Cast member in
I first met Tim at a gay naked gathering, where I was very much impressed by... uh... his personality and his physique. (He was at the time a professional ballet dancer, and to watch him dancing naked in the disco was riveting.) When I found out he was in the Chicago cast of Naked Boys Singing! (NBS), I made arrangements to fly out to see it, had to cancel, and a year later was delighted to discover that it was still running! So I decided not to pass it up a second time.
As of this writing -- August, 2003 -- the Chicago production is scheduled to run through December 31. It has been extended umpteen times in the past couple of years, so ... who knows how long it will last? Hopefully forever!
hat's a nice boy like you doing in a show like this?
[He smiles.] I'm an actor, and it's a show, so also being a nudist I wanted to do the show ever since I heard about it -- which was through you!
Me?? Cool! How long ago was that?
When was the first time you brought CDs of the show to the Gathering?
At the crafts fair?
I think three years ago.
Well, I bought it then and took it home. At the time, I didn't even listen to much of the music -- just looked at the pictures [in the liner notes] and it sounded like a fun show. The theater here announced auditions, so I went to audition specifically for the show.
Since you already had the professional dance background...
15 years classical ballet.
...so did you take voice lessons?
I had 3 years of singing with the Chicago Gay Men's chorus. Then I took private lessons with the director.
I see from the program that your favorite part as a ballet dancer was as the ugly stepsister in Cinderella!
Yeah. Cinderella is classically done casting male dancers as the stepsisters, because they can be uglier. My company finally allowed me to do that, and it was a blast.
Unlike most other companies, they normally fill that role with females since they're short-staffed with men. My cohort as ugly stepsister was a woman. [But even then,] the parents complained. They wanted their daughters to have BOTH those roles!
[I pause for a moment to consider the oddness of having parents complaining about their daughters NOT getting a role as an ugly girl!]
Plus, the harness is usually a bit uncomfortable to wear for a man.
o the Chicago show has been running for over a year, right?
And you were with it from the beginning?
How has it changed over time?
Different people have moved into different songs, and there have been slightly different interpretations -- "Entertainer", for example. But other than that I've pretty much stayed in the same roles. I moved into my solo after about 8 months of the show and have kept it since. We don't do as much promotional stuff -- we DID do a lot of promo stuff before the show opened, and lately we've done more of it to keep the show running. We make clothed appearances behind a desk [so the audience can pretend that the actors are really naked] at wedding expos. We were recently on WGN news in the morning on TV. They had us shirtless and behind a desk.
I think you told me that your audience began as heavily gay, and now it's heavily bachelorette, right?
For the first 6 months it was mostly men and a handful of women, now it's more 50/50. During the wedding season it can be easily 90/10 women.
Are the two audiences different?
Well, the women definitely get the giggles at points that aren't intended to be funny. They definitely respond louder than some of our male clients -- especially if they come as a group, which is more likely. And they're more likely in party mode, screaming and shouting -- sometimes at the wrong moments. But it's a stitch to see them... especially those in the front row, you can see them lean back, and thinking "Wow! -- they're really close!" You can see it all running through their minds; it's really funny.
The Los Angeles and New York productions have a soliloquy part where one of the guys walks right up to the front row, naked, and chats with the front-row spectators. But Chicago's does not. Why?
Generally, "Perky Little Porn Star" is supposed to require engaging the audience before the number because it's considered to be more comfortable for the audience. That song talks about porn and and dildos and taking it up the ass [Ed. note: Nicely, of course]. Chicago crowds don't seem to be as offended as some people would expect.
We've never had any protests about the show -- which unfortunately means no publicity about it(!). We've been written up in regular mainstream media, listed in Chicago Magazine (things to do on New Year's Eve), and in the Chicago Tribune, I believe. And doing stuff like "Eric and Kathy in the Morning" got out to the suburbs and beyond. We are the first NBS to actually have a commercial running on cable and filmed in our studio! It played on Lifetime ([parodying that network's tagline:] "The Network for Women and Gay Men"), and also on E! TV, targeted to the suburbs demographically.
ithout giving away any secrets, how many of the cast are nudists?
