The Lady Eve

Special Features   The Lady Eve
Eve Ensler — playwright, performer and activist — returns to Broadway in The Good Body, a further exploration from the author of The Vagina Monologues into the ways that women view their bodies and themselves

Eve Ensler in The Good Body
Eve Ensler in The Good Body

Well, Eve Ensler has made it to Broadway, and not with that pre-Ensler-unmentionable anatomical locale, but with her tummy. The work at the Booth Theatre is called The Good Body, and Ms. Ensler performs it solo, the way she did the first six years of her Vagina Monologues. "Except there I did it on a stool, with cards. Now I don't have cards and I move around. Because it's a play — more of a play than The Vagina Monologues — and because it's my own journey."

The Good Body (which begins performances on Oct. 22 and opens on Nov. 15) is a compendium of short takes, called Entries, betwixt and between longer reveries by actual or composite women, and a scattering of interviews — on the subject of their looks and bodies — with celebs like Isabella Rossellini and Helen Gurley Brown. From one of the key Entries, Ensler speaking as Ensler: "I performed The Vagina Monologues for six years. Saying the word vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina a million times, I thought I was home free. I had finally come to like/love my vagina. Until one day I realized the self-hatred had just crept up into my stomach."

Now, in the Chinese-red Chelsea apartment where she has lived for the past 28 years — next door to the office from which she runs the V-Day movement that in seven years has raised over $25 million to fight rape, incest, genital mutilation, domestic battery and sexual battery everywhere in the world — Eve Ensler, looking like a million dollars herself in an orange silk suit (from India), expands on some personal details.

"I'm 51," she says. "When my body started changing, I got in a 40's panic. I spent hours and hours and hours of my time in diet and exercise and clothing — every single thing that surrounds the stomach. What I learned is, the more you're obsessed, the more you're obsessed. Which is why this beauty-industrial complex [an echo of Eisenhower's warning on the industrial-military complex] is such a thing of genius."

It was five years ago that she started to keep a journal: "What my stomach was saying, and what I was saying to my stomach, back and forth. And as my work with The Vagina Monologues and V-Day took me traveling around the world, I would talk with women about what obsessed them." As, for instance, the scary, not to say terrifying, Entry about women "who have barely survived under the Taliban. They have no rights. They live in dust." In Afghanistan she hears about "two young women who were beaten severely for eating ice cream." Her hostess — this is before the U.S. invasion — takes Eve to a secret ice-cream-eating place for women. "If we get caught, it could mean a flogging or even an execution," Eve is told as the verboten bowls of vanilla arrive. Ensler has said before, and says again now, that she was subjected to sexual abuse and violence at home in Westchester from the time she was ten till she left for college. "Suddenly my being fat is clearly less important than being free. I eat the ice cream."

If you're looking for ironies, Eve Ensler's father was for many years the president of Popsicle Industries. His name? "Mr. Ensler." That is all she has to say about him. That is all she ever has to say about him. She will, on the other hand, talk freely and proudly about her actor son, Dylan McDermott, and her man, filmmaker Ariel Orr Jordan.

What The Good Body comes down to is that "if women really loved their bodies, how much more energy and time and money they would have to exert power in the center of the world" — pauses for a thought — "or, looked at another way, to get elected."

Maybe she's not altogether home free. But if Eve Ensler can get off the merry-go-round, why not you? V for Victory.

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