Ensler, Eve 1953-

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Ensler, Eve 1953-


Born May 25, 1953, in New York, NY; married Richard McDermott, September 15, 1979; children: one stepson. Education: Middlebury College, B.A.


Home—New York, NY. Agent—Deborah Skelly, William Morris Agency, Inc., 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.


Playwright, writer. Central Park magazine, editor; Word of Mouth (one-act monologue), Promenade Theater, New York, director, 1995. Founder of V-Day, a day devoted to raising funds and awareness to end violence against women.


Art of Peace Award, poetry, 1984; Obie Award, 1997, Guggenheim fellowship, 1999, Berilla-Kerr Award for playwriting, Jury Award for theater, 2000, from the U.S. Comedy Festival, and Creative Vision for Women's Justice Award, 2002, from Pace Women's Justice Center, all for The Vagina Monologues.



Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man, produced at the HERE Theatre, New York, 1995.

The Vagina Monologues (one-woman show; produced in New York City, c.1996, Villard (New York, NY), 1998.

Necessary Targets, produced at the Helen Hayes Theatre, 1996, and at the Variety Arts Theater in New York, NY, March, 2002.

The Good Body (one-woman show), produced at the Booth Theater in New York, NY, 2004.

Also author of the plays When I Call My Voices, 1979, Rendezvous, 1983, Lemonade, and The Good Body.


Acting You (teaching aid), Girls Clubs of America, 1983.

Vagina Warriors (essay; photographs by Joyce Tenneson), Bulfinch Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Insecure at Last: Losing It in Our Security-Obsessed World, Villard (New York, NY), 2006.

(Editor, with Mollie Doyle) A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer, Villard (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Peace or Perish: A Crisis Anthology. Contributor to magazines, including Chicago Review, Win, Third Wind, and Marie Claire.


The Vagina Monologues was filmed for Home Box Office (HBO) in 2002.


Eve Ensler is a playwright whose works take on issues such as women's relationships with their own bodies and with men. In her 1995 play Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man, a woman in her thirties meets a man at an art gallery and the two start a fitful relationship, hindered by their involvement with others and by their own neuroses. Occasionally, Ensler's characters step outside of themselves in order to discuss their feelings and thoughts while other actors continue on in their places. An initial production of Ensler's Necessary Targets received more favorable notice. In this 1996 drama, an American psychiatrist travels to Yugoslavia with her translator in order to interview female victims in the Bosnian refugee camps and returns to her former life utterly transformed by what she has heard. Debuting at the Helen Hayes Theatre in New York City as a benefit performance, this production was directed by Ensler and attracted the talents of actresses Meryl Streep and Angelica Huston, among others. The combination made for a performance with "powerful impact," according to Robert Brustein in the New Republic. In particular, Brustein credited the actresses who performed this production with "[managing] to turn what otherwise might have been an inspirational movie of the week into a deeply affecting experience." Robert L. King, discussing Necessary Targets in the North American Review had high praise for the work. "Like other intelligent political plays," he maintained, "Necessary Targets tests the value of language as instrument for knowing a harsh reality and dealing with it insightfully." The published version of the play met with positive response as well; for instance, Jack Helbig, writing for Booklist, stated that "Ensler's portrayals avoid the easy clichés of quick-hit news stories and convey human experience in all its painful complexity." Similarly, Laura A. Ewald in the Library Journal concluded that "Necessary Targets tells an important story of survival and coping that will move readers and audiences alike."

Ensler interviewed hundreds of women about their opinions on and experiences concerning their vaginas in preparation for The Vagina Monologues, an award-winning piece she wrote and first performed in 1996, and which provided the material for a 1998 book of the same title. In the performance and in the book, Ensler provides excerpts from these interviews, occasionally retaining the question-and-answer format of the original interviews, as when she poses the question: "If your vagina could talk, what would it say?" and supplies the humorous response "Where's Brian?" The author also describes the experience of a rape, and, in the performance, imitates the sound of twenty different types of moans of pleasure made by women during intercourse. Helbig, in another review for Booklist, commented favorably on the translation from performance piece to book: "Ensler is first and foremost a storyteller and has fashioned her material into a highly readable script." Although New York theater critic John Simon expressed reservations about the content of some of Ensler's monologues, a contributor to Kirkus Reviews concluded: "You might have to be a woman to appreciate the humor and poignancy here, but women will."

Ensler is also the author of Acting You, a series of pamphlets—published in 1983—designed to help teachers, youth counselors, and young people to utilize theater techniques to learn to recognize emotions and resolve conflicts in a non-threatening manner. She has also given away the performance rights to The Vagina Monologues to any theater company who is willing to donate the profits from its staging to causes dedicated to preventing violence against women. From this practice, Ensler has moved to re-naming Valentine's Day as V-Day, and promoting it as an international day devoted to ending misogynistic violence—not only rape and domestic abuse, but also the African practice of female circumcision. In cities and on college campuses that participate in V-Day, The Vagina Monologues is often staged as a fund raiser.