How many would say they are nudists? I don't know if any would, other than myself. Everybody else is an actor who is comfortable with his body or has gotten comfortable with it really fast! Actors are drawn to a show that is getting publicity and getting known. Naked is a big push, but once they accomplish that then they go on. Actors are always looking for the next challenge.
How does the Chicago production differ from those in other cities?
In the credits Bruce Vilanch's stuff has been dropped. People do ad libs which they add in. In "Members Only" we do a reaction to one of the guys' comments about what he's reading in the book. In "Bliss of a Bris", adding the word "whatever" was an ad lib in Los Angeles, not kept in New York, but kept by us.
In each local version of the show they try to add another song -- the New York cast got "Entertainer"; we got "Pizza Boy." "Stripped" was dropped from the show. They wanted us to put "Pizza Boy" in the place of "Entertainer", but we decided to do both.
In Chicago I noticed that your enunciations were really good.
The Chicago version is a little bit more openly gay in a couple of subtle ways.
Yes. In the duet at the end, [in other productions,] the two guys face each other and then just hold hands and face the audience at the last moment. I appreciate ours where we actually kiss.
And to kiss that dreamboat every night...!
Yessssss! Sweet man! As far as I know there are no backstage love affairs going on. We're really all professional, I think, and don't want to muddy the waters. New cast members have to find their own way in the humor and stuff backstage. We try to get them feeling comfortable.
heard that your group has performed sometimes with a naked audience.
The first naked audience group was composed of the two gay naked groups in Chicago. For those, we even talked the backstage crew into getting naked! This took some doing for some of them; others were more than happy to join us. Our stage manager was naked up in the booth, and one of the crew was probably in his second day working backstage with us; he was VERY shy.
You guys are real convincing!
We try to get people to go along with the environment they're in and to get them comfortable. We had a straight actor in the cast for 7 months; he got along well and was quite humorous. Sometimes he acted too gay (!) but that was OK. I thought, "Honey, butch it up a little bit, OK? I have to be interested in you onstage!" He left to do other things, build his résumé. Currently our stage manager is a straight guy. We're really open to straight actors as well, getting the ones who are comfortable in a show with lots of gay context.
The Oslo show took out all the gay context and made it an all-woman audience event. When they do the show in other countries they have to edit certain dialog because they don't make Hanes [underwear] there, for example.
So it's been in...
Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston, Florida/Miami, currently in DC (just opened), South Africa, Rome, Oslo, England... Provincetown ran an edited version -- the bigger, funnier numbers. But they got in trouble and were ticketed [by the police] every day for being naked too close to a church, even though the church itself has had naked performances. Every day the cops would come and give them a ticket -- and they would come at different times so they could see more of the show(!). The producers ended up with quite a pile of citations and then went to court and got them thrown out.
In New York they had to go out on the street and hawk the show [by handing out leaflets] and I'm glad we've never had to do that.
We've been in two Pride parades, kind of like mini-celebrities -- that comes with people coming up to you in public and telling you that they like seeing your meat... Some are more gentle and some a little more bold about that. Typically it only seems to happen when I'm out with friends or family -- the boys who are out more on the weekends get more of that. I had a guy come up to me in a store (while I was with a friend) who tried to imitate our slap ballet!
oes your family know?
I have 4 (of 6) sisters who have seen the show. They went out with me for a bit afterward, and some people came up and told me how much they liked the show.
What about your being a nudist has helped your performances?
It did help, but mostly in the very beginning -- by being comfortable being naked performing in front of an audience. I think the [other] guys were pretty comfortable, too [even though they weren't nudists], but the first couple of shows are always a bit of a hassle.
My biggest concern: the nudity is part of the show but it really is performance piece, and the attention shifts to how I'm hitting my notes, how I'm doing my acting, and my performance.
So you get to the theater and you go into the dressing room. How long does it take for you, and for the other cast members, to get naked?
That's very individual -- and it really just is theater stuff.
How much time does it take you go get set up?
I have the first solo, so first I get my stuff set up, and I don't take my clothes off until a couple of moments before the curtain opens. No one gets naked right away to run around naked beforehand. We had bathrobes when we started. We use jogging suits now when we go to the john. [The restroom is down the hall, through the theater waiting area.]
Tim, thanks a lot for talking with me!
Copyright © 2003
All rights reserved.