Another nude Shakespeare production is coming to a New York City park, and this time it’s the men’s turn to bare all in the name of art.
After staging a nude, all-female version of “The Tempest” last summer, Torn Out Theater is back with an all-male staging of “Hamlet.” The performance will once again take place for free in the great outdoors, this time at the Prospect Park Music Pagoda on Aug. 10-13.
But what does nudity — which is permitted in public for artistic purposes under New York City law — bring to the story of a Danish prince trying to uncover the architects of his father’s murder?
As the play’s summary explains, “Walking around naked in public might seem like an insane thing to do, even if you’re the Prince of Denmark. But when your world is run by liars who tell you when to smile and what to wear, maybe insane is the only honest thing to be.”
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The production team also note that discussing male bodies became one of most common reactions to “The Tempest.” While some wondered why body empowerment should be limited to women, others “thanked us for ‘sparing’ the world the unpleasant sight of male bodies.”
“In every corner of the world, it seemed, there were men who felt that their bodies were inherently unwanted,” they write. “We knew what we had to do.”
Just as with “The Tempest,” the lack of clothes here serves a greater purpose. The production photos reveal that though Hamlet himself will be naked for the entire play, other cast members start out clothed and work their way toward nudity.
It makes sense with the theme of the play, which begins with each character shrouded in suspicion and secrets while Hamlet, always ranting and yelling and raw in his grief-stricken search for truth, tries to untangle what happened to his father.
Mainstream entertainment is also trending toward more equal opportunity nudity, as in “Game of Thrones” and the recent adaptation of “American Gods.” But just as female bodies have to be disentangled from sexuality, so do male bodies from violence. Theatrical productions — even ones that end in tragedy — can certainly help with that.
Whether it's adding shades of modern political drama via a Donald Trump-inspired lead in "Julius Caesar" at Shakespeare in the Park or staging the same play “Mean Girls" style, it’s been a dramatic summer for the Bard in NYC. TNT also just launched a new young Shakespeare series "Will" that mines Elizabethan-era drama to tell his rise from glove maker to the English-speaking world's greatest playwright.
Not bad for a guy who celebrated what would've been his 400th birthday last year.
Since all performances of Oscar Isaac in his underwear as Hamlet at The Public Theater are sold out, this is your best alternative. All seating is on the lawn, so arrive early.
Oh, and gents, do be careful with those daggers and poisoned swords.
If you go
Aug. 10-12, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 13, 2 p.m.
Prospect Park Music Pagoda