Thursday, March 09, 2006

No Standing Ovation?

February 26, 2006

Theater buffs
Stage actors are sometimes told to picture the audience in their unmentionables as a way to quell nerves.

One look at yesterday's bevy of bare-bottomed Provincetown Theater-goers would likely have the opposite effect.

Awkwardness was as scarce as clothing for 15 Lower Cape residents who posed for a tastefully nude calendar to raise money for The New Provincetown Players, a local group of community thespians.

Talk about some serious theater buffs.

''Looking at it in the context of everyone else doing it, especially in a theater, kind of made it seem like we were acting in a play ourselves,'' said 57-year-old Brian O'Malley, a virgin of disrobing in public. ''There was a sort of detachment to it that made it comfortable and fun.''

There was nothing X-rated about this unique endeavor, believed by organizers to be the first nude community photo shoot ever in P'town. In a town known for pushing the envelope, a handful of businessmen and retirees donning their birthday suits was no big deal.

''Why should I be? It's all natural,'' said Howard Irwin of Truro, when asked whether he was at all bashful about unveiling his total self in front of strangers.

Everyone is born in the same clothing, the bold and the naked said.

Actually, Irwin, 79 and his wife Anne, 81, have shown their flesh before in front of local artists. ''I guess I like the exposure,'' quipped Anne.

But this calendar, dubbed ''Behind the Scenes: A bare-bones look at Provincetown Theater,'' isn't the kind you'll find concealed behind a brown paper bag at a convenience store.

''We wanted to create dynamic and exciting themes and scenes involving every aspect of a theatrical production,'' said Ed Christie, co-creative director of the calendar project.

Eleven months of the calendar have already been shot over the past year, with participants posing as dancers, makeup crew and costume designers. An 89-year-old local artist volunteered to become an usher.

''We did her up like a showgirl in a sexy, Marilyn Monroe kind of way,'' Christie said. ''She loved it.''

Yesterday's shoot was the final puzzle piece of the calendar, with the obvious theme being ''The Audience.''

Under the keen eye of Brad Fowler of Song of Myself Photography, the audience members used props to cover up where the sun doesn't shine for an artistic effect.

Johannes Husson-Cote of Provincetown held a vine-ripened tomato over his no-no zone. Anne Irwin carefully draped a pair of binoculars across her bosom. Provincetown dog-groomer River Colt, 29 - the youngest of the participants - didn't mind the tub of popcorn resting in his lap.

The calendar will raise money to help support the theatrical company

''This was pretty cool,'' said Colt, a veteran nude poser. ''I like the fact that a range of age groups were represented because it was easier to relax.''

Each of the audience members said they came for one reason: to help raise money for the New Provincetown Players. The group has undertaken a large fundraising effort.

The revamped Provincetown Theater on Bradford Street opened in 2004, but a roughly $700,000 mortgage still needs to be paid off, said Chuck Griffeth, who's on the theater's fundraising committee.

He hopes the 2007 calendar can raise $20,000 or more that will go toward general operating expenses. The calendar will also be featured at a $50-a-head benefit party at the theater on July 1.

To add some levity to the hour-long shoot, Christie acted like a rodeo clown in the background while the audience made faces of jubilation and shock at Fowler's command.

''How about we pose for an encore, with a standing ovation!'' blurted O'Malley, to a resounding moan of ''Nooooo!''

''This is marvelous, it's just great,'' Fowler said, peeking at the final picture that went off without a hitch.

Fifty-five-year-old Linda Nichols, on vacation for the weekend, said she had a wonderful time meeting new people - albeit more intimately than normal - and supporting the arts.

She just hopes her high school students never see the calendar.

''They'd laugh, but I hope they don't get a hold of it,'' chuckled Nichols, a principal in a Pennsylvania town outside of Pittsburgh. ''It doesn't matter, I'm retiring soon anyway.''

From school, that is. Nichols said she had such a great experience, she'd shake her clothes off again for the right cause.

(Published: February 26, 2006)

Well, at least there's some promising attitudes here!


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