Necessary Targets: A Story of Women and Warby Eve Ensler
In her first new work since The Vagina Monologues, her Obie Award-winning smash hit, Eve Ensler tells the story of two American women, a Park Avenue psychiatrist and a human rights worker, who go to Bosnia to help women confront their memories of war and emerge deeply changed themselves. Necessary Targets is a groundbreaking play about women and war—about the violence of dark memories and the enduring resilience of the human spirit.
Melissa, an ambitious young writer, and J.S., a successful but unsatisfied middle-aged psychiatrist, have nothing in common beyond the methods they have been taught to distance themselves from other people. As J.S. begins to feel compassion for the women whose tragedies she has been sent to expose, she turns on Melissa, who finds safety in control. In an unexpected moment of revelation, J.S. and the women she is supposedly treating find a common ground, a place to be taught and a place to learn.
Necessary Targets has been staged in New York by Meryl Streep, Anjelica Huston, and Calista Flockhart, and performed in Sarajevo with Glenn Close and Marisa Tomei.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"A journey into the very human stories behind the headlines, Necessary Targets lets us peer beneath the head scarves of women whom we recognize as our friends, sisters, and daughters. A brave, powerful, and crucial testimony against violence aimed at women as an act of war." —Meryl Streep
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Read an Excerpt
Lights up on a posh living room. A coffee table with plates of food. j.s.,
a stunning, reserved woman near fifty, sits with melissa, a young, strong
woman who sits awkwardly on the sofa, drinking water. melissa wipes up the
excess water that her drink has left on the coffee table. j.s. moves a
round wooden object toward her.
MELISSA: Oh, it's a coaster. I thought it was an art object. I'm so sorry.
J.S.: Not to worry. It's an old table.
MELISSA: It's gorgeous. In such amazing shape. There's not one smudge on it. I could never keep a table like that. It takes so much time.
J.S.: Well, I don't spend my days polishing the table.
MELISSA: No, no. I'm sure you have someone who does that.
(They both laugh nervously.)
J.S.: You're younger than I expected.
MELISSA: Well, I've been through a lot.
J.S.(unconsciously therapeutic): Yes?
MELISSA: (sensing she's being analyzed, suddenly): Oh, I didn't mean it like that.
J.S.: Like what?
MELISSA: Like that. Like childhood. Like poor me. I don't feel sorry for myself.
J.S.: Why would I think that?
MELISSA: Because you're a shrink. Because I'm sure you'll attribute all I do now to all that happened to me when I was little.
J.S.: I don't know what happened to you when you were little, Melissa.
MELISSA: Do you need to know? Is it important for you to know? I'd rather not be identified or determined by that part of my life. It was their life. This is my life.
J.S.: And what makes this your life?
MELISSA: That feels very much like a shrink question.
J.S.: Oh, I'm sorry.
(They sit awkwardly.)
J.S.: I like your shoes.
MELISSA: You do?
J.S.: Yes, very much.
MELISSA: Kenneth Cole. I love the zippers.
J.S.: They're very . . . definitive.
MELISSA: Well . . . yes. They're grounding. I need shoes that are grounding.
J.S.: Yes. I imagine.
MELISSA: Not 'cause I'm crazy or off-the-wall or anything. But these situations, these wars. One needs . . . grounding.
J.S.: Yes. Your resume's impressive. You come highly recommended.
MELISSA: Oh, I just made it up for you. I mean, typed it . . . up for you. All the facts are true. I usually work alone. I don't have to prove myself. So this is new.
J.S.: It's really interesting. You're trained as a therapist and a writer. That's very unusual.
MELISSA: Trauma counselor.
MELISSA: I'm trained as a trauma counselor. It's very specific training. I am not a therapist. I only work with seriously traumatized populations. Oh God, listen to me, "seriously traumatized populations . . ."
J.S.: Doesn't it frighten you?
MELISSA: Yes, definitely. But it scares me more not to see it, not to know what's going on. Why are you going to Bosnia?
J.S.: I am going for the President's commission. I was asked, and it's a huge honor. To be honest, I was a bit surprised. I mean, Bosnia is not a place I know very much about. I read the news, but until about a week ago, the Balkans were not exactly next on my vacation map.
MELISSA: Why does this commission want you to be there?
J.S.: Well, they chose a range of professions for the team. I'm the "shrink" piece, as you say. At one time it was my field, trauma.
MELISSA: Yes, eating disorders. I am familiar with your books.
MELISSA: You have never been to a war-torn country.
J.S.: God, no. That's why I wanted you to be with me, Melissa. Your experience.
MELISSA: War is not exactly the same as anorexia.
J.S.: I am a psychiatrist. Twenty-six years. In private practice. I've been involved in a war of sorts, mental skirmishes and attacks. Trauma is trauma.
MELISSA: In Haiti, the psychiatrists were fleeing like flies.
J.S.: How long were you there?
MELISSA: Eight months.
J.S.: Weren't you afraid?
MELISSA: No. Not in Haiti-in Rwanda, yes . . .
J.S.: I can't imagine.
MELISSA: No. No one could imagine.
J.S.: Are you sure you're ready to go to Bosnia, to do this again?
MELISSA (clipped): It's my work. It's what I do.
J.S.: You are very strong. So young and so strong.
MELISSA: Is this commission the real deal? Or is it one of those U.N. situations-observe/witness, but do not go near?
J.S.: They said we would be working directly with the women war refugees. It's very "hands-on." That's why I need you to be my assistant.
MELISSA: Is that what you were told?
MELISSA: That I was an assistant-that I'd be your assistant.
J.S.: Yes, you were to assist me. You are a war specialist and you were to assist me.
MELISSA: I am currently writing a book-investigating the effect of war in the creation and development of trauma, focusing primarily on communities of women, on those specific atrocities that traumatize women. It's my first contract with a major publisher. It's actually your publisher. It is essential that I complete the book this year. I will need to interview these women.
J.S.: That shouldn't be a problem.
Meet the Author
Eve Ensler's Obie Award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues, currently running in theaters all over the world, initiated V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women. Ensler received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwriting in 1999.
Join the V-Day movement and help stop violence against women—visit www.vday.org
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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