Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler (/ˈɛnzlər/; born May 25, 1953) is an American playwright, performer, feminist, and activist, best known for her play The Vagina Monologues.[1][2][3] In 2006 Charles Isherwood of The New York Times called The Vagina Monologues "probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade."[4]

Eve Ensler
Ensler in March 2011
Born (1953-05-25) May 25, 1953
New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationPlaywright, writer, performer
Spouse(s)Richard McDermott (1978-1988; divorced)

In 2011, Ensler was awarded the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 65th Tony Awards, which recognizes an individual from the theater community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations. Ensler was given this award for her creation of the non-profit, V-Day movement which raises money and educates the public about violence against women and efforts to stop it.

Personal life

Ensler was born in New York City, the second of three children of Arthur Ensler, an executive in the food industry, and Chris Ensler.[5][6][7] She was raised in the northern suburb of Scarsdale.[7] Her father was Jewish and her mother Christian,[8] and she grew up in a predominantly Jewish community;[9] however, Ensler identifies as a Nichiren Buddhist and states that her spiritual practice includes chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō and doing yoga.[10][11][12]

Ensler says that from the ages of five to 10, she was sexually and physically abused by her father. Growing up, she has stated she was "very sad, very angry, very defiant. I was the girl with the dirty hair. I didn't fit anywhere."[7]

Ensler attended Middlebury College in Vermont, where she became known as a militant feminist.[7] After graduating in 1975, she had a string of abusive relationships and became dependent on drugs and alcohol.[7] In 1978, she married Richard Dylan McDermott, a 34-year-old bartender, who convinced her to enter rehab.[7] When she was 23, she adopted Mark Anthony McDermott, her husband's 16-year-old son from his first marriage.[13] Their relationship came to be a close one, and Ensler has stated that it taught her "how to be a loving human being."[7] After Ensler suffered a miscarriage, Mark took the name she had planned for her baby, Dylan.[7] Ensler and Dylan's father were separated in 1988, the former citing that she "needed the independence, the freedom". According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, "After her marriage ended, she had a long relationship with the artist and psychotherapist Ariel Orr Jordan but is single now, which seems to suit her nomadic lifestyle - she has homes in New York and Paris but travels much of the year."[14]

A June 2010 article by Ensler in The Guardian stated that she was receiving treatment for uterine cancer.[15] Ensler wrote about her experience with cancer in her memoir, In The Body of the World.[16]

The Vagina Monologues

Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues in 1996.[17] First performed in the basement of the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village, the play has been translated into 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries. Celebrities who have starred in it include Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Idina Menzel, Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, Marin Mazzie, Cyndi Lauper, Mary Testa, Sandra Oh and Oprah Winfrey. Ensler was awarded the Obie Award in 1996 for 'Best New Play' and in 1999 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in Playwriting. She has also received the Berrilla-Kerr Award for Playwriting, the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and the Jury Award for Theater at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.[18][19]

Subsequent work

Ensler's memoir In the Body of the World was released on April 30, 2013. Booklist reviewed the book, saying, "This is a ravishing book of revelation and healing, lashing truths and deep emotion, courage and perseverance, compassion and generosity. Warm, funny, furious, and astute, as well as poetic, passionate, and heroic, Ensler harnesses all that she lost and learned to articulate a galvanizing vision of the essence of life: "The only salvation is kindness.""[20]. On February 6, 2018, she premiered a theatrical version of her memoir, which she performs as a solo monologue, directed by Diane Paulus, at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City.[21]

Ensler has been involved in several films, including V-Day's Until The Violence Stops and the PBS documentary What I Want My Words To Do To You, and has appeared on many television shows including numerous interviews on CNN,[22] Democracy Now,[23] TODAY,[24] Real Time with Bill Maher (August 26, 2005) and Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry (August 12, 2005).

She contributed the piece "Theater: A Sacred Home for Women" to the 2003 anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, edited by Robin Morgan.[25]

From October 2005 to April 2006, Ensler toured twenty North American cities with her play The Good Body, following engagements on Broadway, at ACT in San Francisco, and in a workshop production at Seattle Repertory Theatre. The Good Body addresses why women of many cultures and backgrounds perceive pressure to change the way they look in order to be accepted in the eyes of society.

Ensler's play, The Treatment debuted on September 12, 2006, at the Culture Project in New York City. This play explores the moral and psychological trauma that are the result of participation in military conflicts. It stars her adoptive son, Dylan McDermott.

In 2006, Ensler released her first major work written exclusively for the printed page. Insecure at Last: Losing It In Our Security-Obsessed World (Villard; Hardcover; October 3, 2006). In Insecure at Last, she explores how people live today, the measures people take to keep themselves safe, and how people can experience freedom by letting go of the deceptive notion of "protection." In 2006 Ensler also co-edited A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer, an anthology of writings about violence against women.

