The Naked Man Goes Nude

During my life in the theater I have stage managed in a lot of interesting places, but last night was probably one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had. Several weeks back when Bill announced he was coming to Montana to do his show, he told me he had a one-night gig at a nudist resort in Northern Idaho called The Sun Meadow Resort just below Coeur d’Alene. He asked me if I would come along to become his technical director/stage manager. I immediately said yes. Bill and I have been on a lot of interesting adventures over the years and so this just seemed a natural for the both of us. It was about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Missoula and we arrived at mid-day. I wasn’t really nervous until we pulled into the parking lot and I knew the clothing thing was completely optional. But the moment we walked in the door we were greeted by Chas and Margie, our host for the event, completely naked. Well they had glasses and watches on. At first it was a bit awkward, because my eyes become riveted to theirs, not sure where to look. I think we are so used to checking each other out when we meet, but what is the etiquette for this type of situation when you see someone completely exposed right before your eyes? Granted I photograph people naked all the time, but generally the process is gradual, slowly removing the cloths, piece by piece, building up both our confidence levels so they can reveal and expose themselves. But to be greeted at the door to a stranger with nothing on, was a bit awkward.

We very quickly began to set the show up, with our cloths on. The place was excessively hot and I quickly began to sweat break into a sweat. Slowly the cloths began to come off; first the over shirt I was wearing, then the t-shirt, as I was scurrying about trying to figure out how to get this show up. So finally I made the leap. I went to my room, which was behind the stage area, and stripped out of my cloths; it’s odd because there are no closets. I then went out to run the technical light and sound cues for the show. But before I went out, I lingered in the doorway hidden really questioning and doubting if I should even go out into the common area. I am not sure why? It was such an interesting moment when I really had to confront myself, deal with my own naked moment. I sometimes run around the studio naked, but generally just from the bathroom after a shower to the closet in the bedroom to get my clothes. I feel like I am comfortable with myself. In fact I was going through some old photos last week of a trip to Glacier Park 20 years ago and went swimming naked in the lake and was surprised how much my body has not changed in all these years. Yes I have put on a little more weight since those days, but have aged well for a man about to turn 50 in a couple of weeks. The room I was about to enter was filled with nude people just casually going about their business. So what was the hesitation? It’s felt very odd and I thought perhaps I should just go put my cloths back on. This debate raged in my head for several moments and finally I entered the room, completely nude, went to my workstation, and began working though the script and cues adapting them for this show. About 10 minutes later a very large family came into the resort. My worked table was just inside the door, and I have to say I kind of freaked out a bit; here I sat working in front of all these children completely exposed. They were clothed but I thought, “Have these people gotten here by mistake?” I remembered that it was an electronic gate to enter, so there could be no mistake. But it still felt uncomfortable there were about 7 children ranging in ages from 3 weeks to early teen, boys and girls. My guy impulse was to hide myself, out of fear or shame I couldn’t decide which. In our culture to expose oneself to children becomes taboo because I think people are afraid it will leave an emotionally distress on the child. And nakedness to child becomes viewed in a perverse context. But the children were comfortable and the feelings past. When I finished my tech I actually went out to the pool to join them for a swim. I soon began to meet and talk to people at this resort and I was amazed at how the inhibitions seem to vanish. You are confronted with seeing the person for who they are, right there in front of you, in that moment. No attitude or social status is projects though what they are wearing and you tend to make more direct eye contact to whom you are talking. In a sense it breathes a certain amount of honesty into the encounter, because there are no masks, no distractions. You look deeper into their eyes and see the truths they are telling about themselves and their lives. There is no place to hide, because the eyes are the windows to our souls as you become completely exposed.

The show was a hit, although Bill did not do it in the nude. The audience was completely moved by it and had lots of questions about these gay boys from Missoula and how our lives have been shrouded by reluctance and silence and a certain amount of shame. They deeply connected to the struggle of fighting for their own liberation in a society that is not always so giving of their lifestyle choices. It was an enriching experience to have been given this opportunity.

I feel like in so many ways with this project I have bared myself emotionally and mentally, but this is the first time physically until now. It really begs to answer a question for me: Why are we so afraid to confront the nakedness of ourselves? What it would be like to live in a life with little discrimination or barriers? There is a key to this puzzle somewhere here, but I am not going to learn it over night as a stranger passing through.

The only draw back is that my feet have become chaffed from walking around bare because I don’t even go barefoot at home. Perhaps I need to expose myself a little more.