INTERVIEW: Eve Ensler Gets Emotional

The Obie Award-winning playwright discusses her new work, Emotional Creature, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Eve Ensler (center)and the company of Emotional Creature
(© Kevin Beirne)
Eve Ensler (center)
and the company of Emotional Creature
(© Kevin Beirne)

Eve Ensler first became famous for her Obie Award-winning play The Vagina Monologues, in which women spoke freely about their bodies and sexual experiences. Her new play Emotional Creature, now at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Roda Theatre, is made up of original monologues inspired by girls around the globe, giving voice to their innermost thoughts while highlighting the diversity and commonality of the issues they face. Ensler recently spoke to TheaterMania about the project.

THEATERMANIA: Why did you choose to write the book I Am An Emotional Creature, which was the basis for this play?
EVE ENSLER: As I was traveling around the world these last 15 years, I couldn’t help but notice what was happening with girls. There were a lot of very complex, very difficult, very painful, sometimes even awful things that girls were facing and huge obstacles and challenges. I was kind of awed by the obstacles, but equally awed by the way that girls were rising to meet those obstacles.

TM: Did you write the book with the idea that you would eventually turn it into a piece of theater?
EE: Definitely. I wanted to do a book first, because I really wanted to put the stories out. But I knew that eventually I wanted to do a play. I’m a playwright first of all, and I deeply believe in the theater. I think if The Vagina Monologues has taught me anything, it’s the power of theater to transform lives and create revolutions and bring people to action and bring people to believing that they have power over their own destinies. And I certainly wanted to do something like that for girls.

TM: A lot of different actresses and girls worked on this show through the developmental process. Did you have involvement with the casting for this production?
EE: I was completely involved with the casting, and I love the actors we have now. They’re just amazing. I remember as we were doing the show in various places, people would always say, “Where did you find these girls?” And I would say, “They’re girls. This is what girls are, if you would just let them be girls.” And you know, I think we have exceptionally talented girls in this show, but I also think there’s something about the spirit of girls, when they’re allowed to be their true, authentic, original selves that’s quite amazing.

TM: Are any of the original girls going to get to see this production?
EE: Oh yeah, I think they will. And you know, a lot of those original girls are now part of V-Girls. Everybody stays connected to the show one way or the other even if they’re not acting in it.

TM: Did you specifically want Jo Bonney to direct this production?
EE: I actually really wanted her. I knew her work really well. We’d been circling each other for years. And at one point, four different people told me Jo Bonney should direct this play. I was like, ok, when four people tell you something, you know you need to do that. And Jo is amazing. She is truly one of the best collaborations I’ve had in my theatrical career. She knows text, knows actors, knows structure, is really fun to work with, is fabulous with people and with actors, and we have very good energy with each other.

TM: How did the play become something with music and dance?
EE: It was all completely organic. We went to South Africa and we hired this amazing musician Charl, who we thought would just do some incidental music, and he was super-brilliant. And we just started creating songs. It was this miraculous thing. And then I started to write songs with him, and it just evolved. I think it’s always the most unplanned things that are the best things.

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Emotional Creature

Closed: July 15, 2012