Naked, all-male ‘Hamlet’ to play Prospect Park

To thine own self be nude: Actors Miles Butler, Max Wingert, and director Pitr Strait prepare for their in-the-buff take on the Bard.
Photo by Jason Speakman

What a piece of meat is a man!

An all-male group of actors wearing only their birthday suits will perform a nude version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in Prospect Park next month. The thespians will bare their bodkins during four productions of the Bard’s tragic play, starting on Aug. 10, and the actor playing Laertes says that the lack of pantaloons will force the audience and the actors to concentrate on the words, words, words.

“It raises the stakes of the play because as actors that is the one time that we are totally in the most vulnerable state, we have nothing to protect us,” said Mike Press. “It also raises the stakes for the viewer, because they have to get over the fact we are naked and really listen to what it is we are saying.”

Last year, Torn Out Theater group used an all-female troupe for its production of “The Tempest,” so it seemed only fair to give men the same opportunity to explore body positivity through the words of the Bard, said director Pitr Strait — and he think “Hamlet” is the perfect play for those themes.

“Shakespeare had a lot of themes he returned to over and over, and one of the biggest ones was trying to be yourself, to learn who you are, learning to truly be yourself — to thy own self be true. That freedom to be yourself has a lot to do with the body,” said Strait, who lives in Park Slope. “We wanted to find a story that has this idea of trying to be free, even when everyone in the world is telling you that you’re crazy — to tell a story where men are free in their own bodies.”

And thus they clothe their naked villainy: Thespians Miles Butler, Clinton Powell, Max Wingert, and director Pitr Strait rehearse before their naked debut of “Hamlet” on Aug. 10.
Photo by Jason Speakman

The actors will begin the show in costume, but will show off more and more of their too, too solid flesh as the show goes on, said Strait. The lack of costumes will be especially challenging for the actors playing female characters, who will have to use body language to embody the more restricted life of a woman in the 1500s.

Presenting the Bard in the buff may make some a little wary, but pushing people’s boundaries is the point of art, said Strait.

“Art is supposed to make people uncomfortable — I really love that idea if your life is stable and secure then maybe it’s good to have art come in and shake you up a bit, and if your life is full of anxiety and worry then art should be there to say you’re not alone, it’s okay to be who you are,” he said. “That’s what we are trying to do.”

“Hamlet” at Prospect Park’s Music Pagoda (at the north end of the Nethermead, enter at Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Road in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, www.tornouttheater.org). Aug. 10–12 at 5:30 pm, Aug. 13 at 2 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Pursued by a bare: Actors Miles Butler and Max Wingert get rough during a rehearsal of “Hamlet,” opening Aug. 10 in Prospect Park.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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