Tony-winning playwright’s healing crusade, battling violence against women

Eve Ensler, now known as V, headlines fund-raiser at Carter Center.
Christine Schuler Deschrvyer, co-founder of City of Joy, will be among the leaders speaking at the V-Day observations Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Carter Center

Credit: Christine Schuler Deschrvyer

Credit: Christine Schuler Deschrvyer

Christine Schuler Deschrvyer, co-founder of City of Joy, will be among the leaders speaking at the V-Day observations Sunday, Oct. 8, at the Carter Center

The artist formerly known as Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” began writing to save her own life.

That 1996 play was an attempt by the writer, now known as V, to cope with horrific childhood sexual abuse.

The writer known as V (formerly Eve Ensler), will appear Sunday, Oct. 8, during the 25th anniversary celebration of V-Day at the Carter Center. Photo: B. Lacombe

Credit: B. Lacombe

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Credit: B. Lacombe

“The Vagina Monologues” prompted the creation of a national holiday, V-Day, an alternative to Valentine’s Day, at which performances of the play benefited groups around the country, and then around the world.

The play debuted on off-off Broadway, went on to sell out Madison Square Garden, won a Tony award and became a catalyst for a worldwide movement, generating more than $100 million for groups that fight violence against women.

By saving her own life, the writer has ultimately saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of other women.

“Turning your pain to joy, turning your pain to service, to do for somebody else what you need to be done for yourself, is a way of healing yourself,” she said.

On Sunday, Oct. 8, the author will be at the Carter Center to celebrate the 25th anniversary of V-Day and to talk about her new book, “Reckoning.” She will be joined by Jane Fonda, actor Rosario Dawson, Laura Turner Seydel and others, who will offer readings from “Reckoning.”

The evening will benefit City of Joy, a sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo for women and “gender expansive people” who are survivors of sexual assault.

Why Atlanta?

“Atlanta has been a real stronghold for our movement,” said V, speaking from Los Angeles, where she’s working on a new project. “It’s one of the very first places that did ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ and the response was amazing.”

V, 70, who lives near Kingston, New York, in the Catskill mountains, spoke recently about the power of the written word. She also discussed waiting fruitlessly for an apology from her father (who began sexually abusing her when she was 5 years old) and the healing power of living in the woods.

About writing:

For me, had I not discovered writing, I probably would have gone mad. There was just that much violence. It was a very rough childhood. One of the things I love about art is the alchemy: You can take what is painful and you can turn it into something beautiful and magical.

On rape:

There are two rapes. There is the one where you’re raped and the second one that tells you you will always be broken, you will always be ruined. But it is simply not true. It requires that you step through a fire. It is about reckoning, facing it, seeing it, tasting it, knowing it, remembering it, then about going through it. The wound is a portal. This country remains as violent and racist and sexist as it is, because we don’t reckon with our past.

About her 2019 book “The Apology”:

I waited for years for my father to apologize to me. Even years after he died, I had this fantasy that some letter would arrive in my mail box. I finally realized that it wasn’t going to happen. So I decided I’m going to write his letter to me.

On living in Kingston:

Fourteen years ago I was diagnosed with stage three to stage four uterine cancer. I almost died. I wrote about it (in the book “In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection”) and I knew I had to be with trees the rest of my life. I couldn’t live in cement any more. I had to be with the earth. It was really the right decision. I love waking up with the trees, to the sound of water, the sound of birds.

On changing her name:

I wanted that experience of expurgating him (her father) from my being. I didn’t have rancor toward him, or bitterness or anger. I was over that. But I didn’t want a name from someone who didn’t have my best interest at heart. It has been an amazing thing, I feel light. It’s nice to have that letter.


EVENT PREVIEW

“An Evening of Reckoning & Rising”

With V (formerly Eve Ensler), Rosario Dawson, Jane Fonda, Maya Penn, Pat Mitchell, City of Joy founder Christine Schuler Deschrvyer and Laura Turner Seydel, celebrating V-Day. 6 p.m. Oct. 8. $20-$1,000. The Carter Center, 453 John Lewis Freedom Parkway, NE, Atlanta. vday.org/AtlantaV25

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