An all-female group of actors will perform Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in a Brooklyn park next month in the nude.
Provocative? Absolutely, says the play’s director.
“People are going to have big, strong reactions,” Pitr Strait told Brooklyn Paper. “We asked ‘How do we work nudity into the play so Shakespeare doesn’t get swallowed up and so the huge, distracting thing works for us?’”
That huge, distracting thing of nudity didn’t seem to hamper much the first time the Torn Out Theater actors performed in New York’s Central Park in May.
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After some people slammed Shakespeare-in-the-nude as nothing more than a gimmick, more than 400 people turned out to watch two performances of the Bard’s play about a shipwreck that strands a group of aristocrats on a magical island.
Critics called the production “liberating” and “beautiful,” according to Broadway World, with one British publication writing that “in such a busy and eccentric city as New York, these women are braver than most.”
The play seems to be getting as much buzz this second time around.
A selective use of nudity “to dramatize The Tempest's central themes of identity and liberation builds on a long tradition of free expression in theatrical productions held in outdoor settings,” Broadway World noted.
“Past productions performed in New York parks, including Hair and Henry V, have featured full nudity in a similarly artistic, non-sexual context.”
The castaways begin the play fully clothed but lose their layers of protection and are naked by the end of the play.
“We focused deeply on the language,” Kara Lynn, a body paint and nude figure model who performs in the play, told Brooklyn Paper.
“So this play isn’t just about a bunch of naked women. We’re all trained Shakespearean actors. As an actor, doing Shakespeare is already difficult, but now doing it nude was another layer of ‘Oh my God.’”
The point of the play is to promote positive body image, Strait told CBS2 in New York.
“We were really interested in getting an audience to be able see nudity as non-sexual, non-threatening, and eventually not even strange,” he said. “By the end the play, it’s normal.”
Body positivity might be the point, but the actors clearly felt the pressure of exposing themselves. Lynn, for instance, took yoga classes and went to the gym to prepare, she told Brooklyn Paper.
“As a woman you want to remain true to the body-positivity movement, but at the same time you want to feel good about yourself,” she said.
“I do it more for the body-positivity movement and the idea that women shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies, just like men shouldn’t.”
Public nudity in New York city parks is illegal, but exceptions are made for artistic performances.
“Which is great for us, but also really strange,” Strait told the TV station. “We all accept that this isn’t obscene as long as they’re speaking in verse.”
Shakespeare or not, one parent told CBS2 she was uncomfortable with the idea of naked women in Prospect Park, where children play.
“My son, he’s 5 years old,” said Adelle Cekic. “He might ask questions that I would not be able to answer him.”