What’s that old saw, for public speakers with stage fright or actors with butterflies in the stomach — picture everyone in the audience naked? Or is it “in their underwear”? Well, either way, we got to make a cast of three wonderful actors more comfortable the night after Valentine’s Day when we showed up for the 8pm performance of Kristin Heckler’s new play, EXPOSED, at the Sonnet Theater in Times Square.
The play is the story of the so-called “Duke porn star,” Belle Knox, who turned to porn to pay her college tuition and was then called upon to defend the choice after being outed by a classmate. She became world-famous in the process, and though she never wanted to be one, she became a powerful spokesperson for feminism, for body freedom and sexual liberty, and for the simple premise that there’s nothing shameful about a woman choosing to make use of her body as she wishes. What could be a better fit for our group? And what could be a better play to attend…well, exposed?
So that’s what we did, arriving a half hour beforehand for some wine and Schmackary’s
Did we just show up and strip down? No — they not only knew we were coming, they invited us. Kristin has been a supporter of ours for ages and saw the possibilities even before we did. And we have to say we’ve never been made to feel more welcome. The theater was warm (thank goodness!) and the reception even warmer. The actors — Sarah Raimondi as Belle (here renamed “Ariel,” continuing the Disney theme); Pauline Sherrow as all the other female characters, from college roommate to porn co-stars; and Jacob-Sebastian Phillips as all the males, from dad to director to derogatory Duke dudebros — were all fully committed not only to their roles (as you have to be in a show that opens with the main character masturbating on a table) but also to the premise of the play, and of our group: that women are entitled to freedom and to respect, and to be sexual beings, and that possessing a vagina isn’t justification for abuse.
It is a harrowing show — some scenes are hard to get through — but also a powerful one, and ultimately a redemptive one. And there’s something wonderful about a night at the theater where the big nude scene isn’t one that happens on stage.
We may not be the perfect audience for every show, but for one that’s about asserting your independence, defending your right to liberty, and overcoming a sexual scandal? Yes, for that we’re the perfect audience.
We’re looking at you, Hamilton.