Theater buff: Naked Restoration comedy comes to Prospect Park

Theater buff: Naked Restoration comedy comes to Prospect Park
Lizi Myers

Talk about a bare stage!

A co-ed group of actors will strip down to their birthday suits to present a 17th-century play about sexy shenanigans among masked strangers. The director of “The Rover,” opening in Prospect Park on Aug. 16, has previously led nude, all-female and then all-male Shakespeare shows, but says that the mixed-gender cast creates a much more diverse experience for both the actors and audience.

“The storytelling has been very different. As soon as you start putting people of different genders on stage, all of a sudden you get people with different body types, gender expressions, different backgrounds and perspectives — and different fears and anxieties,” said Pitr Strait, the artistic director of Torn Out Theater, who lives in Park Slope.

“The Rover” — written by one of the first female playwrights, Aphra Behn — takes place during the festive Carnival season in Italy and follows the adventures of a group of Englishmen on holiday. Some of the characters don traditional Carnival masks, which adds another dimension to the play — their faces are covered but their bodies are exposed, said Strait.

“It’s all about escaping from the world you live in, all about hiding one part of yourself and revealing another part,” he said. “What the play at its heart is about is finding the freedom to be yourself.”

One uncovered actress, who plays the male character Blunt, says that it has been interesting to notice the difference in how she is treated because of her true and fictional bodies.

“I get treated different from everyone else,” said Hannah Benjamin, who lives in Williamsburg.

“The Rover” is a perfect play to put on in the buff, said Benjamin, because of the message its writer was trying to send about power dynamics between men and women, said Benjamin.

“I think that it’s so appropriate to this piece in particular, especially because Aphra Behn is true feminist literature, one of the first female playwrights making a point about power dynamics, about being hidden and being seen,” she said. “It really enhances the piece well, it’s not just novelty.”

Strait also brought on an “intimacy choreographer” to help the cast feel comfortable performing in their skin, said Benjamin.

“We make it a point to make it a safe space, a lot of talk of consent, making sure we’re feeling comfortable,” she said.

The members of Torn Out Theater have only improved in their third year, said Strait.

“Every year we get better at navigating the comfort and safety and vulnerability,” he said.

“The Rover” 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. 16–17, 23–24 at 5:30 pm, Aug. 18–19, 25–26 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.
In the raw acting talent: Actors Tucker Dally Johnston and Bear Spiegel rehearse for their nude version of “The Rover,” coming to Prospect Park on Aug. 16.
Photo by Caroline Ourso

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