‘Tis Hamlet’s character. “Naked!” – see it for yourself at a performance in NYC parks!

There have been countless interpretations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but this summer Torn Out Theater has presented perhaps the boldest version and at the same time also the truest to the character. After all, Hamlet himself wrote to Claudius: “High and mighty, You shall know I am set naked on your kingdom”, – to which he confirmed: “‘Tis Hamlet’s character. ‘Naked!'” You may argue that there is no need for such literal interpretation, but through this production, Torn Out Theater aims to draw attention to “fraught, complex world of male body image”.

Jake Austin Robertson as Hamlet; photo by Marjolaine Gallet.

The cast is all male, which is actually in accord with the theatrical tradition in Shakespearian times. In this respect, last year’s performance of ‘The Tempest‘ with an all-female cast was even more revolutionary. If the Tempest was played by amateurs (mostly from the Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp fiction Appreciation Society), this year’s production features professional actors. Jake Austin Robertson did amazing job playing Hamlet, in my opinion (and I heard the same from other spectators), and as he reveled in the press release at Pix11, nudity might have helped: “It’s a means of discovering his own truth and figuring out who he is regardless of whatever everyone else wants him to be”. However, not all actors in the play were naked, and those who were – for various periods of time. It seemed like nakedness was used as a tool to show that the character revealed his true colors, especially in emotional moments. This may be a pretty good theatrical tool to keep the audience engaged, given that there are studies showing that people are more compassionate and empathic when they see images of naked people compared to clothed people (not to mention saving money on costumes). Actors, on the other hand, get an additional way to express themselves – with the body language (and probably even without realizing it) – as such features as tension of the muscles or subtle changes in the posture would usually be concealed by costume. All this certainly worked for [spoiler alert! but you probably know the storyline to some extent anyway] the brilliantly choreographed fight scene between Hamlet and Laertes, or the final scene of Hamlet dying in the arms of Horatio.

IMG_6224

So, you could (should!) see it all for yourself this weekend in Prospect Park in Brooklyn or in the beginning of September in Central Park. While the more known Public Theater features Hamlet “running around in his underpants“, our advice is to check out Torn Out Theater that goes all the way! Moreover, the performance is also free of charge (but donations are encouraged). Arrive earlier to get better seating; only limited amount of chairs is available for rent – but the atmosphere has a nice picnic vibe to it, so seating on the grass is what most people opt for. Overall, it is a great idea to have this performance in the parks out in the open, which makes this theater truly public. Compared to the famous ‘Shakespeare in the Park’, this is a much more intimate, immersive show… and who knows, maybe at some point there will be a show where the audience can be naked too. This is what is going to happen during the rock musical ‘Hair’ in London.

It would be good to hear opinions of people involved in theater professionally, so feel free to leave comments here. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure there will be some coverage form a couple of major outlets soon.

fun naturist events this spring in the USA

Sorry for having been quiet the entire month of March, but I was busy getting new material in Florida 🙂 While it’s not ready to be published yet, I’d like to announce a few events that sound like fun and well in the spirit of αctive naturists.

In a little more than a week, from 9-12 AprilFlorida Young Naturists will hold their 7th Naked Spring Bash. Joe and I visited their event in 2011 and had great time! And I must say, this year’s schedule looks even better, so it’s a shame I can’t return to the Sunshine State soon again. I like their emphasis on dance workshops this time.

On the 18th of April, Travasuns will have their monthly Indoor Pool Party in Long Island, NY, which will be my last, and unfortunately only second, this season. I usually go to their events throughout winter, but this yeah I’ve had schedule conflicts. It’s a low-key event at a rented gym with saunas, hang-out pool, pizza and wallyball.

Austin Naked Yoga will host Naked Yoga Camp for men on 7-10 May at Lotus Ranch in Wimberley, Texas. My friend Eddy will teach a movement workshop there, say hi if you attend it!

YNOTU (Young Nudists of Texas United) will host their second Nude Games on Memorial Weekend,  22-25 May, at a campground near Dallas. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend again, but the program looks like fun: flag football, tug of war, a few varieties of volleyball among other things. However, it seems to me, they downplayed the athletic component this year. If any of you go there, I’ll be happy to hear your thoughts!

