Eve Ensler on a new play and beating cancer
This Nov. 8, 2012 photo shows American playwright and Broadway producer Eve Ensler posing for a portrait in New York. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK (AP) — If you've ever fired up your computer and cringed in anticipation of what nasty emails await, pity Eve Ensler.
The Tony Award-winning playwright and activist gets a daily record sent to her of atrocities against women — a never-ending drumbeat of rape, genital mutilation, imprisonment and murder.
"In my inbox on any given day, I can tell you every single story of any violation that's happening to women anywhere in the world," Ensler says. "It's horrifying. My inbox is like a nightmare."
Such daily horrors would surely shut down most people, sending them back to bed with the covers pulled over their heads. But there's something about the author of "The Vagina Monologues" that makes her get up and yell.
It was Ensler who spoke out when a Congolese doctor who helps women recover from violent rapes was shot at this year. It was Ensler who denounced a Taliban group for shooting a teenage Pakistani education activist in the head. It was Ensler who lambasted a U.S. Republican congressman who recently argued there was "legitimate rape."
"When I see enormous injustice, when I see people messing with women's rights, there are certain things I can't be quiet about," she says. "I cannot sit there and let those people do that. That just makes me insane."
She says that with a smile. For a crusader, Ensler isn't dour. The woman you meet may be deadly serious about her life's work, but she's also quick to laugh. She attributes some of her ebullience to surviving stage IV uterine cancer.
"It was like checkout time," she says of her battle 2-1/2-years ago. "I think when you come so close to dying, everything is so incredible. You just can't believe you get to be alive."
These are busy days for the 59-year-old. Her play "Emotional Creature" has opened off-Broadway, and she's finished a memoir "In the Body of the World," due out next spring.
Then, of course, there's her plan to get a billion women worldwide to walk out of work, school or wherever they are on Valentine's Day and dance together in solidarity against violence.
"A billion is a lot of people, it turns out," she says, laughing.
The "One Billion Rising" initiative is part of Ensler's global V-Day movement, which helps organize anti-violence events each year around Valentine's Day. The figure of 1 billion comes from a U.N. estimate that one out of every three women will be sexually assaulted.
This year is V-Day's 15th anniversary, and from now until mid-February, Ensler will be barnstorming Peru; Guatemala; Mexico; Los Angeles; Hong Kong; the Philippines; New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, India; Egypt; Paris; Belgium; London; the Congo; and possibly Tibet.
"This is the last year I think I'm going to live at that intensity," she says. "There are younger women now. It's time for them to take the reins. It's not like I'm ever going to leave V-Day, but I've been doing this for 15 years, 12 hours a day straight."
That might be difficult for a woman, who, as you might expect, finds it hard to leave anything back. Even while battling cancer, she kept working, fighting, loving.
"Her spirit was always so completely alive. She never let that break her," says Olivia Oguma, an actress who was moonlighting as a waitress at a Middle Eastern restaurant that Ensler frequented while sick. "She may have been ill but she was still so there and present."