Ensler's work I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around The World, a collection of original monologues about and for girls that aims to inspire girls to take agency over their minds, bodies, hearts and curiosities, was released February 2010 in book form by Villard/Random House and made The New York Times Best Seller list. The book was workshopped in July 2010 at New York Stage and Film and Vassar College, moving toward an Off-Broadway production. The theatrical production of the piece, titled Emotional Creature, had its United States debut at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in Berkeley, CA in June 2012.[26] In February 2012, The South African production of Emotional Creature was nominated for a 2011 Naledi Theatre Award for Best Ensemble Production/Cutting Edge Production.

Ensler was a consultant on feminism and women's issues for the critically acclaimed 2015 action film Mad Max: Fury Road.[27]


Ensler is a prominent activist addressing issues of violence against women and girls. In 1998, her experience performing The Vagina Monologues inspired her to create V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day raises funds and awareness through annual benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues. 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 $100[28] 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. These safe houses provide women sanctuary from abuse, female genital mutilation and 'honor' killing.[29] The 'V' in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina.

In February 2004, Ensler, alongside Sally Field, Jane Fonda and Christine Lahti, protested to have the Mexican government re-investigate the slayings of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, a city along the Texas border.

Ensler is a close supporter of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) and went to Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban. She supports Afghan women and has organized many programs for them.[30] She organized one event named the "Afghani Women's Summit For Democracy".

Ensler has led a writing group since 1998 at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, which was portrayed in What I Want My Words To Do To You.[31] Judy Clark, Kathy Boudin, and Pamela Smart were among the writing group's participants featured in the film.

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 run, operate and direct City of Joy themselves. The City of Joy celebrated its first graduating class in February 2012.

In 2012, along with the V-Day movement, Ensler created One Billion Rising, a global protest campaign to end violence, and promote justice and gender equality for women. On February 14, 2013, V-Day's 15th anniversary, women and men in countries around the world held dance actions to demand an end to violence against women and girls.[32][33][34]

In 2016, Ensler co-signed a letter to Ban Ki-Moon calling for a more humane drug policy, along with people like Warren Buffett, John Legend and Elizabeth Warren.[35]

In 2017 in an opinion piece in The Guardian Ensler voiced harsh criticism of the newly inaugurated president of the United States, Donald Trump, referring to him as a "self-confessed sexual assaulter" and "our predator-in-chief".[36]

Selected awards and honors

Ensler has received numerous awards for her artistic and humanitarian work:

  • Tony Award – In 2011, Ensler was awarded the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the 65th Tony Awards, which recognizes an individual from the theater community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations.[37]
  • Obie Award for The Vagina Monologues, 1997
  • Guggenheim Fellowship Award in Playwriting, 1999 [38]
  • Berrilla-Kerr Award for Playwriting, 2000
  • Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, 2001
  • Amnesty International Media Spotlight Award for Leadership, 2002
  • The Matrix Award, 2002
  • Jury Award for Theater at the US Comedy Arts Festival, 2002
  • Lion of Judah by the United Jewish Communities, 2002[39][40]
  • Sundance Film Festival's Freedom of Expression Award for What I Want my Words to do to You, 2003
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from her alma mater, Middlebury College, 2003
  • NETC Theatre Award, a regional Boston theatre award, 2004
  • NOW Award from the Intrepid Award Gala, 2004
  • The Civil Revolutionary Award from Miami Dade College, 2004
  • Award for International Peace Efforts from Cardozo Law School, 2004
  • The Avon Award, 2005
  • The Sandra Day O'Connor Award from the Arizona Foundation for Women, 2005
  • Honorary Doctor of Human Letters from Manhattanville College, 2005
  • Honorary Doctor of Communications from Simmons College, 2006
  • City of New York Proclamation in honor of founding and her work for V-Day, 2006
  • OK2BU Humanitarian Award In recognition of outstanding contributions to the LGBT community, 2006
  • Honorary speaker D010 at TED Talks, Dec 2010
  • Ensler has also been honored by such organizations as Planned Parenthood (2004, 2006), The Women's Prison Association (2004), Sahkti (2004), and several LGBT centers (2004, 2006) for her effort to end violence against women and girls.

Selected works


  • Conviction
  • Lemonade
  • The Depot
  • Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man
  • Extraordinary Measures
  • The Vagina Monologues
  • The Good Body[41]
  • Necessary Targets[42]
  • The Treatment
  • Emotional Creature
  • O.P.C.
  • In the Body of the World


  • The Vagina Monologues New York : Villard, 1998. ISBN 9780375750526, OCLC 37492271
  • In the Body of the World: A Memoir New York : Metropolitan Books, 2013. ISBN 9780805095180, OCLC 811597425
  • I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World New York : Villard Trade Paperbacks, 2010. ISBN 9780812970166, OCLC 958697162
  • Insecure at Last: Losing It in Our Security Obsessed World New York : Villard, 2006. ISBN 9781400063345, OCLC 70129196
  • The Good Body New York : Villard, 2004. ISBN 9780375502842, OCLC 56096678
  • Necessary Targets New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service, 2003. ISBN 9780822218951, OCLC 54060045
  • Vagina Warriors New York : Bulfinch Press, 2004. ISBN 9780821261842, OCLC 474721443
  • The treatment, New York : Dramatists Play Service, 2007. ISBN 9780822222026, OCLC 163587396
  • A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer New York : Villard, 2007. ISBN 9780345497918, OCLC 862089179
  • The Apology Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2019. ISBN 9781635574388, OCLC 1100557521


