IMG_6346Last summer, we produced an all-female, all-nude staging of Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, outdoors in Central Park, and it was a huge success: hundreds of people came to see the play in person, and millions more — literally — read or heard about it in media coverage ranging from NBC News and Salon to every major newspaper in the U.K. (They love it when Americans experiment with Shakespeare, apparently.)

img_3506One recurring theme in the comment section of online coverage, however, went like this: “They could only do this because it was women — try it with naked men and they’d get arrested!” Well, we all know a challenge when we hear one. So our Tempest directors sat down to plan an all-nude, all-male production of Hamlet. 

IMG_6354That production was staged this summer, first in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and then, just this past week, in Central Park, at the foot of the beautifully appropriate King Jagiello statue. Again hundreds of people came, and — lo and behold, no arrests. Just a marvelous production of a great play.

IMG_6343Audience members ranged from 6 to 66, roughly speaking, and at neither end was offense taken, though the youngest viewers seem to have found the iambic pentameter somewhat hard to follow.

IMG_6326Will there be another production next summer, and if so, with what genders performing? Still to be decided. We like to come up with different things to do each year. But we’re thrilled to have helped establish a new tradition: nude Shakespeare in the park. Enjoyed by all, of harm to none, bringing a fresh view to 400-year-old plays and a glimpse of freedom to the public spaces of New York City. The sight of a bared breast doesn’t cause society’s foundations to crack, nor does the sight of a vulva, nor of a penis.

IMG_6325The beauty of the world, Shakespeare wrote, the paragon of animals…in form and moving, how express and admirable; in action, how like an angel, in apprehension, how like a god! And: There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

We are animals all — and angels all. Our naked bodies are no more than we were born with, the common currency of all humanity, and to hate another’s is to hate yourself.

Or as a playwright once put it, we hold the mirror up to nature. What you see in it is yours to grapple with.

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