DIRECTOR’S NOTES: The Good Body by Eve Ensler
by Lucinda McDermott
“What you resist will persist.”
In researching the root of this quote, I was disappointed to discover it was Jung who coined the phrase. Damnit. Does this mean it’s all in my head?
I don’t want to think about it.
This has, in miniature, been my experience with The Good Body. Having directed Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues six times, I felt confident in approaching another one of her plays. However, my reaction to my first reading of The Good Body was - after barely getting through it - to want to hurl it across the room.
“self-indulgent”. . . “whiney”. . . “so what”. . . “first world problems”. . . “yada yada”….
“What you resist will persist.”
I gave myself a little credit for having enough self-awareness to realize the material may be a little too close for comfort. In the midst of my own “middle passage,” I’ve had recent emotional heart-to-hearts with friends processing the physical changes our appearances are going through. I had eating disorders as a young woman. I struggled with comparing myself to others, and still do if I’m completely honest, and trying to attain my own unattainable vision of perfection. When I gave birth to a daughter I immediately obsessed on how NOT to pass any of my own insecurities on to her. I’m sure I went overboard on stressing “You are beautiful the way you are!” and “Bellies are wonderful!” I thought I’d done a pretty good job, until I had to acknowledge the insidious power of our society’s message to women per beauty: it ain’t you, babe. It’s a war we are thrust into with ourselves that has only amped up more with the growth of social media. You think it was bad for us with Seventeen, ELLE, ET, etc…? Facebook and Instagram has caused depression in Middle School-age girls to skyrocket.
Eve’s journey is our own journey. It’s not just about appearance. It’s about what we absorb as young girls while developing physically, emotionally, and mentally. Most of the women in the play, like Eve, suffer from something that happened to them as a child that went unresolved. These occurrences get symbolized into items such as how ice cream and bread did for Eve. When I was a teen, it was the nefarious french fry - both dreaded and desired. These symbols then become part of a ritual that permeate the psyche for years resulting in a weight that is more than physical. Obsessions that become so vast, they feel like a huge yoga ball you constantly carry - unwieldy, seemingly insurmountable, blocking any vision of a happy future. As Eve says at the point before her breakthrough; “The programming is too deep.”
I’ve cast three brilliant, uniquely individual actors to tell Eve’s story. I made the choice to turn her aria into a choral effort to better highlight that this is for all of us. We all struggle - men too - with self-acceptance in one way or the other. As good as we would all like to be - try to be - pretend to be - and actually are - we may still, in the midst of our most philanthropic moment think, “is my butt too big?”
Because we’re human.
My hope is that this play will allow you to let yourself off the hook a little. Take a deep breath and realize it’s okay. We all struggle, and if that’s the case, then maybe we should try a little more self-acceptance? Maybe start small with, “I want to want to accept myself as I am?” If that’s too much, I will simply close with what my Mama gently suggest, “Be kind to yourself.”
director, THE GOOD BODY.
THE GOOD BODY will be presented as part of The Cellar Series on February 20, 21, and 22 at The Basement. Click HERE for tickets!