years. Ensler lives in a delusional bubble surrounded by her worshipping acolytes, completely unaware of the havoc she has wrought.

    She hopes to recapture the “magic” in this latest snooze-fest, but mercifully it will flop.

  • berkeley resident

    How did she set back the women’s movement?  I’m not a big fan but I’m interested in her work and wondering about your issues with Vagina Monologues?  What was the problem?!

  • Guest

    When I saw the play’s title, I cringed, but hoped that it was at least meant ironically.  Doesn’t look like it, though.  Why Ensler thinks she’s going to be able to debunk the stereotype of the hysterical, emotion-driven woman with a play called “Emotional Creature” is kind of a head-scratcher.  And “Creature” — ugh.

    If Ensler really wants to do something for girls, she ought to capitalize on her earlier success with a new play called “The Brain Monologues.”  Sadly, that’s still the real taboo, even in 2012.  Sure, some people want to tell women what to do with their vaginas.  But they don’t really object to women having them. 

  • Guest

    Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Austen, Christine de Pizan, Benazir Bhutto, Georgia O’Keeffe, Shirley Chisholm, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie, Aung San Suu Kyi, Angela Merkel, Phoolan Devi, Hillary Clinton, Ann Richards… such cute little critters!  So alive and passionate, like kittens chasing their tails! 

    How fortunate today’s girls are to have clear eyed Vagina Citizens like Eve Ensler to show them the way.

  • Kim

    Can you imagine if a white heterosexual man’s play was performed every single year, in 140 countries? He would be anointed king of the theater.

    You really believe that that millions of women around the world are “delusional?” They love to perform and attend The Vagina Monologues, over and over and over. Do you even know any young women? Society approaches young women as a vagina, and as in Plath or Chopin, this is the truth that is examined, toyed with, celebrated, and ridiculed in the play.

    Eve Ensler has “set the women’s movement back,” when she has raised almost a hundred million and a priceless level of awareness for violence against women? Show us a link for that.

    How is “Reclaiming Cunt” different than “Black is Beautiful?”

    If you visit one of the last DVD rental shops in our little city, you will find The Vagina Monologues located in the comedies. It is brilliant irony, straight from the diverse brains of women, and I recommend watching it immediately, you’ll laugh, more than once.

  • Anon

    How is “Reclaiming Cunt” different than “Black is Beautiful?” 

    Well, just for starters, which of those slogans would you rather discuss with your twelve-year-old daughter? 

  • berkeley resident

    I don’t think Vagina Monologues was intended for 12 year olds. 

  • Kim

    A 12 year old girl in the United States has already heard the words ho, bitch, cunt, pussy, slut, whore, etc. 

    So, as a parent, if you don’t talk about these words with your daughter before then, you are simply abdicating all the power of defining them to the ones who do use them around her.

    It has been centuries of hefty cultural work (abolition, Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights, Black Power, etc.) of wrenching the meaning of blackness away from those who claimed it was linked to “the black man”–the devil. It will take centuries to reclaim and transform the word cunt, etc., as well, and Ensler and Muscio (Cunt: A Declaration of Independence) are two steps in that struggle.

    Talking about the body and sexism, like anything at the margins of our culture (say ballroom dancing or Tae Kwon Do), seems strange at first, but with practice it is incredibly freeing, and soon you are gliding across the floor.

  • Kim

    “There are 7 billion people on the planet. Half are women. One third of them are raped or beaten.”

    One Billion Rising 
    Strike. Dance. Rise!

    http://www.vday.org/node/2849

  • Solomon

    “…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.”
    Yup! Sounds like ol’ Eve is just crankin out a play about girls being bags of tears that need to tamp it down a little before Daddy pays attention

  • Goodkind

    I’m embarrassed by the vitriol spewed here. What’s going wrong with the BSide comments? Who are these hateful people? It’s really quite extraordinary.

    By the way, run don’t walk to see this show. And take your daughter if you have one. Unless you are one of the haters here. You all just stay home.

  • Guest

    After Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown was silenced at the state house for
    uttering the word vagina during discussion on an abortion bill

    If a male Representative got up and made a statement about his penis, he would have been treated the same way.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGS9vo1avVg&feature=related

  • Jane

     No, more like you have embraced the soft bigotry of low expectations.

  • Guest

    If you cannot tell the difference between disagreement and hatred, you’re going to have trouble recognizing real hatred when you actually encounter it — in yourself or in others. 

  • Kim

    “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” really? 

    You are going to use a worn-out phrase from Bush, reading the words of Michael Gerson, one of the chief writers of the lies used to get the U.S. to invade Iraq over phony weapons of mass destruction:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Gersonhttp://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,199580,00.html

    discredited, dishonest, decrepit. I have much higher expectations of this board.

  • Guest

    And what does the U.S. invasion of Iraq have to do with critiquing Eve Ensler’s work?  (Are you sure you’re not a Republican troll trying make Berkeley look like a parody of itself?)

    What an absurd ad hominem argument you’re using! The phrase  “soft bigotry of low expectations” describes a real phenomenon, one that does in fact hold women back, not to mention other categories of people.  It doesn’t matter if Michael Gerson is the most loathsome person who ever lived, that doesn’t preclude his being right once in a while. 

    By the same logic, you’d probably toss all of Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” right out the window because it contains some truly offensive anti-gay remarks.  Despite those offensive passages, that book contains a rather useful idea that Eve Ensler and her fans would do well to remember: sexual solipsism.  Hint: it doesn’t benefit women.

  • Kim

    Ensler refuses “sexual solipsism,” in both the structure of V-Day, when 5,400 events take place around the world, raising money for education and activism around violence against women, as well as in the text of the play (that is performed for free), itself. V-Day has “funded over 12,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq.”

    “In 2010, more than 5,400 V-Day events took place in over 1,500 locations in the U.S. and around the world. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $80 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. The ‘V’ in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.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 will run, operate and direct City of Joy themselves.

    In 2010, more than 5,400 V-Day events took place in over 1,500 locations in the U.S. and around the world. To date, the V-Day movement has raised over $80 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. The ‘V’ in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.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 will run, operate and direct City of Joy themselves.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Vagina_Monologues

  • Guest

    See how much better it works when you actually address the issues at hand?

  • Solomon

    It kind of seems like that has nothing to do with the issue at hand unless you really were talking about global politics and inclusionary feminism