It’s Shakespeare in the buff!
An all-female troupe of actors will give a naked performance of Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” in Prospect Park next month. The live nude girl group will bring the provocative performance to the park’s Music Pagoda for four free performances on Sept. 7–10. The show’s male director says that the stripped-down show is designed to promote body positivity — but he also knew that using unclad actors would create some conversation.
“People are going to have big, strong reactions,” said Pitr Strait, who lives in Park Slope. “We asked ‘How do we work nudity into the play so Shakespeare doesn’t get swallowed up and so the huge, distracting thing works for us?’ ”
William Shakespeare’s final play is set on a magical island, and the inhabitants of the remote isle begin the play in the altogether. Those who shipwreck on the beach begin by wearing pencil skirts, high heels, and corsets, but their stuffy ensembles are too much for the tropical island and the women to unclothe their naked villainy by the end of the play.
This is the second incarnation of the show, which premiered in Manhattan’s Central Park in May. Public nudity is illegal in New York City parks, but officials make special exceptions for performance art, said Strait, and the group has secured permits for the shows.
The permit for the Manhattan shows only allowed full nudity during the actual performances, so the actors could not have an un-dress rehearsal inside the park. Instead, the group prepared for the show by going to a nude spa so they could adjust to being in the buff together, and rehearsed topless before opening night. The actors also sweated through some intense training from Strait to perfect their use of Shakespearean language — which should silence critics who think the show is just a gimmick, said one of the actors.
“We focused deeply on the language,” said Kara Lynn, a body paint and nude figure model who portrays the young prince Ferdinand. “So this play isn’t just about a bunch of naked women. We’re all trained Shakespearean actors. As an actor, doing Shakespeare is already difficult, but now doing it nude was another layer of ‘Oh my God.’ ”
During the month leading up to the premiere, Lynn went to the gym and attended yoga classes to help give her the confidence to act while in her birthday suit.
“As a woman you want to remain true to the body-positivity movement, but at the same time you want to feel good about yourself,” she said.
About 400 people turned out to peep at the two Central Park performances in May, and most audience members reacted positively, said Lynn. But the play caused a tempest in a teapot as critics — most of whom had not seen the show — slammed it for tarnishing Shakespeare’s work. But Lynn said that she is willing to stand against the slings and arrows of outrage in order to promote healthy body images.
“I do it more for the body-positivity movement and the idea that women shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies, just like men shouldn’t,” she said.
“The Tempest” at Prospect Park’s Music Pagoda (at the north end of the Nethermead, enter at Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Road in Prospect Lefferts Gardens). Sept. 7–10 at 5:30 pm. Free.