In Berkeley, 'Salomania' and 'Emotional Creature' take on the war on women
"Any woman with a forward personality who has pushed her boundaries is going to be characterized that way by her culture," he muses, a sentiment that could be applied equally to Salome as well as to Allan, as well as to almost any controversial female celebrity today: our Madonnas and our Hillary Clintons.
GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS
"Part of why I wanted to write this is to say there's this amazing resilience here, and power, and resistance, and energy and vitality in girls that we haven't even begun to unleash," says Eve Ensler, who has also been compared to a force of nature (by Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone). Best-known for The Vagina Monologues, Ensler's latest play, Emotional Creature, is having its world premiere at Berkeley Rep.
Global girlhood is its focus. Based on her book I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, the subject matter includes stories from Congolese rape victims, Eastern European sex workers, young factory workers, and Western anorexics, all struggling to move forward from their circumstances. Despite the often violent circumstances Ensler's protagonists find themselves in, it's their vitality that she hopes will come across, onstage and off.
Quick to emphasize that Creature is fictional, Ensler's encounters with young women around the world — Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Sarajevo, Haiti, Afghanistan — have nonetheless heavily informed the characters of her piece. And of course, she has her own experiences in girlhood to draw from. "When I was younger, I was constantly told I was being too alive or too intense or too dramatic, and I chose to learn how to mute myself," she says. An outspoken and prolific anti-violence advocate, Ensler does seem to have overcome that mute button in adulthood, but she's quick to point out that its existence can make girlhood a bewildering, disempowering time in life.
The creation of the piece began in Johannesburg, with a staged workshop at the Market Theatre in July 2011, and another in Paris in September. Director Jo Bonney likens the shape of the play to that of an event being put on by the girls themselves: a variety show of monologues, ensemble pieces, even song and dance numbers, with music written by South African composer Charl-Johan Lingenfelder. Navigating the stormy seas of modern-day adolescence and young adulthood, Ensler's "girls" may still be facing a whole spectrum of obstacles while tapping into their personal power. But thanks to precedents set by strong women such as Maud Allan, and even Salome, the fact that they should want to at all no longer seems unusual or unfortunate — no matter how often American right-wingers might have us otherwise believe. *
Through July 15, $14.50-$73
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Roda Theatre, 2025 Addison, Berk.
Through July 22, $30-$55
2081 Addison, Berk. www.auroratheatre.org
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