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Updated On: Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Eve Ensler Continues Fight for Women's Issues on Stage

Content by: Voice of America

NEW YORK —

Author, actress and activist Eve Ensler has dedicated her life and work to women’s issues around the world. She’s spent years visiting war zones and developed a special connection with victims of rape and torture in the Democratic Republic of Congo when she was invited there in 2007.

“I think what really struck me about the Congo," Ensler recalled, "was the kind of synergistic cauldron of colonialism, capitalism, racism, insane misogyny. You know that all of those violences kind of being enacted on the bodies of women.”

She worked with local activists in the DRC to create a women’s leadership community and sanctuary for survivors of gender violence in Bukavu called City of Joy.

Eve Ensler with children from the City of Joy community, February 2013. (Paula Allen)Eve Ensler with children from the City of Joy community, February 2013. (Paula Allen)

“And it's almost impossible building something in the middle of a war zone. You don't have roads, you don’t have electricity. You don’t have … it was just... it was madness!" she said.

In the midst of that chaos, her own life got upended. "I got diagnosed with stage III-IV uterine cancer. The alchemy of it all was just: you know, change or die,” she said with a rueful laugh.

Medicine to memoir

Ensler turned the months of harrowing treatment -- and years of painful memories -- into a book: In the Body of the World: A Memoir of Cancer and Connection.

Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus read the book, and wanted to collaborate with her on turning it into a one-woman show.

“It was signature Eve," Paulus said of the memoir. "Philosophy, politics, feminism, all told through humor and her point of view, which she does not shy away from. But it was so deeply personal.”

In her memoir and new play, Eve Ensler relates her encounters with rape victims in Congo. (Joan Marcus)In her memoir and new play, Eve Ensler relates her encounters with rape victims in Congo. (Joan Marcus)

So, Paulus arranged to meet Ensler in her Manhattan loft, and they began an intense process to translate it into a play.

In the Body of the World toggles between the harrowing journey Ensler took to fight the cancer, her own painful family history, and her connection to women and nature in the outside world. Ensler says her own experiences with rape and abuse caused her to mentally disconnect from her body.

Watch a scene from In the Body of the World, as Eve Ensler talks about the support of friends during her cancer treatment (Courtesy Manhattan Theatre Club)

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