On Friday, October 21st, close to 500 women and girls, (and some men and boys) stood in line waiting for the doors to open at Berkeley Repertory's Roda Theater. They were here to soak in, celebrate and be energized by one woman, the amazing avatar of all things "girl," Eve Ensler, who was here to make a special announcement.
Ensler is the blast-out-of-the-box, creative creature who penned the The Vagina Monologues, which has been translated into 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries, including sold-out runs off Broadway and on London's West End. Like a lit match on dry tinder her message of love and female empowerment quickly caught fire and burns even brighter today. It was her experience with Vagina Monologues that inspired her to create V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.
Outside the Roda, the air was thick with speculation as well as talk of V-girl power, girl energy and Ensler's new best-selling novel, "I am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World." A spirit of camaraderie prevailed as the doors opened and the crowd was ushered in.
Finally the announcement came. On the stage of the Roda Theatre, she revealed that Emotional Creature - which was developed during workshops in Johannesburg and Paris - will debut in Berkeley next June. Immediately the audience cheered and across the theater hands shot up, fingers forming the peace sign - but here in 'girl-land' the symbol also stands for V-day and "victory, valentine and vagina."
"Emotional Creature is about being a girl in the world in 2011 and about discovering the girl in each of us," Ensler remarks. "It is about changing the verb from 'please' to 'create' or 'defy' or 'resist' or 'imagine.' It is about traveling and dancing and refusing. It is about telling secrets and breaking taboos and building a posse. Where else would we begin this in America than in Berkeley, and in what other theater than Berkeley Rep, which has a gorgeous history of pushing The Edge, engaging in social issues, and conjuring community." That brought a round of vigorous cheering to be sure.
The audience was next treated to a short film on Emotional Creature and then to a conversation between Ensler and artistic director Tony Taccone. She shared that as a young girl she had always been compared to Sara Bernhardt, which was code for too much, too intense, too alive, calm it down and put it in a bag, get in the closet.
"Now I know that the problem was that they just weren't awake. They were asleep. I was awake. But we get convinced early on that we're too much rather than assuming people need to rise to our levels."
In speaking about the upcoming show she said, "I feel like the V-girl revolution is coming to Berkeley!"
She encouraged everyone to bring girls and boys to the show to start the revolution. Emotional Creature will play only 36 performances at Berkeley Rep, beginning on June 15, 2012 and running through July 15, 2012.
Tony Taccone asked her about the experience of doing the workshop of the show with girls in South Africa and she shared a story about a girl who participated in the workshop. Emboldened by the experience she felt safe enough to share her story and, through that process, come into her own.
"That, to me, is an example of what theater and activism can do together," remarked Ensler. "People can come into themselves and find their voice. I think the function of art is to give us an outlet where we can both cry out and sing out and find joy that comes out of suffering. Otherwise we just become victims and passive and the world does us under. And I also think it's where revolution comes from. I think that when you find how to turn pain into power, how to transform pain to power, there's the possibility of using whatever you have been through to change the world."
After the talk her fans had an opportunity to go into the courtyard and have Ensler sign copies of their books. The energy raised inside continued outside as well. Berkeley Rep's Jenny Lagundino was busy getting women and girls coffee, helping to make the atmosphere festive as well as charged with energy.