Taking It Off
I haven't yet. Not really, anyway. There was a scene in a play I did in college where my character was constantly changing her outfit, so naturally I ended up with just my underwear on more than once, but that was college, and all art students get naked in college, right?
I do not have a problem with artistic nudity. At all. I've always been all for the human body and the admiration of it, and even though I do not consider myself an exhibitionist in the least, I have never taken personal issue with anyone (myself included) sans clothes on the stage or in front of a camera, as long as it doesn't feel arbitrary, gratuitous or any of those other words that generally define something that doesn't deserve that kind of vulnerability from an artist.
For full disclosure's sake, I will say that I absolutely understand the other point of view, why posing/performing/suggesting nudity can be damaging to your career, why some actors won't do it, why it's against code in some places and situations - I am aware of all of those arguments and have no desire to prove any points against them. But this is about each individual artist's journey, and this is mine. So here we go:
On Tuesday I began rehearsals for a show with provocative content. It's an adaptation of a Strindberg play, so of course it revolves around forbidden desire, suppression and subversive feelings. It's fascinating.
To make it even more interesting, we are performing at an underground location in the Lower East Side, adding to the feeling of secrecy and collusion. The intrigue is intrinsic to the show - how do you get somewhere you are barred from going? What is the next level? How do you come to be there?
Over the past week I have been thinking a lot about the term "taking it off".
Sure, usually this phrase refers to things on your body. But then there are things like "time". I have to take time off of work to rehearse this show - both a blessing and terrifying fact at this transitional point in my career. What if there isn't another show after this one? Will I have to go back to work? What if my job is gone? Will I have to find another one?
And then there are expectations. I suppose usually you "let go" of those, but I think "taking them off" works just as well. This show is still very much in development. It is experimental and unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I could be terrified, but I know that I will only be truly creative if I let go of any fear and expectations. Come what will. I'll be there with all I've got.
"Taking off" is also a flight term. This is how I like to think of it best. Anything could happen. The only place you can go is up. Be weightless and see the world from a different perspective. It's all about sprouting wings.
I feel like I am running naked on the beach, about to plunge into warm, salty waves. And I realize that this is the kind of artist that I am. My mind likes to circumvent norms and rules. I enjoy pushing boundaries. Owning up to that, without a shroud of shyness is probably the most naked thing I have ever done.
To me, it's not about bodies, labels or stigma. It's about exploring new things, chartering unknown territory. I blame my insatiable curiosity.
What is the bravest thing you have ever done on stage? Or what is the bravest performance you have ever witnessed?
Photo credit: Photographer - Thom Kaine, Art Direction/Design - Marco Morsella