Krumme Lanke, Berlin

naturist 0004 Krumme Lanke, Berlin, Germany

Krumme Lanke is probably the easiest lake to reach by public transport in Berlin – just a few minutes away from U3 station with the same name. It is is excellent for swimming, and its length proved to be perfect for long-distance swimming sessions for my friends an me. There’s a lawn in the southern corner of the lake that’s commonly used as an FKK location, clothing-optional that is. I have a great personal memory from this spot, as that’s where I had an informal lunch with my future colleagues when I came to Berlin for an interview for my PhD training; we kept our clothes on, but the choice of location made me feel like Berlin would be the perfect city for me to live 😉

fish 0000 Krumme Lanke, Berlin, Germany

Krumme Lanke has remained one of my favorite  places for swimming since then thanks to easy access and clean water.

naturist 0000 Krumme Lanke, Berlin, Germany

That’s where I would go to brave cold waters on warm-ish days even in early spring.

naturist 0003 Krumme Lanke, Berlin, Germany

It took me a couple of years to discover this tree tilted above the water, but better later than never. It doesn’t look that high, but it was scary enough for me to sit up there.

naturist 0001 Krumme Lanke, Berlin, Germany

Jumping with feet down was easy though.

naturist 0000 Schlachtensee, Berlin, Germany

Schlachtensee is another lake with very clean water; it’s right next to Krumme Lanke to the south but has no beach. It does not matter at night, however 🙂

naturist 0002 Schlachtensee, Berlin, Germany

On a very warm midsummer night with full moon, we were lucky to find this amazing oak tree with a branch stretching above the water. I even managed to lie down on it and enjoy the view!

naturist 0001 Schlachtensee, Berlin, Germany

Müggelsee

naturist 0005 Mueggelsee, Berlin, Germany

Müggelsee is a big lake in the eastern part of Berlin, and in many ways it provides an alternative to Wannsee at the western boundary of the city: there is an organized and well-maintained sandy beach, large surface but shallow waters, possibilities for kayaking etc. The main beach is also paid, but unlike at Wannsee, the FKK (naturist) part of the beach is not only clothes-free but free of charge as well. Why anyone would want to go the neighboring beach where you have to pay the entrance fee and wear swimsuits is a mystery.

Facilities include a café, toilettes, tables for ping-pong, and a field for volleyball.

naturist 0004 Mueggelsee, Berlin, Germany

We used the volleyball field not only for volleyball but for 2×2 badminton match as well. Later in the day, when the beach emptied, we also  tried to fly a kite.

naturist 0003 Mueggelsee, Berlin, Germany

Although little wind was favorable for our badminton game, it wasn’t enough to lift our kite for long. On not-so-active options, you can choose to sunbathe sitting on a bench,

naturist 0001 Mueggelsee, Berlin, Germany

lying on grass

naturist 0002 Mueggelsee, Berlin, Germany

or sand.

naturist 0000 Mueggelsee, Berlin, Germany

It’s also nice to go for a walk in the woods nearby.

naturist statue 0000 Mueggelsee, Berlin, Germany

In case you wonder it it’s ok to walk around in the buff, this wooden statue holds the [positive] answer. Next time, we should try some wind-surfing too!

Teufelssee lake and Grunewald forest in Berlin

naturist 0000 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

Grunewald area of Berlin offers another lake option, Teufelssee, and it is a very different experience from Wannsee. Teufelssee is a small lake in the middle of the woods, and there is a big grassy meadow adjacent to it. It’s easy to reach by bike or a long walk from S7 station Grunewald. No wonder, the meadow and lake often get packed with people when the weather is nice. And as many places in Berlin, the default status of outdoor recreation is clothing-optional (FKK).

naturist 0001 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

There is a floating platform in the middle of the lake, a great point for dives into the water or calm sunbathing.

naturist & wild boar 0000 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

Closer to the evening, when the crowds are gone, there is a different kind of visitor, besides few remaining naturists:

naturist & wild boar 0001 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

wild boar.  They come very close to people but behave peacefully; they are more interested in the trash cans.

wild boar 0000 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

Unfortunately, they sometimes create a mess at this otherwise clean and orderly naturist location. But a naturalist in me was happy to see wild boars so close and undisturbed by people’s presence.

Proximity to the city made Teufelssee one of my most visited outdoor places during summer. And when spring weather turned unexpectedly hot, even in early April like in the video above, I would head out there to enjoy the sun and warm air all over my skin 🙂 Grunewald forest has numerous dirt roads and trails, and it feels amazing to cycle there naked with the first warm sun rays of spring. And similarly, I would go there for some last-in-season sunbathing during those golden days of Indian summer… combined with working on photos for my blog 😉

naturist 0003 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

Wannsee in Berlin: kayaking, swimming, biking, frisbee – you name it!

naturist 0002 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

Wannsee, or more specifically Großer Wannsee, is a relatively large lake in the westernmost part of Berlin. It hosts Europe’s longest inland beach – Strandbad Wannsee, but we usually hang out at more secluded spots north of it. Strandbad Wannsee is just one of  2 or 3 beaches in Berlin with an entrance fee, which I assume supports facilities and cleaning operation; naturist part (or FKK, as it is usually referred to in Germany) is in the northern side of the beach (i.e., to the right, if you face the lake). There are a few small beaches to the north of Strandbad Wannsee, which are free of charge and free of clothes as well 🙂

naturist 0003 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

River Snack boat delivers ice-cream, beer and snacks, including Berlin’s famous currywurst.

