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Vagina Monologues author dismisses the line between art and activism

Tony Award-winning playwright and activist Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, dismisses the line between artists and activists.
Tatiana Johnson/Harvard Kennedy School
Tony Award-winning playwright and activist Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, dismisses the line between artists and activists.

The Boston Globe presents the Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast, a weekly podcast on public policy, politics, and global issues. HKS PolicyCast is hosted by Matt Cadwallader.

The first line in the director’s notes for the Vagina Monologues is somewhat unusual: “You are an activist first, before theatrical director.”

There’s a broad spectrum of opinions on where the boundary should be between art and activism. Look no further than the response to Beyonce’s new single “Formation,” which quickly garnered both praise and criticism for its overtly political message.

This week on the Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast podcast, Tony Award-winning playwright and activist Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, explains why she believes the act of making art is inherently political.

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“If you choose to write a play that keeps people distracted from the issues at hand, that’s a political decision,” says Ensler. “If you choose to write a play that engages people in the issues of our time, that’s a political decision.”

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In the full interview, she dismisses the line between artists and activists, explains the motivations behind her creation of the V-Day and One Billion Rising movements, and describes why she supported the nominations of recent Gleitsman International Activist Award winners Fartuun Adan and Ilwad Elman, who have worked to create women’s health clinics across Somalia.

“I think it’s incumbent upon everybody to take on the responsibility of the world that we are living in . . . and if everybody were engaged in the struggle, I really believe we would have a fighting chance.”

You can listen to the episode above, or download the episode for free on iTunes.