It amazes me that despite our show being called Nude, containing nudity and announcing we will be holding a nudist event where audiences will be nude, we have had absolutely no interest from major media outlets*.
Apparently, Karl Stefanovic getting nude is news worthy. It was trending. In fact, when I shared that video of him running through the studio naked (after losing a bet) with his junk censored, the post had 11,400 views. Despite my sharing of the video detailing #GetNakedForNude event details and bookings, there were no bites for our event*.
Apparently, one man who is seen on TV every weekday morning being naked for about 15 seconds is newsworthy. Yet, a room full of strangers who have cloaked their clothing, sitting on a BYO towel, watching a theatre show about Marilyn Monroe, a show that contains nudity, written and directed by a young female VCA graduate and her theatre company, performed by a talented VCA graduate along with a team of brilliant, professional and very clever people behind the scenes (Marc McIntyre, Glenn Ferguson, Trevor Jones, Vicki Heilbronn plus our fab interns Marc Angelovski & Milly Cooper), is definitely NOT news worthy*. Now I know this is starting to sound a little whingey whingey, but it’s not intended to be. It’s just really interesting.
So why on earth did we choose to create #GetNakedForNude? Publicity is of course one reason, but not the only reason. But let’s deal with that first. Independent theatre relies on editorial, on reviews, on the smallest of gestures from the mainstream media to reach its potential audiences. You can only badger your friends, family and fellow drama school graduates for so long. Plus, if you ever want to move beyond 3-4 shows in a small venue and move towards making a career as an artist, you need to get the attention of people beyond your Facebook friends to make your practice sustainable. #GetNakedForNude seemed like a clever, witty and fun idea that was sure to get the attention of mainstream media, thereby getting the attention of Marilyn Monroe fans beyond our twitter followers (including those who would rather remain clothed for the theatre).
But publicity is only one reason.
Why is there nudity in this show at all? Firstly, nudity seemed an unavoidable subject, having undertaken the challenge of writing a piece about Marilyn Monroe. The woman seemed to prefer being nude whenever possible. From the research I undertook, I felt it would be untrue to her story to not include that aspect of how she lived her life. The actor Carina Waye undertook a journey to understand Marilyn in a personal way - to discover why she might want to be nude so often.
My plans for using nudity were to humanise Marilyn and the actor: I wanted to present the body of one of the greatest sex symbols of all time in a non-sexual way. This allows the actress to reclaim her body as a means for expressing her innermost self, rather than being reduced to a sexual figure with breasts and a vagina. It is an attempt to allow the audience to imagine a different kind of body: a female body whose inner life and organs are contained within skin - of which sex and reproduction is one potential part. The context within which the nudity is couched is thus one that asks the audience to consider this body of the actress, imbued with stories and mannerisms of one of the most desired and desirable women of all time, also as a human body with pain, with skin engraved with stories, as a canvas for history and hope.
More importantly, it seemed fitting that in a show where the actress bares all (her soul included), the audience should also be given the opportunity to experience the message of the show in a very personal way. Thus, the context for nudity at #GetNakedForNude is also non-sexual. There is fun and laughter to be had throughout the show, but also darker and more emotional moments.
The environment we are creating for #GetNakedForNude is a safe one that allows human beings to come together to experience a unique theatrical event, with only themselves available to deal with the stories and songs they are presented with. Without usual ‘things’ that we use to portray our identities to and protect ourselves from the outside world – hats, scarves, pretty jewellery, nice shoes, patterned tights or new jeans – one is left with an open heart, skin, hair and nails as the only outer layer to define one’s self.
Is this what we fear the most? That without our self-made outer shell, we might dissolve into the sea of other bodies? That perhaps our carefully constructed material identities might have been a complete waste of time, and really we should have spent more time making eye contact with people and less studying their fashion sense? Perhaps…
And further to my previous post, does the prospect of social non-sexual nudity make the labour of the self redundant? In a society where it seems increasingly important to make your stamp on the world with who you are, why you are different and special and therefore employable, interesting and profitable, is it any wonder that nudity is either ignored or dismissed as vulgar, inappropriate or weird? Afterall, the naked body (can) but doesn’t require things, it simply is. It is all that we are, without what we’ve bought.
For the most part, in our country we are typically naked in one of three contexts: washing ourselves, receiving medical attention and having or preparing to have sex. It is therefore understandable why for many people social nudity is somehow placed into the last category – since it can’t seem to fit into the other two.
But personally, I can't see why we can't start to move beyond categorising nudity as offensive when not found to fit into one of the abovementioned categories. Of course redefining socially imagined boundaries is a long process and perhaps one that is never complete. But it's not impossible.
Having studied phenomenology from an anthropological perspective, I am firm in the belief that all experience begins and ends with the body. Everything you know, from your first until your last breath is experienced and understood because you are a body. To modify Descartes’ infamous “I think therefore I am”, I prefer to believe in “I do therefore I am” – this is perhaps because of my anthropological research grounded in the happenings and philosophy of Allan Kaprow and John Dewey. In being naked, we are all the more aware of what we do – we have to be more careful perhaps to avoid dangers such as the cold, dangerous objects on the ground etc. than we would if we had the protection of clothing. We can see the body in all its strength and vulnerability as it moves when nude; clothing allows us to contain and define the body in a particular and specifically crafted, aesthetic way. Nudity reveals the body’s architecture, the spirit of the human being through its use of each limb, each movement: the moving body is much more difficult to objectify as it moves, it reminds us that we too are bodies and we all are imperfect and beautiful at once. The experience of watching a body move reminds us that we breathe and are the same as the one before us. I suspect that nudist groups make lifelong friendships because of this.
In the spirit of Marilyn Monroe, someone who enjoyed spending time in her skin, in her body, I invite you to join me and see if you can find joy in the simplicity of being yourself, with only yourself to be with.
Everyone is welcome: we are LGBTIQ and access friendly.
By the way, does anyone have the secret password to getting the Herald Sun or The Age* to take note? I have a feeling it's nice work - if you can get it. But if you get it, won't you tell me how?
*We've now found the secret password for The Age: John (legend) Bailey. Also since publishing this blog, we were thrilled to have the wonderful folks at Triple J come along to #GetNakedForNude - they featured our event on their Hack program on Thursday 20th August. Thank you Triple J!!!
Perhaps Nude was the secret password all along?