The Inventory: Eve Ensler

‘If I lost everything tomorrow I would go to Congo, become a farmer and work in the fields,’ says the playwright best known for ‘The Vagina Monologues’

Eve Ensler, 58, the playwright, performer and activist, is best known for The Vagina Monologues. She has won awards for both her writing and her campaigning. She founded V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women, in 1998.

What was your earliest ambition?

The first was to survive, the second was to be useful in some kind of little way, the third was to write.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

State school, university, then straight to work. I loved studying literature. I was a waitress for nine years, which I don’t regret at all. It taught me about discipline. I was always writing, it took a long time to make a career of it.

Who was or still is your mentor?

I feel I’m still looking for a mother and a mentor. I had a period of time where Joanne Woodward came into my life and took me under her wing.

How physically fit are you?

I’m in good shape. My cancer means I have lost a lot of organs and I’m a lot lighter. I have devoted myself to yoga and I’m doing handstands.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

Talent’s crucial, but what is talent? More than anything, for me, it is the need to write that has been most important, it pushes through success and failure.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

I believe so but I have no memory of it, which doesn’t bode well.

How politically committed are you?

That question is like “are you breathing?” It’s my life. I’m an activist. V-Day has become a massive movement.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I do. I don’t have a car and I walk a lot. But I’m a nomad and the aeroplane is a huge problem so I’m trying to find a way to plant lots of trees.

Do you have more than one home?

I don’t really know where my home is, to be honest. I have a place in New York, a place in Paris and a little place being built in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

I want to own less.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Taxis.

In what place are you happiest?

Dancing with the women in the City of Joy, this revolutionary centre that V-Day built with the women of Congo. It is the most joyful place I have ever known.

What ambitions do you still have?

Since cancer, I feel like I have dreams rather than ambitions, visions rather than plans.

What drives you on?

The crazy belief that we can and must reverse the suicidal trajectory of human beings.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Not becoming cynical.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

That there is still violence against women and girls.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

She would really be surprised that I’m still a hippy.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

I would go to Congo, become a farmer and work with the women in the fields.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes. When a person has a fatal illness, when you know there is no way back. People have a right to control their own destinies.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Not sure.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

I would rate the fact that I get to be alive a big beautiful 10. Satisfaction with myself – work in progress.

‘A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer’, edited by Eve Ensler, is at the Lyric Theatre on March 26 to raise money for V-Day and Women for Women International. www.nimaxtheatres.com

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

More on this topic

Suggestions below based on Eve Ensler

The Inventory: Terry Deary

‘Age hasn’t brought me wisdom but neither has it brought me conformity,’ says the ‘Horrible Histories’ author