Will Broadway’s Nude Scenes Live With Cameras On Every Phone?


Jesse Williams was nominated for a Tony Award last month. “Take me out,” A hit game about baseball and homophobia. But when her name was trending on Twitter the next day, it wasn’t because of the praise: someone had secretly shot a video of her nude scene and posted it online.

In a recent interview, Mr. Williams, who became a star for his roles in “Grey’s Anatomy,” said he was not impressed. “I came here to do business – I’ll tell the truth on stage, I’ll be vulnerable,” she said. But she also made it clear that she wasn’t okay with what happened to her, saying “It’s really disgusting to post non-consensual nude photos of someone online.”

they have cell phones long interrupted live performances by stealing at inopportune moments and Artists who get angry when people use their work to film illegally. The ubiquity of smartphones with better cameras now than ever is prompting some actors, especially celebrities, to reconsider whether to appear naked on stage, given the risk that what was conceived as a fleeting moment could live online forever out of context.

“Ten years ago, I don’t think the first thing that came out of my mouth was: ‘Are you okay with knowing there’s a good chance this is going to be filmed or photographed and posted on social media?’” Lisa Broadway, Goldberg, an advertising executive representing actors in television and film He talked about the arguments he had when asked to appear nude. “That would be one of the first things I would bring to a client today.”

nudity has become widespread on the stage in the last 50 yearsand big stars including Nicole Kidman and Daniel Radcliffe they played scenes without clothes on Broadway when their script required it. But naturally the chances of being photographed increased significantly. Being a Broadway copyright offers no protection: Audra McDonald, who won six Tonys, noticed in 2019 that someone had taken a picture of her during a nude scene.Frankie and Johnny in Clair de LuneHe wrote “It’s not cool at all” chirp.

Mr. Williams’ latest videos have emerged despite the extraordinary steps taken by Second Stage Theater, producer of “Take Me Out,” to protect the privacy of actors who appear naked. Spectators are required to turn off their phones and put them in ziplock bags until the end of the show. Scrubs by a company called Yondr have become increasingly common in recent years, especially in stand-up shows, as comedians are both fiercely guarding their jokes and worry that they might cause backlash when taken out of context.

The company said roughly one million Yondr bags were used at live events in April, which is roughly five times what was used in the same month in 2019. Other shows with nude scenes are now trying them out: At the end of May, Penguin Rep Theater Yondr bags the upcoming Off-Broadway production “Mr. Parker” because the show contains a brief moment of nudity.

Graham Dugoni, who founded Yondr in 2014, said many people still have trouble understanding “how to be human in the world with a computer in your pocket”.

“A nude photo is frankly a very extreme photo,” said Mr. Dugoni. “But a bit of a comedian being taken out of context, repackaged and reinterpreted on social media – all that doesn’t enrich the art form. They gnaw a little in a way that puts people in hedgehog mode.”

However, the measures are not perfect. A comedy night at the Hollywood Bowl last month was supposed to be cell phone free, but in its headline, Dave Chappelle, taken on stage, video came out of the few who managed to break the rules. And earlier this spring, Chris Rock’s first public stand-up Will Smith slaps her on stage at the Academy AwardsAttendees at the Wilbur Theater in Boston were also required to put their phones in their Yondr pouch. They were only allowed to use them in a designated area near the lobby, where a ticket holder asked for his phone back, embarrassed for forgetting to text the babysitter. Video This show also appeared.

The ease of recording and uploading videos has given people pause when considering undressing in some cases. University students who has reassessed the wisdom of traditional bare campus runs and habits nude beaches looking for more and more cameras. However, it becomes a private matter in theater that actors who are asked to appear nude must consent to this when signing their contracts.

Kate Shindle, president of the Actors’ Equity Association, said in an interview that many actors believe that live theater “must be played within four walls” and that “if this sanctity is compromised, the business will suffer.” He said recording from the audience “even if you have all your clothes on – it can feel like a violation.”

Union officials said prior written permission must be obtained for any filming or photographing involving nudity. This includes any video that will appear in Theater on Film and Tape Archive Patrick Hoffman, director and curator of the archive, which houses more than 4,400 video recordings of live theatrical productions at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, said. Most agree. But over the years, some actors refused to have their nude scenes recorded for archive. In some cases, they were backed up on site, in others their production was not recorded. Some program videos containing nudity in the archive are specially formatted for researchers to watch, but they cannot pause, rewind, or fast forward.

Undercover photography challenged actors who appeared nude on stage long ago iPhone was released in 2007.

The theatrical scene today, where nudity is a regular feature on Broadway and even in some productions at the Metropolitan Opera, is far from what it was in 1969 with Margo Sappington, the choreographer and co-star of the original production. “O! Calcutta!” involving extensive nudity was among those arrested improper display charges After a performance in Los Angeles.

Ms. Sappington said that even in the pre-smartphone era, cameras were a nuisance. So the company decided on a low-tech mitigation measure: If someone saw a camera from the stage, they’d stop the show, break the fourth wall, and call in the ushers.

“It’s impossible to see cell phones in the dark in a Broadway theater anymore,” he said. “People are so disrespectful. It amazes me.”

And the leak of the video featuring Mr. Williams felt all too familiar to Daniel Sunjata, who plays the same character, Darren Lemming, when “Take Me Out” premiered on Broadway in 2003. Photos of her nude scenes were leaked. but it was a little more inclusive in the era before Facebook and Twitter made social media so pervasive.

“The main difference between now and then is the amplitude,” said Mr. Sunjata, “the rate at which things like this can propagate.”

But the leaks made Mr. Sunjata uncomfortable, who initially saw the nude scenes as a challenge. He said he consulted his lawyers and “wanted heads to roll”.

According to Mr. Sunjata, the main difference between performing nude on stage eight times a week in front of a live audience and having nudity photographed is more due to the lack of context surrounding the photograph than to its permanence. “Anyone who hasn’t seen the play sees naked men on stage,” he said.

The current revival of “Take Me Out” has taken more steps to stop people from filming their cast. Second Stage Theatre, as a backup for Yondr pouches installed infrared camera With the pan, tilt and zoom feature, security guards can see if any of the audience members are trying to shoot nude scenes.

In a performance of the play last month, two theater workers were stationed in front of the theater at either end of the stage. They stood up during scenes involving nudity. For all precautions, five minutes after the first act, a phone rang. The crowd groaned loudly.

When Mr Williams was asked if he would retake a show where he had to appear nude, he objected. “I don’t know,” he said. My reaction is never as hot, loud, or miserable as everyone expects it to be.

Michael Paulson and Julia Jacobs contributed to the reporting. Sheelagh McNeill and Alain Delaquérière contributed to the research.


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