I think what all of us have in common is that we've been taught and trained and programmed to focus on fixing and mutilating ourselves. That's a core reason why women do not have power in the world.
- Eve Ensler
It was 15 years ago that monologist, playwright, author and activist Eve Ensler premiered The Vagina Monologues, a collection of vignettes both humorous and horrifying, in which women frankly discussed the sexual aspects of their own anatomy – and spirit.
Captivating and controversial, The Vagina Monologues was groundbreaking theater, as it created an entirely new sociological dialogue about women and their (perceived) place in the world.
The Good Body began a few years later, as a book of Ensler’s ruminations on the female obsession with body image.
In 2004, it was transformed into a one–woman show; soon thereafter, Ensler re–crafted the work into a stage play for three women, each of whom took on different characters.
The Good Body makes its Savannah debut this weekend with a Drama Bums production at Muse Arts Warehouse. It’s directed by Sheila Lynne, who divvied things up even more to stage Ensler’s masterwork: There are now six women in the play (herself included).
The Vagina Monologues, Lynne says, merely set the stage. “The Good Body touches on a deeper–seated issue, that it’s not just a sexual issue that women face, it’s a bigger issue with cultural body image. It’s much more pervasive and destructive towards women.”
Magazines, movies, television and the rest of the non–stop media blitzkrieg, Ensler tells us, have brainwashed women into believing that whatever their body shape, it’s wrong.
Lynne: “We open with a piece from her original book that says: When a group of ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged women in the U.S. was recently asked about the one thing they would change in their lives, if they could, the majority of these women said they would lose weight. Whaaat? They wouldn’t improve their economic status, they wouldn’t improve their educational level, they would lose weight.
“And the whole play goes on to explain how she herself identified with them, and how she felt about her stomach, and this obsession that is so prevalent among women.
Ensler once explained it this way: “I’m doing this play to say, ‘Do the most radical thing you can possibly do – love your body, and get on with it.’”
Lynne believes that’s the overriding message of the play. “We say it right in the beginning: Love your body. Stop fixing it. It was never broken.
“And then at the end of play, after we’ve been on this whole journey – we’ve been to Africa, India, to Brooklyn and Beverly Hills, we’ve been to fat camp – we go to Afghanistan, where it is forbidden by the Taliban to eat ice cream. It’s not like ‘Oh, shame, shame,’ it’s forbidden. Punishable by stoning or execution.
“Eve talks about how they risk their lives for something that we banish because it’s fattening, or this or that. And she makes us very aware of just what we give up when we start obsessing about how we look in the mirror.”
After select performances, cast and audience will join together for a celebratory ice cream social, with the tasty stuff provided by Leopold’s.
It’s important, Lynne points out, to understand that The Good Body is not a diatribe, nor a feminist manifesto. Nor is it a male–bashing exercise.
“The Vagina Monologues is great, and it’s very empowering, but for some people it’s still a little squeamish,” she says. “But we can all talk about our bodies.
“There’s a piece about the male reaction, which is a back–and–forth between one woman and her partner. And he voices what I think a lot of men feel when their loved ones start obsessing about their bodies: ‘I don’t want a relationship with your stomach. I want a relationship with you. I love all of you, no matter how you are.’”
The Good Body
Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703D Louisville Road
When: At 8 p.m. Feb. 3–5, 10–12
Tickets: $10 public; $7 seniors; $5 with student I.D.
Reservations: (912) 713–1137