Reading out loud is such a delight. I’d almost forgotten how much I love the spoken word until Thursday night, when AB and I went to Beaumont Studios to hear four women read a selection of writings on the subject of “Heaven and Hell.” Truthfully, I can’t say how much of my pleasure derived from hearing them bring the words alive from the page, and how much came from staring at their completely unclothed bodies while they did so.
The premise of Naked Girls Reading is pretty much what you’d think. As Diamond Minx, the Mistress of Ceremonies at Thursday’s event, explained to the audience, NGR is an event for people who love naked women, people who love hearing other people read out loud, and people who love hearing naked women read out loud. With that kind of broad appeal, it’s surprising there were only about 30 people in the audience, don’tcha think?
The concept started in Chicago in March 2009, and has taken off (pun intended) in New York, Boston, Dallas, Madison, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Los Angeles. Monthly performances in Vancouver kicked off in October 2010, and according to the website, Naked Girls are coming your way soon if you’re in Minneapolis, Montreal, or Asheville, North Carolina. (Cleveland, you can’t be far behind!)
Thursday night, in addition to Diamond Minx, the “Burlesque Bombshell,” we were treated to readings from Sweet Sashay, who wore nothing but elegant long black gloves (technically not naked); Mama Fortuna, an extremely bodacious red head; and Malvina Masvino, whose thick Eastern European accent made the devils holding up her purple hair seem, well, just right.
Representing a wide range of shapes and sizes, not to mention performance skills, the women began the show by walking onto a small raised platform wearing classic silk bathrobes, necklaces and earrings, and high heeled shoes. They stood in a row facing the audience and smiled, three of them looking a bit nervous, as Diamond Minx explained it was their first time doing this. “Here comes the scary part,” Diamond said, and in unison, the four dropped their robes and sat down next to each other on the old gold velvet couch perched atop the platform. (“I really wish they had put down a towel first,” whispered AB, always one to be concerned about personal hygiene.)
The evening was divided into three acts separated by two intermissions. The first two acts consisted of each woman reading in turn for about 10 minutes from her own handpicked selection relating to the evening’s chosen theme. The final act was so late in the evening, I can’t recall exactly what happened, but I’m pretty sure only one of them read… by that point, honestly, I was just trying to keep my eyes open. (Post Script: AB tells me they all read again in the last act. It was late, that’s all I can tell you.)
Over the course of the program, we heard a playful reading from “Faust,” a description of heaven from an Anne Rice novel, a passage from “Paradise Lost,” and some “deep” poetry… hard for me to remember much of the content, to be honest, because every time my eyes strayed from the reader’s face, even accidentally, I completely lost track of her words. Go figure. By far, the most entertaining offering was Diamond Minx’s delivery of two hilarious excerpts from “Good Omens,” by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. (AB tells me there were three excerpts – she could be right.) Diamond’s performance made me appreciate how important it is for readers to look up from their texts and make eye contact with their audience… this is true for any reader, but especially so when there’s so much else to look at.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved hearing stories read out loud, and even more, being the one who gets to read. In my active thespian days in high school, I was often selected by my English teachers to read when we were studying Shakespeare or Beckett or anything remotely theatrical. I recently returned to my love of spoken word as performance this year, reading my piece called “Couch Love” at The Writers Studio monthly reading series in November – an absolute highlight of 2010. The performer in me is begging to get back in front of an audience at the earliest opportunity.
But reading naked? That’s something I’ll leave to others. At least until someone puts a towel down on that couch.
The next Vancouver performance of Naked Girls Reading – Love Stinks! Broken Hearts & Failure, takes place February 24, 2011 at the Beaumont Studios. See http://nakedgirlsreading.com for more information.