naturist 0000 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

As you’ve figured from the photos, our favorite way to get there was kayak.

naturist 0001 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

Kayaking in calm waters of Wannsee is easy and pleasant; it provides great views of the forested shores of the lake and good exercise for your upper body! Kayaks and canoes can be rented from Der Bootsladen upstream at a canal of the Havel river.

naturist 0008 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

You can also get there by public transport too, metro (S-Bahn) plus bus, but we often opted for cycling either all the way or from S-Bahn stations Nikolassee (nearby) or Grunewald (long ride). There are numerous dirt roads and trails that cross Grunewald forest on the way from S-Bahn station Grunewald to the sandy beaches of Wannsee. It’s more fun and refreshing to ride bicycle naked, and we’ve done it on multiple occasions – other people seemed to be cool about that.

naturist 0005 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

At our favorite spot by the Wannsee lake, there was a fallen tree that provided comfortable sitting.

naturist 0004 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

But we wouldn’t be active naturists, if we just sat there –

naturist 0006 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

how about some upside-down calisthenics exercises?

swan 0001 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

Well, swimming is obviously another activity one would engage in at the lake. Swimming with swans is quite fun; swans often appear as curious about humans, as we are about them, and I tried to make friends among swans at Wannsee.

naturist & ducks 0017 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

Ducks seem to be more straightforward and approach to check if someone is willing to share their food with them.

seagull 0000 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

Seagulls are also common at Wannsee, but they prefer to stay away from people.

naturist 0007 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

In any case, before you go swimming, make sure the water isn’t green, as once there was an intense algae bloom. Algae blooms are not necessarily toxic and may happen during sudden changes in weather conditions and when phytoplankton is not consumed fast enough by zooplankton and mollusks.

snail 0000 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

This terrestrial snail isn’t the kind of mollusk that would help with an algae bloom though. But I thought it’d provide a nice contrast to ‘active naturists’, as it is both sluggish and super-clothed, carrying its entire house all around 🙂

naturist 0016 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

We, on contrary, like to jump around totally naked, as you know, and shallow waters of Wannsee proved to be perfect for playing frisbee in water. It stays about knee- or waist-deep for 20m or so by the shore, and the bottom is sandy. As it is more difficult to run around in water, it provided an incentive to aim more precisely.

naturist 0014 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

Jumping out of water while tossing a frisbee disk proved to be a lot of fun,

naturist-frisbee-0011-Wannsee,-Berlin,-Germany

 

and again it was a good exercise for legs.

naturist 0009 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

And if that’s not enough for the day, we can always cycle naked through Grunewald on the way back home.

enjoy the spring: naked sport events and a show (NY, Berlin, Texas)

This time, I’m not kidding about naked sport events. I was shocked (in a good way) how many people took my April Fools joke for real – I got quite a few emails requesting the details! Well guys, if you’re ready for mud wrestling with freshly squeezed garlic in the morning at a venue without showers, I know I can rely on you! 😀 Well, we do plan to organize naked sport events and classes, and clearly there’s a demand for that!

Tomorrow is going to be my last Winter Indoor Pool Party party this season (organized by Travasuns in Long Island, NY). Well, I guess we can clearly say the spring has arrived to New York, but it’s still a bit too chilly to enjoy nakedness outdoors. We’ve been to a few of Travasuns’ winter pool events, and it was always fun. It’s a low-key event at a rented gym. They offer saunas, hang-out pool, pizza and even volleyball, which is often unofficially dubbed as naturists’ favorite sport. Given that volleyball is indoors too and surrounded by walls, we rather play it as wallyball

naked wrestling 0001 Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany

On the weekend of 10-11 May in Berlin, Tam and I plan to have naked acro-yoga and wrestling jam sessions. Please contact us by e-mail or comment here, if you are interested in joining, and we’ll send you details re timing and exact location. This is also pending on the weather. We haven’t decided as to how many sessions we’ll have, but our approach is the more the merrier. We’ll take advantage of Berlin’s healthy attitude towards nudity and do at least one session in its central park – Tiergarten – don’t worry, we won’t be arrested for doing acro-yoga naked there like in San Francisco. Wrestling might work better by one of numerous lakes in Berlin, as we’re likely to get sweaty. Here is a sneak preview from our naked oil wrestling match a couple of years ago (photos courtesy of Joe). Come and join us!

naked wrestling 0000 Tiergarten, Berlin, Germany

YNOTU (Young Nudists of Texas United) will host Nude Games on Memorial Weekend, May 24-26, at a campground near Dallas. Unfortunately, none of the people form our group will be able to attend, but it seems like fun. In the program: flag football, tug of war, water and sand volleyball, beer mile, 3-legged races, potato sack races, bean bag throw, Frisbee toss and egg toss, yoga, Latin dance class. Highly recommended!

