Female empowerment has seen its share of manifestations. The 1990s alone gave way to Spicemania and riot grrrl punk of the Pacific Northwest, allowing girl power to surge as a commodity and cultural phenomenon.
Tony Award-winning playwright, performer and activist Eve Ensler, best known for 1996’s “The Vagina Monologues,” continues to harness girl energy in her new show “Emotional Creature” premiering at Berkeley Repertory Theatre this month.
“We have an idea of the lives that girls are living on the planet and then there’s the real life of girls,” says Ensler. “I think sometimes that we don’t understand the magnitude. ... Girls are living really, really amazingly difficult lives. There are huge obstacles.”
Based on her best-selling novel “I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Lives of Girls Around the World,” the play, directed by Jo Bonney and Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, features six young actresses performing songs and monologues about real issues facing girls today.
The pressure to conform to an ideal body image, female genital mutilation and sexual violence are some examples of cultural mandates silencing girls, says Ensler, who hopes the show’s stories give girls a voice and the opportunity to rise above hardships of adolescence.
“This is really about bringing up girls and boys around the world so that they see themselves as activists and really understand that this is their world and they’ve got to take it and make it theirs,” says Ensler.
“Emotional Creature,” which has been workshopped in South Africa and Paris to packed houses, is being produced using the same model as “The Vagina Monologues,” which was translated into 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries. Following commercial productions, it will be released to high schools and colleges around the world and presented in consciousness raising events.
In watching the cast of “Emotional Creature” in rehearsal, Ensler has had fun observing how girls both push, and nurture, each other.
When asked to relay a message to her younger self, Ensler promptly answers, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time questioning my intensity.
Questioning my heart and questioning what I instinctively knew ... I just spend so much time doubting myself because I was told that I was too much, too in your face. But in fact, I wasn’t intense enough.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Where: Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays and Fridays, 7 p.m. most Wednesdays, 2 and 8 p.m. most Thursdays and Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; closes July 15
Tickets: $14.50 to $73, discounts available
Contact: (510) 647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org