More Nude Blogging

September 26, 2007

Another determinant that played a part in my decision to get unclad onstage (and one that I forgot to mention in my previous post) was the fact that the context would not be sexual: I won’t be parading around up there with a fellow cast member and pretending to get freaky. Instead, I will be flying solo and the circumstances will be a bit more macabre.

That was actually a really important factor for me. I don’t know how comfortable I’d feel feigning intimacy (or animalistic lust), bare-skinned with someone else, in front of a packed house. Talk about vulnerable. Doing what I’m doing already feels vulnerable enough without adding another actor to the mix. I’m baby-stepping my way into this whole nudity thing.

As for the reluctance my friends previously displayed at the possibility of seeing me in the buff: it has vanished. Pretty much every person I’ve told about my new endeavor has greeted it with an exclamation along the lines of, “Dude, I am SO THERE!” What a difference several months makes.

As for my family…well, there’s a little more ambivalence there. My mother and younger sister, two of my staunchest supporters, remain undecided about whether or not they will attend. My father and stepmother, on the other hand, are flying in from out of town to catch this one. WTF?!


The Nudity Returns

September 18, 2007

I started rehearsals for my new show last week, which means I’m back in training: exercise, watching what I eat, no smoking, the whole nine. It’s nice to be back on this routine – I feel great, for one thing – and I’m trying to remain extra-diligent about it this time because I’m being called upon to do something that I have never done before.

I’m taking my clothes off. Onstage.

That’s right: your friendly neighborhood theatre reviewer is going to don the birthday suit. In front of a paying audience. I can tell you right now that it won’t be the full monty, but it’ll be close enough. My director and I are still working out the details, but let me put it this way: anyone who doesn’t want to get to know me that well probably shouldn’t come.

You may recall that I blogged about this topic earlier in the year. Back in April, I wrote that “until recently, I usually found onstage nudity to be frightfully distracting” and wondered if I had the guts to do it myself. Now here I am, five months later, doing it. I guess I have some explaining to do.

My decision to take this job was actually a no-brainer, for several reasons:

  • The actors, writers, and directors involved are all folks whose work I’ve seen and liked, and/or who I’ve gotten to know socially. So I knew what I was potentially getting into when I went to the audition. I like and trust these folks, and that made my decision pretty easy.
  • Also, over the past six months I’ve lost a lot of weight – about 20-25 pounds – so I’m feeling pretty good about my body these days. If someone had asked me to do this back in March, there was noooooo way I would’ve said yes. Now, it’s a different story.
  • On a non-nudity related note: the theatre where we’ll be performing is within walking distance of my house. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a consideration.
  • Finally, though, I decided to do this because the current trend of onstage nudity now seems a bit like a rite of indie theater passage. As a friend of mine who has taken it all off in front of people twice recently told me: “If you’ve never done it before, then you have to do it.” Exactly. Not to mention that it’s a challenge, and I like challenges. I always know that if there’s something artistically scary about a potential new project, I should probably take it on and defeat the fear.

I imagine I’ll be blogging more about this in the coming weeks: firsthand experience seems like a good way to re-open this discussion. In the meantime, though, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts or comments. I’m sure you’ll all have something to say about this.

Audience Participation

September 9, 2007

I’ve noticed a trend in recent months that is becoming increasingly common: audience participation. Has anyone else noticed this? Maybe it’s just me: I, personally, have been drawn into the onstage action at least three different times in the last six months. Here’s a brief recap:

  • Back in March, I got hauled onstage at the FRIGID New York Festival’s production of G-Men Defectives, where I was given the opportunity to punch one of the actors in the stomach (only a “stage” punch, mind you) and rewarded with my very own curtain call at the end of the show. How nice.
  • In June, I wound up in the middle of the startling and mysterious performance piece, And. This production, which was presented at the National Asian American Theatre Festival, lured almost the entire audience onstage to investigate the nature of performance itself, and the relationship between performer and viewer. Little did we know that, over the course of the show’s hour-long running time, we would become the show.
  • Then, there was my appearance in the FringeNYC 2007 production of Susan Gets Some Play (which I chronicled extensively here).

