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ISSUE 119 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/14/2005

New play buildings on 'Vagina Monologues'

By Miriam Samuelson
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 14, 2005

Award-winning author of “The Vagina Monologues” Eve Ensler has done it again. The playwright, performer and activist presented a one-woman show titled “The Good Body” at the Ordway Center in St. Paul this week.

Although the show dealt with far too many complex issues to be a mere two-hour-long play, Ensler pulled off a lively, stellar performance. “The Good Body” departed somewhat from the main theme of Ensler’s previous show. “The Vagina Monologues” uses the female genitalia as a metaphor for women’s lives and experiences, while “The Good Body” depicts the entire bodies of women from many different walks of life.

Ensler kept her audience emotionally captivated and entertained as she portrayed a diverse range of body politics, including those of Helen Gurley Brown (editor of Cosmopolitan magazine), women in Afghanistan who would risk their lives to eat ice cream, and her own family.

The ever-energetic woman performed for two hours straight. She danced, traipsed, and crawled across the stage; she played two or three characters at once, switching back and forth from opposite sides of the stage to have conversations with herself.

Ensler proved to be the quintessence of the “vagina warrior” that she defined in her previous work – an endless supply of energy working for the advancement of women’s rights.

If the play’s strength lay in its performer, its weakness was in the broadness of its content. Each story was well written and performed with passion, but Ensler chose such an expansive topic that she was only able to brush the surface of many difficult body image issues. She briefly touched on such pressing issues as anorexia and aging, but did not give herself enough time to analyze these topics with much depth.

However, the playwright conveyed the over-arching message of her piece quite clearly: If women spent less time and money hating and changing their bodies, they would have the time and money to spend becoming politically and emotionally powerful in a male-dominated society.

True to her desire to include every woman’s (and man’s) voice, Eve Ensler hosted a talkback session following the performance. The participants were mostly college-aged women; members of St. Olaf’s Sexual Assault and Rape Network (SARN) and Feminists for Change (FFC) attended both the play and the talkback.

The session became an organic conversation rather than a static discussion of feminist issues – the audience got a chance to understand the varying perspectives that existed even among a seemingly uniform demographic.

Although Ensler made the purpose behind her work very clear, some of her assumptions were lost on the college generation. Her plays are based on her experience, and her experience is rooted in being a middle-aged, menopausal woman.

The talkback session helped clarify some of these differences and bridge the gap between them. On stage and in person, Eve Ensler proved to be the insightful, energetic woman I always imagined her to be.

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