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Lions Roar : July 2019
Ensler in an iconic promotional shot from her play The Vagina Monologues, which has now been performed in 140 countries and translated into 48 languages. own body, she began to ask other women about their bodies, in particular their vaginas. “Our stories are often a kind of private, shameful secret we keep to ourselves, particularly people who have been oppressed or abused or hurt,” she says. “When you open up your story to the world, it says to other peo- ple, ‘ This is who I am, this is what happened to me,’ and you suddenly realize other people have had that experience, other people feel for you, and then they begin to share their stories. The sharing of stories is an energetic transformation.” Listening to other women’s stories led Ensler to write The Vagina Monologues, an episodic play that explores topics like consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, and sex trafficking. The play is voiced by women of many different identities, including, as Ensler’s web- site states, “a six-year-old girl, a septuagenarian New Yorker, a vagina workshop participant, a woman A T TWENTY-THREE, Ensler got clean. She married actor Richard McDermott and adopted her husband’s teenage son. With- out the fog of intoxicants, she was dealing head-on with crippling anxiety, and needed to find ways to understand and express her trauma. Ensler turned to writing plays, and the intensity with which she had lived her drug-fueled life trans- lated into the highs and lows of the artist–activist life. She was, as the New York Times describes her in this period, “a fairly obscure downtown playwright, ambitious but thwarted, anguished by bad reviews and tortured by injustices personal and global.” Yet Ensler’s play Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man garnered media attention, and her Necessary Tar- gets boasted public readings by Meryl Streep, Van- essa Redgrave, and Glenn Close. Ensler’s life would change forever in her mid- forties. Because she had no reference point for her