Before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, focused attention on the nation of Afghanistan, Ensler was writing about the plight of women in that country under the rule of the Taliban. She herself wore a burka—the long black garment that covers a woman's entire body and that was insisted upon by the Taliban—to enter Afghanistan and report on conditions there. Though she was intensely moved by the courage of Afghan women who risked death by execution in order to pursue forbidden education, she did not support the U.S. backing of the Northern Alliance in that country. She told Janelle Brown during an interview for Salon.com in 2001: "Wouldn't it be ideal if the Northern Alliance marched into Kabul and Kandahar and all these different groups lived peacefully? But I think we're on the verge of a civil war."

Ensler's one-woman show, The Good Body, "addresses the ways women around the world feel compelled to conform to society's standard of beauty," according to Andrea Lewis in the Progressive. The playwright told Lewis: "I went around the world for four months and interviewed women in fourteen different countries." She also confided: "After I finished The Vagina Monologues, my self-hatred moved into my stomach…. And I thought, ‘Oh, no! Now I'm obsessed with my stomach!’ I started thinking, ‘Why are we so obsessed with our bodies?’ So that has begun this new adventure." Franck Scheck, in a review for the Hollywood Reporter, remarked of the work: "While the subject matter and insights are hardly fresh, they continue to be highly relevant in a society that has seemingly become more obsessed than ever with beauty and diet." Herizons contributor Lisa Foad, however, was disappointed in the book overall, stating: "Women's bodies are always being made to stand for something else—‘goodness’ or ‘failure,’ there's room for little else—and women's actual bodies, once more, get lost in the process."

In Insecure at Last: Losing It in Our Security-Obsessed World, Ensler addresses the nation's preoccupation with security in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. She takes a more global look at the issue, noting that security is a mere illusion, and that women all over the world have been forced to face the realities of political upheaval and oppression for centuries. Ensler also addresses the personal side of security, illustrating that this, too, is an illusion that women build around themselves as a way to keep moving forward. Because of the power of this illusion, she suggests that this search for security merely serves to block change and to isolate individuals from the world around them. Pam Houston, in a review for O, The Oprah Magazine, called the book a "brave, articulate, chilling, and inspiring howl for change." In a review for Booklist, Donna Seaman opined: "Ensler now proves to be as galvanizing an oral historian and essayist as she is a dramatist in this forthright inquiry into our obsession with security both personal and national."



Booklist, February 1, 1998, Jack Helbig, review of The Vagina Monologues, p. 893; February 1, 2001, Jack Helbig, review of Necessary Targets, p. 1034; September 15, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of Insecure at Last: Losing It in Our Security-Obsessed World, p. 4.

Herizons, spring, 2006, Lisa Foad, review of The Good Body, p. 37.

Hollywood Reporter, February 14, 2002, Ray Richmond, review of The Vagina Monologues, pp. 12-13; March 6, 2002, Frank Scheck, review of Necessary Targets, p. 57; November 18, 2004, Frank Scheck, review of The Good Body, p. 50.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1997, review of The Vagina Monologues, p. 1768.

Library Journal, January 1, 2001, Laura A. Ewald, review of Necessary Targets, p. 106.

Nation, December 2, 2002, Jennifer Baumgardner, "When in Rome," p. 22.

New Republic, December 16, 1996, Robert Brustein, review of Necessary Targets, p. 32.

New York, November 4, 1996, John Simon, review of The Vagina Monologues, p. 88.

New Yorker, March 11, 2002, Nancy Franklin, "War Stories: Revisiting the Ruins of Bosnia," pp. 90-91.

North American Review, March-April, 2002, Robert L. King, "New Plays and a Modern Master," pp. 45-51.

O, The Oprah Magazine, October, 2006, Pam Houston, "Nobody's Safe: In Our Search for Security, Says Eve Ensler, We Create Real Threats," p. 240.

Progressive, March, 2001, Andrea Lewis, "All about Eve," p. 39.

Time, October 25, 1999, Richard Zoglin, review of Necessary Targets, p. 123.

Variety, March 4, 2002, Charles Isherwood, review of Necessary Targets, pp. 42-43.

Westchester County Business Journal, October 7, 2002, "Pace Women's Justice Center," p. 33.


Official Vagina Monologues Web site,http://www.vaginamonologues.co.uk/ (November 8, 2003).

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (November 26, 2001), Janelle Brown, "Eve Ensler: ‘Afghanistan Is Everywhere.’"