Had the first word not been in the title, I don’t think I would have been as interested in seeing “Naked Girls Reading”. I got my ticket at he door and browsed the gift shop waiting for it to start. I didn’t want to get seated too early because I wasn’t sure if my fellow attendees would appreciate my attempt at socialization, given the theme. Once in the theater, I was pleased to see that it wasn’t just solo men attending. After taking a seat, I did my best to wipe off the facial expression of “strip-club creeper”; however that attempt may have made me look even creepier. Fortunately the master of ceremonies soon saved me by putting the crowd at ease and got us cheering for what was coming up. The atmosphere was what I’d describe as “nineteenth century Parisian vaudeville”. Once the audience was relaxed and excited, the showman welcome the performers; each came out one-by-one in robes as he introduced their backstories with their nom de plume. They each stood by their individual stuffed chairs, and when he concluded with “ladies”, they all dropped their robes, were completed naked, and they took their seats, sipping their wine while a hush settled over the audience.
This was one of those moments when most men’s brain power drops to about 5% and all the blood rushes to their eyes and their . . . . I regret to say that it was initially difficult for me to focus my auditory attention on what the first woman was reading. Trying to do my best, I stared at the floor in front me me, trying to focus on her words. The show progressed with each of the five women shifting to the center settee to read her passage for five to ten minutes, then an intermission, then each read again.
It took me no more than 10 minutes into the show to almost forget that they were naked and to hang on the words. These women were smart! They were witty, engaging, entertaining, and very confident. They were so adept at bringing the audience into their stories. After those first 10 minutes, it truly wasn’t about the nudity. It was about reading aloud to a group. The selections were on-point: Nancy Drew, empowerment poetry, The Graduate, romance lyrics, gender roles from the 1930s, etc. And their delivery was so entertaining. During an engaging reading, you had to work to remind yourself that they were naked, and it became almost irrelevant. Almost. Them being nude served as a gentle background reminder of what it means to be a performer—especially a female one. So often the public is drawn to female performers (musicians, actors, even politicians) for their appearance. We look to their cinched waistlines, plunging neckline, thigh gap, side boob, etc. On this day, these women blew past all that. They said, “You need to hear me.” By getting naked, we no longer needed to wonder what was under that dress. We saw. They they were: completely naked—figuratively and literally (and literature-ally). Only once they were naked, could we really hear their message: come listen to my nakedness.
The next Naked Girls Reading event is scheduled for Friday, April 13, 2018 at the Sexology Institute.