The Kennedy Center

Eve Ensler


Award-winning playwright and activist, Eve Ensler, was born in New York City, N.Y., on May 25, 1953. She grew up in nearby Scarsdale and attended Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1975. At age 24 she began writing for the theater. At age 26, she married Richard McDermott and legally adopted his son Dylan, who was then 19.

Her adopted son introduced her to Joanne Woodward, his acting teacher at the Neighborhood Playhouse in Manhattan. He showed Woodward Ensler's play, Coming From Nothing, about a girl trying to remember her childhood. Woodward directed a reading of it with her students. Afterward, Ensler wrote for Woodward, The Depot, a one-woman play about nuclear disarmament, which Woodward directed, with Shirley Knight as the star. The play toured for two years and was performed at a nuclear test site in Nevada.

After Depot, Ensler wrote Scooncat, a play about a man ruled by technology, and Ladies, about homeless women, based on Ensler's interviews with homeless women while she was a shelter volunteer. After 1988, she became known to a wider audience, through her plays Extraordinary Measures, inspired by the death of a friend from AIDS, and Floating Rhoda and the Glue Man, about a woman having a hard time loving a good man.

Eve Ensler's groundbreaking show, The Vagina Monologues opened in New York in 1996, winning an Obie award in 1997. Since then, it has become something of a phenomenon, having been translated into 35 languages and performed around the world. It is a series of sly, lyrical, incisive first-person vignettes, most of them hilarious, some heartbreaking, based on her interviews with more than 200 women.

“The foundation for The Vagina Monologues ,” Ensler said in an interview, “lies in my childhood experience as a victim of sexual and physical abuse. The monologues have been an effort to redeem the experience with humor, to enable others to confront painful truths that have been repressed through fear and shame.” Her experience performing The Vagina Monologues inspired her to create V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.

Her play Necessary Targets, about the plight of women in Bosnia, had a reading at the Kennedy Center in honor of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who later wrote the forward for a book version.

Ensler's many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship Award in Playwriting, the Berrilla-Kerr Award for Playwriting, the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and the Jury Award for Theater at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. In May 2003, she received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from her alma mater, Middlebury College.
Eve Ensler