So, what gives? Why all the increased audience participation lately? Or has it always been going on around me and I just didn’t notice? All I can say is that I kind of like it. It adds a little more fun unpredictability to the proceedings, and gives the audience a chance to get involved if they like (and, from what I’ve seen at other shows where I didn’t get brought onstage, they like to get involved).

What’s your take on this practice? Whatever your thoughts are, pro or con, I’d like to know. Leave a comment or email me here.

More Liner Notes

September 4, 2007

After finishing my two most recent posts, I remembered that I had more liner notes-type supporting materials for those of you who are into such things. Check it:

Recommended Reading: The Position

September 4, 2007

I’ll be the first one to admit that I may not be totally objective when it comes to writer-director Kevin Doyle, considering that I was in a show of his earlier this summer. But I can say with certainty that I am a fan of his work. Doing a show with him is what led me to finally read his play, The Position, which NYTE published in Plays and Playwrights 2006. Kevin is an absurdist in the tradition of Ionesco and Vaclav Havel, two playwrights whose thematic and structural influences are all over his work: specific and sustained use of repetition, heightened physicality, an emphasis on both political and social issues, and a lot of humor. Another striking and important characteristic he shares with both authors is the ability to make the potentially esoteric absurdist genre accessible for general audiences without sacrificing any of its hallmarks. The Position is a perfect example of this.

Six men sit in the waiting room of a large corporation. They are all there for a job interview. Five of them look, sound, and act identical – a humorous but potent commentary on the soul-deadening uniformity of America’s cutthroat capitalist culture. The sixth one stands out like a sore thumb: his clothes are wrinkled, he looks disheveled, and he is frightened and unprepared. Welcome to The Position, in which Kevin slyly and gleefully skewers the unexamined conformity of modern life and asks the reader to look at how our creature comforts (and the values they subliminally instill in us) may not be as good for us as we think.

But this is absurdism, so this potentially heavy topic is tempered with “sight gags, physical comedy, and running jokes,” as The Boss points out in his introduction to PP06: “..the sensibility is much more contemporary, and so is the style, which brings in elements of New Vaudeville, postmodernism, and a substantial amount of really astute social satire.”

Amen, brother. Take, for instance, this exchange between the Second Man and the Sixth Man (none of the characters have actual names – just another way The Position emphasizes its main themes) in which Kevin underlines the polarities between the Sixth Man and everyone else in the play:

SIXTH MAN: What’s wrong with my tie?

SECOND MAN: I think you need to ask yourself the same question.

SIXTH MAN: I’m sorry I don’t understand.

SECOND MAN: Have you ever heard of a dry cleaner?

SIXTH MAN: I don’t understand the question.

SECOND MAN: Your clothes.

SIXTH MAN: What about them?

SECOND MAN: They look like you slept in them.

SIXTH MAN: How did you know?

SECOND MAN: You slept in your clothes?

SIXTH MAN: Are you psychic?

SECOND MAN: Why did you sleep in your clothes?

SIXTH MAN: So I could be on time.

SECOND MAN: Have you ever heard of an iron?

SIXTH MAN: The mineral?

Then there’s the Gesture Appendix at the back of the script, in which Kevin painstakingly outlines what he calls “a physical dialogue which communicates just as much as a verbal dialogue about the world of this waiting room…” Several of the men get a repertoire of 6-13 gestures each, to be done in sequence at specifically allotted times throughout the course of the play. The gestures include mundane things like, “Shakes left leg. Shakes right leg” (First Man), and later more outrageous stuff like, “Rises and performs the Robot Dance” (Third Man). All the while, Kevin maintains that the gestures “should remain quick and precise. No matter how outrageous, they are never truly acknowledged or discussed by the characters…”

All of this points to a confidence that is rare in young playwrights but that Kevin has in spades, as does The Position. This is a play that knows what it is, knows what it wants to be, and isn’t afraid of either. How else to describe a play that boldly opens with several pages of non-verbal stage directions for the actors to follow? That is unapologetically confident.

For more insight into Kevin and his ethos, check out this interview I did with him back in January, 2006. It reflects the kind of humor, thoughtfulness, and social fervency that can be found in his plays.