The Naked Play
By Sara Fenton
Like any self respecting Angeleno, I have a podcast.
“See it or Skip It” is a roundtable discussion amongst friends and theatre geeks about the shows we were seeing as part of the Hollywood Fringe. Every summer, I’m usually inundated with press packets for dozens of solo shows which all sound like a variation of 
“Some weird shit happened in my childhood… yada yada yada… and now I’m an actor” 
So, when the press materials for “Love the Body Positive” made their way into my inbox, I paused.

Sara Fenton @ Rant & Rave - Chapter 93: "Humiliation"

“Love the Body Positive” is described as: 
A Naturist play where the cast is nude with required audience nudity. We’re all in this together. All audience members must bring a towel to put on their seat.
Now, I’ve been one of three people In the audience for a performance and I've performed for an audience of two, so I know how hard it can be to get butts in seats, let alone naked ones. And as a theatre reviewer, I’ve seen hundreds of shows from traditional to really out-of-the-box immersive stuff, but this was something new. After much deliberation, my podcast co-host and I agree that we would take the plunge to take it off “for the love of Theatah!!”  
My husband agrees to come with which wasn't too much of a surprise since he's always up for trying the unconventional - bonus points if it involves nudity.
I arrive at the Underground Theatre, towel in hand. I nervously walk down the dimly-lit street. In a pool of blue light stood a security guard with a very convincing uniform and a big security looking bike out front. 
“What brings you here?”
Like a password for a speakeasy, I whisper, “Love the body positive... the naked play” 
He nods slowly.
We present them. 
“No phones. All disrobing happens in the first room on the right. No belongings with you in the theatre other than your towel.”
He finds our names on the list, ceremoniously double checks we have the requisite towels and ushers us behind a thick black curtain.
The mystique ends there.
We’re face to face with what looks like the craft service spread of an underfunded student film or the kind of food that might be considered “treats” in a public school teachers break room.
“Care for a snack?” a topless woman gestures to the styrofoam bowls of pretzels and crackers.
“No thanks,” I said trying to be very deliberate to look her straight in the eyes.
We walk into the ‘disrobing room’, a small black box theater overseen by a rotund women who was completely nude except for hiking boots and a dog tag that read “JOSEPHINE”. 
She is the archetype of a Girl Scouts Camp leader. You could picture the Khaki button-up Ranger shirt and pocketed cargo shorts that she would be wearing if this weren't the disrobing room of the naked play you agreed to see with your husband and podcast co-host. 
Naked people milled around. 
Like it was no. big. deal
We stick out as the most overdressed ones there. Immediately I feel the pressure to get naked if only just to better fit in with my surroundings. For some reason I feel the need to go to the bathroom to change into my naked “outfit”. That's what it felt like - a naked “costume”. 
So, I wait in line for the restroom between two elderly gentlemen and again try not to be caught staring. 
I close the bathroom door behind me.
What am I doing here?” 
With my hands on the edge of the sink and second thoughts on my mind, I take a deep breath and look up. ​​​​​​​
I'm face-to-face with an autographed photo of Margaret Cho. 
As many before me have wondered about Jesus and Joan Jett, I think to myself:
What would Margaret Cho do
She’d stop being such a chickenshit and take off her mother f****** clothes is what she would do!!! 
I take it all off and pause for a second in front of the mirror.
This is the me I'm going to put forward
I don't get to disguise it revealing only certain titillating parts of it. No slimming garments, no leggings to keep my thighs from rubbing together or my butt from jiggling around. 
No pants to hide my cellulite. 
No pants to hide my cellulite.
No pants to hide my cellulite!!! 
I can handle showing my breasts, the rolls of fat on my waist and back, and the extra padding on my butt…
... but I was so ashamed of my dimply rugged-looking cellulite. 
A knock on the bathroom door. 
‘Just a second!’
I pick up my clothes and with my chin up and shoulders back I walk out of the restroom and do my best impersonation of a totally casual, totally comfortable person.
*I have no pockets, what do I do with my hands?* 

Margaret Cho

We walk into the packed theater and quickly find a seat close to an aisle. I want to be able to make a swift getaway at any time. This is the loudest I've heard a theater before a show. Everyone is probably over compensating like I was back in the disrobing room. 
“Blah blah blah I’m talking and gesturing and laughing my head off because everything is completely normal!”
Seats are small...woah boy is there a limited legroom. 
Turns out sitting near the aisle is not the best choice.  
As much as you try to scooch to let people by, you still have to either move your knees to one side as someone's bare ass or cock goes by your face. 
you have to stand and try not to completely press your naked body against another stranger.
So there we are, balls dangling at face height and strangers naked bodies grazing ours as they squeeze by going to their seats. ​​​​​​​

Human Machine by Mirella santana

My eyes dart around just enough to see bald cocks and shorn vulvas, natural bushes, droopy butts, cottage cheese thighs, floppy arms, rotund bellies. From sagging skin and large  areolas to small nipples at attention. Tan lines, skin folds, freckles, stretch marks. Aging bodies, young bodies.  Black bodies Brown bodies Beige bodies pink bodies. Some imperfect, some sad looking, some muscular conveying vitality.
Without clothes bodies seem so much more utilitarian. The arms you lift and wave with. 
The legs that support your weight and move you around. The penises you pee from and the vaginas you might stick them in. 
The butt cheeks that cushion your seat and split to reveal your waste disposal. 
The breasts that sometimes feed others but are also the soft flesh you could rest your head on for comfort. 
The ribs that expand and contract to take in air to oxygenate your blood that circulates to keep all those parts alive and moving.
The lights dim and a man walks on stage to enthusiastic applause. Wearing only a hat.
He stands very matter-of-fact with his arms by his sides and begins a stand-up routine. I look at his aged body - the sunspots, the light grey fuzz on his chest, his small belly, his lightly groomed pubic hair and his uncircumcised penis that moved a little when he laughed. His arms gesturing, his sinewy flesh, the grooves in the skin on his face, his deadpan expression. He was like a nude in a fedora telling jokes and he was funny.
I let my guard down enough to laugh and get lost in the comedy.  actually find myself easing into feeling comfortable.
The comedian wraps up his set to enthusiastic applause.​​​​​​​
From there the show takes a nose-dive. 
We sit through what would be better described as a skit in a camp talent show about a woman coming out as a nudist to her boyfriend. It features clunky simplistic dialogue delivered by two actors who were amateur at best. Out comes a guitar and I’m sorry to report, they butcher some David Bowie covers. The evening concludes with the pair singing - I’m not kidding - ”Kumbaya”, flailing about doing what the untrained eye might describe as ‘modern dance’.
Have you ever pitied someone on stage because they were so bad? You’ve felt that, right? That awkward feeling knowing that they’re up there doing their best, but are underprepared and or ill equipped, just sweating it out under the harsh lights on stage?
I shift uncomfortably in my seat - the terry cloth of my towel making imprints on my butt.
Without the magic of a good story well told, it’s all just...
So vulnerable... 
So awkward and...

So … naked.
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