Acting Nude :: By An Actor Who Is Naked Onstage, Now

Actors-David-Lucas-Steven-Butler

Stripped Down :: One Actor’s Experience

Some actors say that having craft liberates them. Other actors use sensory or vocal exercises. Some actors use props, or various styles of preparation.

Some actors let the makeup or the costume inform the way they let their characters flow.

British actor, Steven Butler, is liberated by the lack of costume.

In London’s West End, he acts naked.

He is naked.

In front of an audience. Each and every performance.

Read what it is like, for this actor:

“There’s Nothing Like Winning An Acting Part…To Get You Down To The Gym…

By Steven Butler, The Guardian

When my agent called on April Fools’ Day to ask if I’d like to audition for a nude musical comedy, I could only assume he was joking. After several weeks of standing starkers on stage, six nights a week, in front of up to 140 people at a time, it seems I’ve had the last laugh.

I’d never been naked on stage before and, like most people, the thought of volunteering for that universal nightmare of full-frontal nudity before a jeering audience scared the bejesus out of me. But I’m an actor, and we’re nothing if not an ambitious lot, so with the help of a gym membership and some hair removal cream, I found myself at an audition at the King’s Head having my singing, dancing – and jiggly bits – judged for Naked Boys Singing!

Despite a stomach knotted with nerves, I was pleasantly surprised to find I rather enjoyed it. Who knew one’s inner exhibitionist could be coaxed out so quickly? Apart from a particularly awkward moment when the panel wanted to chat and I couldn’t decide where to put my hands, it was all very easy. A week later, I was offered the job. (A day after that, I moved into the gym and began an affair with rice crackers and beansprouts).

The sight of seven flaccid penises taking part in a naked cancan isn’t something you can ever really get used to but if it’s odd for us, I figure it must be even more bizarre for the audience. And yet, the moment before we ripped our towels off for the first time, all my neuroses were put under the spotlight: “Am I too fat? Too thin? Is my member the wrong size, shape or colour?”

Actors-David-Lucas-Steven-Butler

Eight weeks and a West End transfer later, it’s hard to remember what I was so nervous about. We’ve had every audience reaction from raucous cheers and laughter to bemused gasps and – my personal favourite – total silence, apart from a woman in the front row giving us an extended “Ewww”. One man even stripped off and gave us a naked standing ovation. (Note: this is not a requirement if you enjoy the show. Clapping will suffice.)

Something brilliant happens in that split second before you let it all hang out. It’s not so much that you scale the “What will the audience think?” wall – you simply abandon all hope of ever getting over it because it’s way too high and there’s barbed wire across the top. Instead, you relax in the knowledge that there’s nothing in the world you can do about your body anxieties, so you just get on with it.

Full-on nudity isn’t something audiences will encounter very often in the theatre. As a result, through a sort of osmosis, they seem to absorb much of the performer’s discomfort. Instead of us, it’s them worrying: “Am I looking too closely? What if they catch me sneaking a peek southwards? Am I enjoying this a little too much?”

Ultimately, I’ve found the boundaries blur between the performer and the audience when nudity is thrown in the mix. At the very least, the show becomes more intimate – afterwards, people approach us like old friends. It’s disconcerting when you don’t know each another at all and they’ve ogled all aspects of your anatomy. Even so, there’s a truth to the cliche peddled about nudity: it is liberating. And even pretty enjoyable.

Obviously, from the photo, you can see that there are other actors in this play who are also naked onstage. The brave actor on the left is David Lucas, and on the right is Nathan Taylor.  The author of this piece is in the middle. The play is called “Naked Boys Singing.”

As you can see, they are not boys.

(I can only imagine what kind of visitor will find this post, by way of search engines!)

best,

=~Dana


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One Response to Acting Nude :: By An Actor Who Is Naked Onstage, Now
  1. derek
    April 29, 2010 | 8:08 am

    You actors have all the fun! It would be very nice if the audience were invited to join you in undressing, so they could enjoy the show in the comfort of the natural state.

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