Archives for category: theater

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_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_3506And so, we take our bows.

What a year 2016 was, and not only in bad ways. Oh, there were plenty of bad ways, and 2017 promises to be worse, much worse. And 2018, 2019 and 2020. A lot of us are holding our breaths and preparing for the worst. But 2016 also had some beautiful moments, some triumphant moments, and we’re proud to have been part of them.

The first-ever all-female, all-nude Shakespeare-in-the-park performances, in not one but two parks: Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Our topless bicycle tour, which took us across the Williamsburg Bridge to Wall Street, Chinatown and the Statue of Liberty. Standing up to the police on the Fourth of July. Our topless snowball fight, after the biggest blizzard to hit NYC in 100 years. And, in the summer, our liberating the beaches of Coney Island.

It was one hell of a year. And let’s not forget the more ordinary adventures: just going out to the park or up to the roof on a sunny day and doing without shame or hesitation what men do without shame or hesitation every day, simply taking off our shirts and enjoying the sun and the breeze on our skin.

We hope you’ll enjoy this (roughly chronological) remembrance of the past 12 months. And if you’re a body-positive woman in NYC, we hope you’ll join us in 2017. Just email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com and tell us a little about yourself. In times like this, we all need friends to read in the sun with.

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img_6230When we’re not performing Shakespeare naked ourselves, we enjoy watching other groups tackle the works of the bard — naked or clothed, we’re open-minded.

We especially enjoy a creative, original take on the material. Which made the invitation we received from the Drunk Shakespeare Society irresistible.

img_4393-s-creditThis merry band meets eight times a week in a tiny theater lined with 15,000 books (catnip for book-lovers like us) to perform their own version of one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces…enlivened by the addition of a) improv comedy, and b) one of the actors downing four shots before the performance begins.

img_6103img_6100img_4419-s-creditWe arrived early to get good seats, doffed our tops after our presence was announced to the audience (one of us may have gotten started early…)

img_6024and watched a fine performance of what those in the theater community like to call The Scottish Play — only this time with extra Scotch.

img_6157The male lead was the only one of the actors to join us in going topless, although his mortal enemy, Macduff, did get down to a sports bra. But all the actors did a smashing job (whether smashed or not) of bringing the play to life. The vile concoction the three witches brewed was an alcoholic one, of course, and a waggling sex toy made a brief appearance — but brief appearances were also made by serious performances, startling the audience with moments of emotional depth among all the hilarity. (Okay, not too many. But there were some!)

img_6136After the show we took some photos with the cast,

img_6222-sand with the lucky couple chosen as the king and queen for the evening.

img_6201Then took ourselves off to Shake Shack for some post-theater French fries and shroom burgers. Not topless there, alas — one step at a time.

Today, Shakespeare; tomorrow, the world.

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img_3376For the last three nights, our all-female, fully nude production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest has played to sold-out houses in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. (Well, tickets are free, so maybe “sold out” isn’t precisely the right phrase. But packed houses. Standing room only. Let’s call it that.)

img_3138Tonight — Saturday, September 10, 2016 — is your last chance to see the show. If you’re in New York and at all curious, we encourage you to come.

img_3156The show is different in Brooklyn than it was in Central Park in May. The performance space is less isolated, so random pedestrians walking by are more likely to stumble across a mystifying and magical scene. The bulk of the audience is watching from an elevated pagoda, and the lawn before it is flat, reversing the earlier dynamics (in Central Park, most audience members sat on the ground and the stage had a variety of vertical levels). And two new actresses, one new dancer and a new pair of musicians have  joined the cast, appearing in new costumes and new body paint.

img_2933But the script is the same — the same timeless fable of exile and liberation, of vengeance melting into forgiveness, told in some of the most beautiful verse ever crafted. And once again we celebrate the female body in all its variety and wondrous versatility. Our cast displays tenderness, rage, horror. wonder, despair, elation — the full range of human experience, giving the lie to the premise that a naked women conveys only one thing: sexuality.

img_3210Come join us tonight and see Prospero and Miranda, a sorcerer and his daughter–

img_2970Ariel, spirit queen of the magic isle–

img_2995Ferdinand, boy prince, thought orphaned–

img_3164Alsonso, King of Naples, and his loyal retainer, the good lord Gonzalo–

img_3421Sebastian and Antonio, conniving conspirators–

img_3370img_2952And the other spirits in attendance–

img_2909See love blossom,

img_3070img_3089and ripen

img_3257img_3268See perfidy punished

img_3228and virtue rewarded

img_3452See magic abjured

img_3343and captivity…prolonged?

img_3052See it all, before it vanishes into air — into thin air…

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IMG_4581This past May, we put on an all-female, fully nude production of Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest, outdoors in Central Park. It was a huge success, attracting not only an audience of hundreds to the park but also coverage all over the world, from NBC News here in New York (and the New York Post, and the Daily News, and New York Newsday, and many more) to four of the five major newspapers in the UK (Daily MailIndependentGuardian, and Times), and from Jezebel and Salon online to The Huffington Post and The American Spectator. We were covered in Oregon. We were covered in India. We were one of the “photos of the week” chosen by The Atlantic. For an hour or two, we were one of the top 3 trending topics on Facebook.

But despite all that attention, not everyone who wanted to see the show was able to.

Well — now’s your chance. Our Tempest is coming back, this time to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, for four nights only: September 7-10, at 5:30pm each day. You can find information about the show and directions to the location in the park here.

IMG_3732IMG_4750IMG_4856The cast and creative team is mostly the same, though we have a new Miranda and Gonzalo joining us, and a new painter doing the body art for our supernatural characters.

IMG_4814IMG_4936We’ve already started to get attention — CBS News ran this story last night, and local Brooklyn publications have been all over it.

IMG_5027If you’re in the New York area on the dates in question, we hope you’ll join us in Prospect Park for some open-air Shakespeare and to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as New Yorkers. And needless to say, if you do come, you’re welcome to watch the show topless yourself. 🙂

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IMG_6430We’re always hunting for interesting, cool things to do around NYC, and when someone told us about Escape the Room we totally had to try it. Fortunately, they were happy to have us come by and play naked in their space.

IMG_6453What is Escape the Room? It’s this cool puzzle game where you and half a dozen other people (your friends or total strangers) get locked in a room full of puzzles, and you have to solve all the puzzles in order to find a key and get out of the room in less than 60 minutes.

DIMG_5146We had enough people to fill two rooms, so half of us did a Victorian/Sherlock Holmes-themed room…

IMG_6452…while the other half did an espionage/James Bond-themed room. Here’s us as secret agents:

DIMG_5299The Victorians managed to get out well before the hour wound down — not quite record time, but a good enough showing to land us on the Wall of Fame.

IMG_6472The secret agents got right down to the final puzzle…but in the end time ran out.

IMG_6478But it’s okay. Fun was had by all. And how often do you get to unlock secret doors and string mysterious clues together and race against the clock, all while hanging out naked with friends?

Not often enough, is the answer.

We’re thrilled to have gone and can’t wait to go back.

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