  • Until the Violence Stops (2004)
  • What I Want My Words to Do to You: Voices From Inside a Women's Maximum Security Prison (2003)
  • The Vagina Monologues (2002)
  • Fear No More: Stop Violence Against Women (2002) – interviewee


  1. Dominus, Susan (February 10, 2002). "Eve Ensler wants to save the world". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  2. Klein, Alvin (December 9, 2001). "Melding drama with politics". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  3. "Politics, Power and Passion", The New York Times, December 2, 2011. Please see the fifth segment by Eve Ensler.
  4. "The Culture Project and Plays that Make a Difference," The New York Times, September 3, 2006.
  5. "Eve Ensler". The L Word Art. 2012. Archived from the original on June 29, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  6. Insecure at Last: A Political Memoir – Eve Ensler – Google Books. Books.google.ca. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  7. Plummer, William. "V for Victory – Real People Stories, Eve Ensler". People.com. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  8. Pfefferman, Naomi (December 8, 2005). "Navel Gazing with Eve Ensler". Jewish Journal. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  9. "Eve Ensler – The Body After Cancer". On Being with Krista Tippett. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  10. Swick, David (May 1, 2009). "Q&A with Eve Ensler: "Just Tell the Truth"". Lion's Roar. Lion's Roar Foundation. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  11. "Eve Ensler Feature Interview". NewSun.com. May 3, 2001. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  12. Kelmenson, Kalia (May 1, 2013). "Two Minutes With Eve Ensler". Spirituality & Health. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  13. McDermott, Shiva Rose. "V-Day Activist Spotlights: Shiva Rose McDermott" Vday.org Archived June 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2009-10-26
  14. Saner, Emine (January 14, 2012). "Interview: Eve Ensler". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  15. Ensler, Eve (June 10, 2010). "My cancer is arbitrary. Congo's atrocities are very deliberate". The Guardian. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  16. Ensler, Eve (March 5, 2015). "The body after cancer". Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  17. Bruckner, D. J. R. (October 23, 1996). "Theater in Review". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  18. Gates, Anita (October 4, 1999). "A body part returns as the leading lady". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  19. Rizzo, Frank (February 6, 2018). "Variety Off Broadway Review". Variety.
  20. "In the Body of the World, by Eve Ensler". Booklist Online. March 1, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  21. Green, Jesse (February 6, 2018). "Review: Eve Ensler Goes Deep 'In the Body of the World'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  22. "CNN Video – Breaking News Videos from". CNN.com. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  23. "One Billion Rising: Eve Ensler, Activists Worldwide Plan Global Strike to End Violence Against Women". Democracy Now!. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  24. "Students: 'Vagina' suspensions unwarranted – today > news". TODAY.com. Archived from the original on June 6, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  25. "Library Resource Finder: Table of Contents for: Sisterhood is forever : the women's anth". Vufind.carli.illinois.edu. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  26. "Eve Ensler biography". Steven Barclay Agency. 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  27. Dockterman, Eliana (May 14, 2015). "Mad Max and the Stronger Sex". Time. Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  28. Moscatello, Caitlin (February 13, 2014). "Here are one billion reasons to get up and dance on Valentine's Day". Glamour. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  29. "Women Rising XIX: Masters of the Spoken Word" Making Contact, produced by National Radio Project. March 11, 2009.
  30. Brown, Janelle (November 26, 2001). "Eve Ensler: "Afghanistan is everywhere"". RAWA. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  31. What I Want My Words To Do To You, PBS, premiered December 16, 2003
  32. "One Billion Rising: An End to Violence Against Women | TIME.com". Newsfeed.time.com. February 14, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  33. Malhotra, Aditi (February 14, 2013). "In Delhi, "One Billion Rising" Organize a Flash Mob of Dancers for Women's Rights – India – India Real Time – WSJ". Blogs.wsj.com. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  34. Cohen, Sandy. "Ensler's Billion Rising movement spans the globe". Bigstory.ap.org. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  35. http://www.drugpolicy.org/ungass2016
  36. Ensler, Eve (January 21, 2017). "The Women's March heralds a renaissance of resistance". The Guardian. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  37. "Ensler, Fugard to receive special Tony awards". CBC News. April 7, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  38. "Guggenheim award entry". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  39. "International Lion of Judah Conference (Page 3)". Retrieved February 11, 2010.
  40. "2002 international lion of judah conference of united jewish communities opens today in nation's capital". Retrieved February 11, 2010.
  41. "Library of Congress Online Catalog".
  42. "Library of Congress Online Catalog".
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