Intimate Portrait

Season 9 Episode 8

Eve Ensler

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Aired Monday 7:00 PM Feb 18, 2003 on Lifetime
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Eve Ensler
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Eve Ensler's young life in an affluent Upper East Side household seemed like a fairy tale to the outside world. However, Ensler's close relationship with her dad, the president of a high-profile company, and her entire life were forever changed when he sexually molested her. Afraid and insecure, Ensler had trouble making friends in school. The tormented teen retreated into a private world and began keeping a journal. While attending Vermont's artistic Middlebury College, she began to discover her own voice. Ensler became a student leader and found a supportive group of buddies. "That time in my life…gave me a sense that I might be able to do something…of value," says Ensler. After graduation, Ensler headed to New York City, where she spent much of the next decade working as a waitress and turned to alcohol to deal with feelings of low self-esteem. She befriended bartender Richard McDermott, who helped her get sober and turn her life around. The couple married, and Ensler adopted her husband's 15-year-old son, Dylan McDermott, who would go on to star on the TV drama "The Practice." Ensler's mate encouraged her to pursue her artistic dreams, and by 1988 she had staged her first play, "The Depot." Ensler's career really took off when she wrote "The Vagina Monologues." Unfortunately, her first marriage ended in divorce; but when she met artist Ariel Orr Jordan, who, like her, had suffered from sexual abuse as a child, Ensler knew she had found her soul mate. By the early 1990s, the politically minded playwright began traveling to Bosnia to visit the refugee camps. She had heard horrifying accounts of the abuse female refugees had suffered during the civil war in that country. Ensler collected stories from victimized women and turned them into a heartbreaking play called "Necessary Targets." Encouraged by the response to her work, the outspoken artist put together a benefit show, called V-Day, in 1998. Famous Hollywood actresses, including Glenn Close, Calista Flockhart and Rosie Perez, performed "The Vagina Monologues" to raise awareness and funds for activists working to eradicate violence against women. "Embedded in ["The Vagina Monologues"] are some very real facts and statistics about the depth of cruelty against women in this country and around the world, which are usually sugarcoated," says Ensler's friend Gloria Steinem. Since its inception, V-Day has raised $14 million through productions of the "Monologues" staged on college campuses and throughout the United States. Ensler's show has also been performed in some 40 countries. In 2001, V-Day was a sellout at Madison Square Garden, a first for a women's event at a major sports arena. Ensler continues to dedicate herself to women on the fringe and teaches writing workshops for female prisoners.moreless
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