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#216 - 20 Years of Vagina Monologues

Eve Ensler, chaired by Van Badham

One night in 1996, the basement of the Cornelia Street Café in New York’s Greenwich Village came alive when Eve Ensler performed The Vagina Monologues for the first time. Since then, her play has been translated into 48 languages and presented in over 140 countries, with the world’s best stage and screen actors performing it to packed houses. In the twenty years that have passed since the premiere, Eve has gone on to write more plays and books, start global political movements, receive accolades, and consult on feminism for major films like Mad Max: Fury Road.

Eve is a Tony Award-winning playwright, performer and activist, and the author of the Obie Award-winning theatrical phenomenon The Vagina Monologues. She is the founder of V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, which has raised over $100 million for grassroots groups. The founding of V-Day led Eve to also found One Billion Rising, the biggest global action campaign to end violence against women in human history in over two hundred countries. Eve writes for The GuardianTIMEThe International Herald Tribune, and many other outlets. She was named one of Newsweek's '150 Women Who Changed the World', and one of The Guardian's '100 Most Influential Women'.   

"It felt as if I were pushing through an invisible barrier, and breaching a very deep taboo."

"The audience hugs her and holds her as she weeps. Then, at her request, I continue the show."

 

Below is an excerpt of Eve Ensler's editorial in The Guardian Australia.

The first time I ever performed The Vagina Monologues, I was sure somebody would shoot me. It might be hard to believe, but at that time, 20 years ago, no one said the word vagina. Not in schools. Not on TV. Not even at the gynaecologist. When mothers bathed their daughters, they referred to their vaginas as “pookis” or “poochis” or “down there”. So when I stood on stage in a tiny theatre in downtown Manhattan to deliver the monologues I had written about vaginas – after interviewing over 200 women – it felt as if I were pushing through an invisible barrier, and breaching a very deep taboo.

But I did not get shot. At the end of each performance of The Vagina Monologues there were long lines of women who wanted to talk to me. At first, I thought they wanted to share stories of desire and sexual satisfaction – the focus of a big part of the play. But they were lining up to anxiously tell me how and when they had been raped, or assaulted, or beaten, or molested. I was shocked to see that once the taboo was breached, it released a torrent of memories, anger and sorrow.

And then something I never could have expected took place. The show was picked up by women all over the world who wanted to break the silence in their own communities about their bodies and their lives.

Read the full version on The Guardian Australia.

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