With a camera on every phone, will Broadway nude scenes survive?

Jesse Williams was nominated for a Tony Award last month for “Take Me Out,” a acclaimed play about baseball and homophobia. But the next day when her name appeared on Twitter, it was not because of praise: but because someone secretly took a video of her naked scene and posted it online.

In a recent interview with Mr. Williams, who became a star through appearances on “Grey’s Anatomy,” said he was not overwhelmed by the incident. “I’m here to work; I’ll tell you the truth, I’m going to be vulnerable,” he said. But he also made it clear that he was not happy with what had happened to him, saying that “it is very bad to post nude photos of someone without consent on the Internet.”

Mobile phones have disrupted live performances by playing at inappropriate times, and artists have become angry when people use them to record their work illegally. The ubiquity of smart-looking cameras is now leading to a rethinking of whether actors, especially celebrities, are naked on stage, in what is thought of as a passing moment, given the danger of living forever online, out of context.

“Ten years ago, I don’t think it was the first thing that came out of my mouth: ‘Are you okay with knowing that there’s a fair amount of opportunity to record this or take pictures and appear on social media?'” one said of the discussion he has when a performer is asked to appear naked. “That would be one of the first things I would bring to a customer today.”

Nudity has been a staple on stage for the past 50 years, and Nicole Kidman and Daniel Radcliffe, among others, have starred in non-clothing scenes on Broadway when their scripts requested it. But naturally the chances of taking pictures have grown significantly. Being a Broadway monarch offers no protection: Audra McDonald, who won six Tony Awards, noticed in 2019 that someone had taken a picture of her in the nude scene of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune.” “It’s not nice at all,” he wrote tweet.

Recent videos Mr. The producer of the film “Take Me Out” emerged despite the extraordinary steps taken by the Second Stage Theater to protect the privacy of actors who appear naked. The audience has to turn off their phones and put them in bags that will be closed until the end of the show. The wallets made by a company called Yondr have become more and more common in recent years, especially in stand-up shows, as comedians are very protective of jokes and are concerned that some, out of context, can cause blows.

Approximately one million Yondr bags were used in live events in April, almost five times in the same month in 2019, the company said. Other shows featuring the nude scene are now being rehearsed: in late May, the Penguin Rep Theater announced that it would open Yondr bags in the next Off Broadway production because “Mr. Parker” has a brief moment of nudity.

Graham Dugoni, who founded Yondr in 2014, lamented that many people still find it difficult to guess that “being a human being in the world has a computer in your pocket”.

“The picture of the naked is obviously a very remote end,” he said. said Dugoni. “But a little bit of a comedian is taken out of context and re-assembled and reinterpreted on social media; not all of these things improve the art form. They cut people off as they hedgehog.”

But the measures are not stupid. Last night a Hollywood Bowl comedy night was supposed to be mobile-free, but when Dave Chappelle tackled himself on stage, the video was created by some people who managed to break the rules. And in the early spring, when Chris Rock organized his first public stand-up, after Will Smith slammed on stage at the Oscars, attendees at the Wilbur Theater in Boston also had to put their phones in Yondr bags. They were allowed to use it only in a designated place next to the lobby, where an incoming caller embarrassedly asked to return the phone because he had forgotten to send messages to the babysitter. Video it also arose from that show.

The ease with which videos can be recorded and uploaded has been interrupted by people thinking about removing them in other situations, including some college students who have revisited the wisdom of regular campus naked running and beach-naked people who are increasingly looking for a camera. But it’s becoming a special issue in the theater, where actors who are required to appear naked have to accept it when they sign contracts.

Kate Shindle, president of the Actors’ Equity Association, said in an interview that many actors believe that live theater is “about participating in the four walls” and that “if that sanctity is jeopardized, the work will suffer.” Listening to the audience, he said, can feel “like a violation,” even if he’s wearing all his clothes.

Any written film or photograph that involves nudity requires prior written permission, union officials said. It includes every video that will appear in the Theater on Film and Tape Archive of the New York Public Library of Performing Arts, according to Patrick Hoffman, director and curator of the archive of more than 4,400 video recordings of live theater productions. Most agree. But over the years, some actors have refused to record nude scenes for the archive. In some cases the studies below have been done in their places, and in others their productions have not been simply recorded. Some of the video sessions that show nudity in the archive have a unique format for viewers to see, but they can’t pause, rewind, or fast forward.

Hidden photography posed a challenge for actors who appeared naked on stage long before the iPhone debuted in 2007.

The current theatrical environment, where nudity is common on Broadway and even in some Metropolitan Opera productions, is a long way from 1969, when Margo Sappington, a choreographer and co-star in the original production. “Oh! Calcutta !, ”was one of those arrested on suspicion of inappropriate exposure after a performance in Los Angeles.

Even in the pre-smartphone era, cameras were a nuisance, Ms. said Sappington. So the company decided on a low-tech reduction measure: if someone saw a camera from the stage, it would stop the show, break the fourth wall, and call the launchers.

“Now it’s impossible to see mobiles in the dark in a Broadway theater,” he said. “People are very disrespectful. It amazes me. ”

And Mr. filtering the starring video. Williams had a very familiar feeling with Daniel Sunjata, who played the same character as Darren Lemming, when “Take Me Out” was released on Broadway in 2003. Photos of her nude scenes were also leaked, but were slightly more collected. Facebook and Twitter social networks are so widespread before.

“The main difference so far is the width,” he said. Sunjata said, “The speed, the speed with which things like this can spread.”

But the leaks worried Mr. Sunjata considered it a challenge to start nude scenes. He said he consulted with his lawyers and “wanted to get their heads out.”

Mr. Sunjata, the main difference between appearing naked on stage eight times a week in front of live listeners and taking a picture of her nakedness, is nothing more than the lack of context that surrounds her in terms of the length of the photo. “Someone who hasn’t seen the play sees the boys naked on stage,” he said.

The current revival of “Take Me Out” has taken it a step further to prevent people from filming its actors. As a backup for the Yondr wallets, Second Stage Theater has installed an infrared camera with the ability to pan, tilt and zoom so that security guards can see an audience trying to shoot nude scenes.

Last month’s performance of the play featured two theater staff at the front end of the theater at both ends of the stage. They stood up in scenes that included nudity. For all precautions, a phone rang within five minutes of starting the first action. The crowd moaned loudly.

Mr. Williams was asked if he would re-name a show that was supposed to be naked, but he refused. “I don’t know,” he said. “My reaction has never been as hot, loud, or pathetic as everyone expected.”

Michael Paulson and Julia Jacobs contributed to the report. Sheelagh McNeill and Alain Delaquérière assisted in the research.

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