Archives for category: art

IMG_5057…no, not the prison. We may be getting a bit stir-crazy, cooped up indoors while we wait out the cold weather, but not crazy enough to actually go to stir. (Not a place for a topless adventure, that.)

IMG_4718Sing Sing on Avenue A in New York is the city’s diviest karaoke bar, and we mean that as a compliment. You can keep your chromed-up, K-pop suffused, midtown glitzerias — we’ll take a grotty basement with a gold disco ball, thank you very much. Couches that look like Sid and Nancy shot up on them. Cinderblock walls, thickly painted and never cleaned. A place where even the shadows cast shadows.

IMG_4647Into this veritable Mos Eisley we brought a group of 20 eager chanteuses, including two ringers with serious singing credentials; a sackful of baked goods courtesy of Dominique Ansel and Frederic Vaucamps; enough alcohol to drown the butterflies in anyone’s stomach; and an eclectic pick list that ranged from Biggie Smalls to Peggy Lee, from My Funny Valentine to My Chemical Romance, from ABBA to zig-a-zig-ah. 

IMG_4598And did we get topless? Did we ever. Shed sweaters to Sondheim, bras to Believe, winterwear to Wayne Newton. Sing Sing’s VIP Room, initially frosty, warmed up as we sang our hearts out, with dancing to match. We’d say it was hands-down our most energetic event ever, but “hands down” is a singularly inapt description of how most of us spent the night.

IMG_5097IMG_5108IMG_5089Of course, if you think going bare-chested in public is intimidating, try singing in front of a roomful of strangers — even a warm and welcoming group like ours. But by the end of the night even the first-timers in the room were singing full-throatedly, and the last buttons, clasps and ties were coming undone.

IMG_5130IMG_5138The room was dark enough that our few attempts at capturing the fun on video didn’t really work — unless you think of them as bootleg tapes, made on the sly, at some underground concert. In that case, they work fine, and we’re glad to share a few snippets with you:

All in all, this was a perfect way to warm up a cold winter night. But perfection comes in many forms, and we’ve got other fun events coming up that’ll take the chill off too. If you’re fighting the winter blues and would like to join us next time, let us know — all body-positive women are welcome, and an email to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com is all it takes to get an invitation.

Won’t you join us sometime…?

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IMG_2994What to do when it’s cold outside? How about an interactive theater event where eight of us gather in one member’s apartment to play the roles of suspects in a murder mystery? Yes, please.

Thanks to the ingenious and creative folks at 8Players, we had the pleasure of being immersed in a poisonous 1950s film-noir-come-to-life, complete with a (make-believe) dead body and eight, um, players, each with a hidden past rife with secrets and motives for doing dirt to the deceased.

IMG_3099cIMG_3061We were provided with costume suggestions by the director (yes, yes, we know; costume suggestions for a bunch of people who prefer being naked, that was never going to last for long) and told to meet downstairs at 6:53pm. A handy bar on the ground floor supplied liquid courage, and then a masked man led us upstairs, single-file–

IMG_2926IMG_2934–enjoined us not to speak to one another, and firmly escorted us into the darkened apartment, where we were given our starting positions for the drama to come.

IMG_2949IMG_2958IMG_2965Stirring music set the mood, as did dramatic use of shadow and candlelight. We were each given a card to read, supplying some tantalizing bits of information about the nefarious people we were playing, and then–

And then we were set loose to interrogate and accuse one another, in character, for two hours. Who’d seen what? Who knew whom? How many of us were secretly sleeping with each other? And just what happened to the handsome woodsman’s missing axe…?

IMG_2999Fast-forward to Act III: we’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder, our costumes strewn in pieces on the floor, and the story is approaching its feverish climax. What seemed to be a crime yarn  ghost-written jointly by Agatha Christie and Orson Welles turns out to have a touch of Rod Serling to it as well. Revelation piles on revelation, until, at last — the killer is revealed!

IMG_3003And then, before we quite know what is happening, the 8Players team silently exits the apartment, no sign of their presence remaining, leaving the eight of us to catch our breaths and giddily discuss what we’d just gone through. It was a treat, a chance to step out of not only our clothing but, for two hours, also our identities. Or, if you prefer, it was the best game of Clue ever, only with Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard wearing a bit less than the Brothers Parker ever imagined.

IMG_3096Which goes to show — pulp fiction needn’t be limited to the page, nor toplessness to the summer.

More indoor adventures to come.

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IMG_9106Are we better known for reading traditional words-on-paper books than comic books and graphic novels? Probably. But since our group’s founding we’ve always had some comics in the mix too, and our comics-loving members are passionate indeed on the subject. So it’s maybe a bit surprising that until now we’ve never taken the time to visit Comic Con.