And we’ll have our round-up end back in New York. My friend Alexander Kargaltsev, who I’ve already introduced here because oh his variously themed photo works that often involve nudity, is now developing a play, Crematorium, that sounds shocking and looks beautiful, and it will have plenty of nudity too.

 Former Ukraine. In the south of Putin’s Crimea, a giant factory with chimneys is built: a Crematorium for gays. Four couples are picked to test a new machine to turn them straight. Torture, interrogation, death and cleansing in the fiery furnace await them.

Here is the preview video.

The shows are set for 29 May – 1 June at Shetler Studios & Theatres, New York. You can buy tickets online.

Hope to see you at these events in New York and Berlin!

exhibition: Alexander Kargelstev’s Friends and Lovers

The image was taken as a protest against Russia's 'racism and homophobia'

My friend Alexander Kargaltsev has recently made headlines with this image above that was taken as a protest against Russia’s ‘racism and homophobia’.

Kargaltsev's Asylum

I wrote about him and his exhibition about Russian gay asylum seekers in the US more than a year ago, and now he’s staging a new exhibition – “The Last Polaroids: Friends and Lovers” set to open at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York on February 28.

Alexander Kargelstev's Friends and Lovers

Be sure to expect some friendly and lovely nudity, of course.

Alexander Kargelstev's Friends and Lovers

Alexander is also set for a new play, Crematorium:

Putin builds a Crematory in Russia to burn gays. Four couples are picked to test a new machine to turn them straight.

Get tickets here.

Petition to designate federal land for clothing-optional recreation

There is a petition to designate portions of public lands under management of the federal government for clothing-optional recreational use, and it’s gone viral on nudist networks in the US. Surprisingly, it doesn’t come from the Naturist Action Committee or any other naturist organization, but it was backed by American Association for Nude Recreation a few days ago. It is well written and you can get more information on the explanatory website, but I’m pretty sure if you read this blog you don’t need to think twice about it, so go ahead and sign the petition to the White House!

I’ve already posted about some areas in New York that I think could easily accommodate both people who like to be naked outdoors and those who prefer to remain clothed, just make it legal and give people choice! My first choice would be Fort Tilden park and beach, and North 40 Natural Area in Jamaica Bay would be great too! Too bad Central Park is not federal land, or is a lawn for naked sunbathing or frisbee too much to ask? Meanwhile in San Francisco, the fight for legalizing urban nudity seems to gain some success. Naturist activists in the Fog City got so much public attention and support that police decided not to interfere with a naked wedding ceremony in front of the City Hall!

Success of this event, however, doesn’t mean that nudity ban is revoked, so if you’re in the Bay Area, join them for Nudity Ban Protest next Sunday, February 2! Hopefully, soon nobody will get arrested for doing yoga naked in San Francisco 😉

NUDITY BAN PROTEST in San Francisco this Sunday

While in my last post I suggested to try to make North 40 Natural Area a naturist-friendly park of New York City, there is a group of naturist activists that is trying to bring body freedom to the city where public nudity was legal until February, San Francisco. It is outrageous that laws banning nudity are being passed in the 21st century, and in San Francisco, out of all places. I know how these silly laws are enforced on my own experience after getting a fine for doing yoga naked in a park in San Francisco. Even if for some reason you think it is not acceptable (unnatural???) not to wear clothes in public, just look at the video from this group’s latest protest and think if this ban doesn’t violate freedom of speech, so cherished in the USA.

Luckily, there are such people who don’t give up, and I wish they had more support from naturist community, as well as anyone who wants to keep our society as free and accepting as possible. You can read more at their website, as well as donate them @ www.MyNakedTruth.tv

Here is also information about their upcoming demonstrations:

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15 @ 12 NOON – JANE WARNER PLAZA – NUDITY BAN PROTEST

Please, join us for another protest against the nudity ban at the Jane Warner Plaza. An award winning Norwegian documentary film maker Jan Dalchow will be filming the protest for his documentary film “The Naked Dream”. His crew will be flying in from Norway to document the body freedom movement of San Francisco. We would love to see you there. Please come and be part of the documentary!

In case of rain the protest will be held at the Sex and Culture Center at 1349 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 19 @ 12 NOON – SAN FRANCISCO CITY HALL – NAKED WEDDING – GYPSY TAUB AND JAYMZ SMITH will get married naked in front of the City Hall. We will also have a protest/march/parade after the ceremony.