Getting Naked Onstage

I’m not real comfortable with casual nudity.  My own, that is.  (I often admire it in others.)  And by “casual nudity,” I mean anything that involves having more than the top button of my shirt undone.

I’ve never had a body to write home about.  I attribute this primarily to genetics, and only slightly to my lifelong aversion toward exercise and dieting.  At my fittest, I had the physique of Gumby; now I lean more towards that of The Pillsbury Doughboy.  If you took away his sex appeal, that is.

So why, I wonder, did I ever take it into my head one time, to audition for a play that had the posted notice, “full nudity required.”  It was probably the same reason that has defined any number of the questionable decisions made throughout my life:  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I didn’t sleep well the night before I decided to try sky-diving, and that was nothing compared to the night before I decided to show up for this particular audition.  However, once I get a bad idea in my head, I am nearly unshakable in pursuit of its execution.  So off to the theatre I went.  I spent fifteen minutes sitting in my car in the parking lot outside the building, trying to summon up confidence I had utterly no right to possess.  Once I had worked myself up into a state of distorted reality—without the assistance of alcohol or controlled substances, I might add—I went inside.

It wasn’t a particularly warm day, nor was the stroll from my car into the theatre strenuous, but by the time I’d reached the desk where they were handing out the audition forms, I realized I had pretty much sweated through my shirt.  Still, I forged ahead.  Filled out the form.  Sat quietly, mentally running over my prepared monologue and trembling only a little bit as I waited.

When I was called in to meet the director, he could not have been more cordial, welcoming or sympathetic, particularly when I confided my nervousness about the whole clothing-removal thing.  He explained that no nudity would be required that day… That would happen only at callbacks.  So that came as a relief, and I was able to deliver my monologue without too much distraction—apart from the whole soaked-armpits thing I had going on.

A few days later, I got a very nice call back from him, informing me that he wasn’t going to cast me.  He added, laughing, that I was probably relieved, given the concerns I’d expressed to him at the audition.  I laughed, too, and told him I was.  And I kind of was.  Kind of.

But human nature and my own insecurities being what they are, within minutes, I began to wonder…  All the time I’d been up on that stage, delivering my monologue, had he been sitting there envisioning me without my clothes on?  Had he shuddered in the darkness of the auditorium and thought, “No way am I exposing an unwitting audience to that!  It’s hard enough, getting people to come to live theatre as it is!”

Well, probably not.  Maybe not.  Better not to delve too deeply into any number of the reasons why he didn’t want to cast me.  I couldn’t see that any of them would do much to boost my wounded ego.

Like many of the traumatic experiences that have shaped me, that is something I now look back upon and laugh.  I tell myself it helped me grow as a person.  To become a more confident individual.

I think it’s worked. The first time a casting notice is posted for a geriatric version of Oh! Calcutta, I will be the first to audition. I can’t hide my  light—or my flab—under a bushel forever!  No matter how many people ask me to.

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