It's funny how memories unlock each other.  After writing a little bit about how Last Call came about as part of small way of promoting my plays on Indie Theater Now, all these moments from that show came flooding back- rehearsals, performances, feedback, etc.   Memory is it's own Pandora's box, I suppose- once open, it's own set of devils and angels fly out.  One of the devil/angels that's been flying around in my head these past few weeks is nudity- full frontal male nudity, to be exact.  How I came to have it in the show, how actors re-acted to it, and how the public responded to said nakedness.

You see, in Last Call, the character David has come home to Salinas, California after having an existential crisis in NYC, prompted in part by 9/11, and also by witnessing a man kill himself by throwing himself in front of a subway train.  David freaks out, quits his high paying job, and goes home in search of truth and understanding.  When he arrives home, all his old friends are stuck in ruts of their own, and not interested in what he has to say.  In an effort to shake things up, and in a nod to their younger days when skinny-dipping was part of their lives, David takes all his clothes off in the middle of the bar, and invites his pals to go streaking with him.  They decline.  All except the character Jack.  He likes the idea, and strips down to the essentials.  Hilarity ensues.

I should probably mention that there was a time in my life when I got naked in public.  A lot.  Not for any sexual fetish, or to be an exhibitionist.  I just think we, as a culture, are sort of uptight, and need to be nudged towards a more loose way of being.  And I thought that getting naked and running around laughing was a good way to do that.  So it's not that surprising that I write a scene where a guy gets naked.  Write what you know.

Originally, this was not part of the play.  When the show was accepted into the Fringe, it was still not part of the play.  When I asked Jack Halpin to play the part of Jack, (and more importantly, when he accepted the role) it was not part of the play.   But then I wrote the nude scene, it felt right and more than right, and that was that.  So I called Jack, who was on tour with another show at the time, and told him he was going to be sharing a lot of himself with the world come August.  At first, I think he thought I was joking.  I assured him I wasn't.  He paused, said something about doing more sit ups and taking up jogging, and that was that.  Cool.  One naked guy in the show down, one to go.

Now, at this point, we hadn't held auditions for the show.  Most of the parts were still up for grabs, including the character David.  So, when it was time for try outs, we put an addendum on the audition notice that the role of David would have to get naked.  No ifs, ands, or buts.   So we have auditions, and this one actor, Brett Christensen, shows up and reads for the part of Vince.  At this point, the part of Vince is pretty much locked up by Vinnie Penna, and that's all there is to that.  But Brett does a great job reading for the part.  And I think he'd be a great David.  So I ask him if he'd read for it.  He asks me if that's the part that gets naked.  I say yeah.  Brett thinks for a moment, shrugs, and gives a fantastic audition.  The part is his.  He too says he is going to take up jogging.  And I have my two nudists.

Now it's close to performance time, and we need to send out a press release.  We put all the usual stuff in, and add a disclaimer how there will be full frontal nudity.


It's amazing how one little sentence can get so many responses.  People call from all over, from places I've never heard of, asking me about the naked people.   When I tell them that it's two men who get naked, some get disappointed.   Some get excited.  What's funny is, nobody asks why the characters get naked as it pertains to the story- just how many naked people, what sex they are, and for how long.

As for the show itself, the nudity works perfectly.  It's just part of the story, and we kind of forget about it as being anything but another scene in the show. (except for the day R. Paul Hamilton's daughter, who is about 13, comes to the show and sits in the front row)  Also, I think it's unfair that more women always seem to have to get naked in films and on tv and stage, but hardly ever men.  Why  should women have to be naked so much more than men?  In a way, I'm doing my part for equality among the sexes.   Of course, there are a few guys who show up for the show, and afterwards come out saying things like "nice show, but you should have told us it was only male nudity".  Oh well.

I don't regret for one minute putting that scene in the show- in fact, I'm proud of it.  No doubt, there will be fewer high school and college productions of it due to the nudity- but so what?  It's my play, and I know it was the right thing to do.  The scene is beautiful, and the play would be less without it.

Now go here, buy your own downloadable file of it for about a buck fifty, and see it you agree.


DaleFromChelsea said…
As a 15-year FringeNYC audience member, I recall that nudity had become a sort of "given" within the festival. There was ALWAYS at least one show (and still is, I think) every year. For me the shock and hilarity came out of finding out it was OUR Jack who was the "naked boy" that year!! Jack is such a nice, quiet, unassuming guy and a staff member (no puns intended!). I didn't even know he was an less that he would be naked! But you're right, Kelly, there were loads of naked gal shows...and gay shows with naked guys. It was a little different that there were STRAIGHT guys naked. So kudos to you for breaking the to speak!

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