And The Female Playwright at the Tonys was…

…Eve Ensler who received the Isabelle Stevenson award for founding the global movement, V-Day, to end violence against women and girls.

The movement began with The Vagina Monologues, which opened in 1996. The Monologues were considered shocking at the time. “If you had told me then,” says Ensler, “that small towns in Alabama and in Pakistan and Mongolia would have productions of this piece, I’d have told you that you were crazy.”

Two years later, there was a Valentine’s Day performance with celebrity actresses, including Whoopi Goldberg, Susan Sarandon and Glenn Close. Called V-Day, it became an annual event and has become a global movement that raises funds through benefit productions. So far, V-day has raised over $80 million. Ensler estimates that there were 5,000 performances of the play last year alone.

She and her colleagues interview women in different places around the world, asking them what kind of help they need from the money raised. “Our experience is that the women we work with are visionaries,” Ensler says. “They don’t need direction. They just need support.”

Several years ago, the question was put to women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. V-Day was particularly interested in the Congo, where women and children have been suffering for years from hundreds of thousands of rape by Rwanadan and Congolese rebels. What the women of the Congo wanted was a community for women survivors, which they would run, operate, and direct themselves.

The community is now a reality. The City of Joy opened in February, 2011 in the city of Bukavu. Its mission is to be “a place where women turn their pain into power, where they get healed, where they are trained in civics and self-defense, where they receive economic tools and resources.”

When they go back to their communities, they will be capable of teaching what they learned.

Lynn Nottage, who is Eve Ensler’s friend, is also a supporter of City of Joy and funds from her widely produced play, Ruined, support the Bukavu Panzi Hospital.

Here is Eve Enler’s speech at the Tony’s:

“This all began when I said the word vagina in a little tiny theater way, way downtown in this very city. I said it again. I said it endlessly. I said it so many times over, women began to say it. I saw what happens when millions say vagina and when millions hear it. What I learned is that when you say what you’re not supposed to say, when you share your secrets, when you tell the truth, the world changes – people get free, they come into their power.”

“I accept this award on behalf all those who found their voices, their vaginas, their courage in the theater. And I call on all of us to remember why we were drawn to the theater, and to be braver, bolder, and more outrageous. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Eve Ensler

photo by Paula Allen

Eve Ensler at the opening of The City of Joy

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