UPG-Comic Con_10062017_Gary Jean-Juste1 (15)Except for one thing — in New York, Comic Con comes in October, and October is usually too cold for outdoor toplessness. But not this year! This year it was 83 degrees on the con’s opening day, so several of us made our way to the lawn nearest to the convention center to get into our best cosplay gear.

IMG_8541IMG_8695The convention center itself has rules against toplessness, and we didn’t especially feel like fighting them (even though we would’ve been in the right), but there’s certainly nothing to stop a half dozen women dressed as superheroes, unicorns, anime characters, or some unholy combination of all three from leaving their tops off to better enjoy the breeze off the Hudson River.

IMG_8817IMG_8791IMG_8961One of our cosplayers drew her inspiration from Dark Phoenix…

IMG_9025FFP-Comic Con_10062017_Gary Jean-Juste1 (5)SKB-Comic Con_10062017_Gary Jean-Juste1 (1)…while others drew theirs from realms unknown.

IMG_8655(There was a brief moment when one of us was almost going to go for a topless rendition of Joy from Pixar’s Inside Out, but that somehow felt wrong and modifications were made.)

IMG_8864There is something doubly liberating about being half naked and half costumed — it’s twice the chance to show you’re not afraid or ashamed of who you are.

IMG_8763Now we’re wondering whether it’ll be this warm, still, when Halloween rolls around?

Maybe. Maybe. We’re thinking about what we might do. And if you think you might enjoy being part of it…? Drop us a note: toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. All women are welcome, whether you’re already comfortable topless in the great outdoors or you’re nervous about your first time.

Remember: you can always wear a mask. 🙂

IMG_9034BBM-Comic Con_10062017_Gary Jean-Juste2 (4)[NOTE: Special thanks to photographer Gary Jean-Juste for some of these terrific pictures!]

 

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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IMG_0053It’s May already — but the cool weather we’ve been having all spring is stubbornly persisting. Every so often, the sun breaks through, but it’s just for an hour or two at a time. So what do we do? Grab that hour or two when it comes, even if it means only two or three of us can make it.

This time, we met at the southeast entrance to Central Park, where an art installation is currently up: a set of old-fashioned sofas and tufted chairs, only made of stone rather than fabric.

IMG_0048IMG_0014Not incredibly comfortable to sit on, especially when the sun (briefly) is blazing hot, but we took a few pictures there before moving on to the grassy side of a hill just inside the park.

And what was our reading material this time? The manga Ghost In the Shell and a vintage 1972 issue of Playboy. (We spent quite a while puzzling over some of the cartoons. Some of them we literally couldn’t even figure out well enough to be offended by. People thought the strangest things were funny back in 1972.)

Not to mention what men’s unmentionables looked like in 1972.

IMG_0100We also had a guest member in attendance: an aloe plant one of our members rescued from disposal on a downtown sidewalk. We named him Fred.

And then the clouds came back and we departed. But oh what a wonderful taste of summer it was while it lasted!

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IMG_2535ccRain is projected for the next ten days or so, but looking ahead, the second half of May promises to be wonderful. If you’re an adventurous (or just curious) body-positive woman in the New York area and would like to join us for one of our outings, please get in touch! You can email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com, and we’ll get you out in the sun with us. We promise: if we can do it, you can too.

img_9721What’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.

img_9635img_9630The 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

img_9607img_9535then watching the mesmerizing performances, and then engaging the cast and the writer/director for a thorough Q&A.

img_9687img_9675Did 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.

img_9534img_9517img_9661We 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.

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IMG_4647We rarely stump for individual books, but there’s a speculative fiction anthology in the works called PROBLEM DAUGHTERS that we’re very excited about, not only because it promises to collect fiction and poetry from female authors writing on the theme of intersectional feminism, and not just because the title is so great, but because one of the book’s editors, Nicolette Barischoff, is a member of our group!

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IMG_9168You’ve seen Nicci at any number of our events; even though she lives in California, she makes her way to NYC as often as she can. And this latest project of hers promises to bring her east several more times this year. So: yay. Plus we’ll all have good reading material to dive into as soon as advance copies get printed.

IMG_9626But before any of that can happen, the project (which is up on IndieGoGo) could use a bit more funding — not a ton, but some, and if you’re inclined to help out, we know Nicci would be thrilled. You can find more info at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/problem-daughters-fantasy-feminism#/. Check it out soon — the campaign ends Valentine’s Day.nicci-4nicci-5