NEW YORK – To be clothed, or not to be clothed? That was a no-brainer for members of an all-female cast in Brooklyn who stripped down to celebrate their freedom of expression in a nude version of Shakespeare in the park.
The Torn Out Theater company of New York teamed up with The Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society for the unique production of “The Tempest,” which completed its second set of performances in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Saturday, following a spring run.
The idea behind the free show is to use storytelling and theater to get its message of body positivity heard.
“It’s an interesting thing to feel like I’m not only making a statement as an actor, getting to play an amazing part,” said Gina Marie Russell, who played Prospero, the duke of Milan, “but I’m making a statement as a woman about female sexuality, female nudity and really trying to normalize that and make it nonsexual and nonthreatening.”
Director Pitr Strait said he was a little apprehensive about the play, but everything went smoothly. “Even I was kind of nervous the first rehearsal, and then within minutes I was like, ‘This is normal’ — so normal that when we had an actor come on in clothes, she looked strange.”
The production company had to obtain permits in order to perform fully nude.
“It was sort of like you could feel like a new chapter turning,” said actress Reanna Roane, who played Ariel.
“The first time was a nice, gentle, easy process into performing nude. We had nude rehearsals, we had a lot of cast-building rehearsals to build camaraderie and things like that, so that by the time the show actually came, I didn’t really care about nude or what people would think,” added Roane. “It felt really second nature.”
“Some people are a little weirded out, which is to be expected,” said Strait. “We knew that the show was going to shake things up and make people question certain things.”
The re-imagined play had no problem filling seats, with the audience including what Roane described “as a lot of curious people.”
“For the most part, the response has been really loving and really giving,” she said. “What someone might think of someone being a creeper is really just someone going: ‘Oh, I’ve never really seen that before.’ “
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