~ Written by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)
This Friday and Saturday, November 16th & 17th at Theatre Off Jackson, Clown Stripper Productions presents The Naked Show. Why is it called The Naked Show, you might ask? Well, the entire cast will be naked (what else did you expect?); because of Seattle’s obscenity laws, no alcohol will be allowed in the same space as the nakedness.
“Although I find pasties and merkins compelling, I just think they’re the biggest slap in the face to obscenity laws,” says producer Randi Rascal. “I find this hilarious because they’ve told us we can’t show something and so we’ve said, ‘Okay well if we can’t show it, we’ll cover it, we’ll bedazzle it, put tassels on it and we’ll light it on fire.’ Now it’s way more attention grabbing than a nipple could ever be. Which I think is a brilliant demonstration of non-compliance and fuck you to these silly obscenity laws,” Randi quips.
I met with Randi Rascal and Heidi Von Haught, the two ladies of Clown Stripper Productions – the duo responsible for the show – to disrobe to the sweet, supple details of The Naked Show. (Full disclosure, I am in this show as Man Johnson because when Randi Rascal asks you to get naked on stage… you fucking do it) Individually, Heidi and Randi have both had illustrious and varied careers in the burlesque world. Heidi and her former troupe The Von Foxies won “Best Troupe” at Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend in 2007, and Randi competed for “Best Debut” at BHoF 2011. More recently, Heidi and Randi are known for producing the show That’s F*cked up!
POC: Why The Naked Show?
Randi: We like to be naked.
Heidi: I’m pretty much a nudist.
Randi: We both really like to be nude. When did we start talking about this?
Heidi: I don’t know.
Randi: It’s been a back burner idea for a long time. Then we just got sort of galvanized to do it. Jonny Porkpie has a shirt with a cupcake leaping out if its wrapper screaming “Nuuuuuude”, which really kind of captures both our feelings on nudity and our intent of this show.
POC: What were some of the hurdles you came across in combining nudity and performance during the production of this show?
Heidi: One of the difficult things we dealt with was trying to figure out who’d be the host because we didn’t want to fall into the clothed male host/naked lady paradigm. Or the clothed host/naked cast paradigm in general. We thought about having Ernie [Von Schmaltz] host it but Ernie has a vibe that is a little sleazy, that’s part of his thing. Finding a way to do a show that was more naked that we usually get in burlesque without being more pornographic necessarily or sleazy…
Randi: Although a certain amount of sleaze is kind of good fun. One of the biggest troubles we had to figure out was…a lot of vice laws in Seattle were written for strip clubs. Well all of them were. They’re all written with strip clubs in mind. You know, certain distances with no alcohol is the big one. No alcohol in the same space as…
POC: As a naked nipple.
Randi: Yes a naked nipple. So there is a very uncomfortable grey area between nudity for strictly titillation reasons and nudity for artistic reasons. Artistically speaking, our show kind of lands between these two. It’s low art, naked low art but kind of high art sometimes. But also kind of trying to get you hard sometimes.
Heidi: We wanted for all of those things to be options.
Randi: We want confused art boners.
Heidi: So we have some numbers that are really performance arty.
POC: What was the criteria for submissions?
Randi: We told people that we wanted anything that uses nudity to make a statement about culture, art obscenity and vulnerability. We don’t just want people to do their usual numbers, but naked.
Heidi: That’s kind of what most of our shows are about at this point. Like, sure it’s supposed to be fucked up but it’s not just supposed to be fucked up for the sake of being fucked up. It’s supposed to be fucked up for a purpose. Although their certainly is going to be nude for the sake of nude or fucked up for the sake of being fucked up in there because that’s part of people’s experience.
Randi: It makes it fun to throw in a little nude for the sake of nude.
POC: What’s it like to put a show like this together, book the place and get all the people together? Was it like another notch on your belt?
Heidi: So this next summer will be my tenth year in burlesque. I feel like after ten years of burlesque you really kind have seen everything that there is. It’s just harder to get me excited about things and this feels like a challenge that is scaring me and that’s exciting to me. I’m a junkie for new things. I can’t do things too many times before I start getting bored.
Randi: We’ve both been seeing kind of the same tropes over and over again in burlesque. Which is not to say you can’t do an old thing, do it really well and have it be incredibly entertaining to watch but the type of art that it seems like we’re both interested in and moving towards is a little bit different than what you would usually associate with burlesque. We’ve always been interested in doing things that are boundary-pushing. Obviously That’s F*cked Up! is a compendium of what is boundary pushing. Boundary blurring is also compelling and I think that the next stuff we do is definitely going to have even more elements of ‘what does it mean to tease or do sexual performance in 2014’.
POC: What about the idea of nudity being uncomfortable and keeping things behind closed doors?
Randi: You don’t want to make your privates public.
POC: Yes. I think a lot of people react in certain ways when they see it out there.
Heidi: Even in doing this show the number that I’m doing makes me really uncomfortable because it is naked in a way where I feel like I’m showing way more than I am comfortable with and it’s not just because I’m nude, it’s the way in which I’m going to be nude. That’s been really interesting for me to experience.
POC: What type of feelings are you having with this?
Heidi: Shame and embarrassment. I’ve been saying that Heidi is an asshole and she keeps making Megan do things that Megan is totally mortified by. [Heidi's real name is Megan]. But Heidi is obsessed with what will make a good show and Megan is just like, “Goddamnit. Really? You’re going to make me do this. This is fucking horrible.” But I told my friend Kat that I’m afraid I’m going to chicken out. And she said “Oh great, those are the numbers of yours I like the best, the ones where you say you might chicken out.” That’s why this feels like an important challenge to me. We’re already doing something that’s boundary pushing, sexual art in an era where there is still sexual repression. But then what this show is trying to do is push the boundaries of the boundaries already being pushed. How could we take this thing that’s already pushed really far even further? How could we make the nudist strippers explore their edges of discomfort?
To see how the nudist strippers explore their edges of discomfort this weekend, get tix here.