Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?

Revelation: Body, Art, Soul, Source

Naomi Wilkinson - 17 January 2017




I called a session on Revelation on behalf of Chris Grady, who was unable to attend this year's D&D.

I made the choice to use the power of this word to draw people to the session and to ‘reveal’ part way through the discussion the context of the word for the day's purposes.

I began by inviting the seven people present to first share with me what the word ‘Revelation’ evoked for them. There ensued an enlivening discussion, sparked off by participant A, a BSL speaker in the group who found the physical movement of the sign ‘Revelation’ encapsulated the meaning better than any English language definition could (see below video link and have a go. It works).

Participant B appreciated the expressiveness of the sign, saying that it connected with her sense that revelation is an experience of body feeling rather than thought. In contrast, participant C described revelation as a mental realisation, almost of the mind catching up with something the body knows.

Participant D shared his experience of revelation as dependant upon cultivating a internal state of vulnerability by being in the unknown. He emphasised the importance of a safe container being created to allow this, for example when attending a workshop.

Participant E described the work he does with teenagers to help them have experiences of the powerful connection between the body and mind, and that this often comes as an empowering revelation for those young people.

Participant F brought up the role of revelation to the creation of art. The experience of sudden revelation, or inspiration, and the anguish when it dries up. He sought a ‘slow burning’ revelation which could sustain the creation of work for longer.

We discussed the dance between the internal and external in experiences of revelation. The sense that it comes from outside and is not something we choose. And yet the individual must take responsibility for grounding and continuing whatever has been gleaned from a revelatory experience. What happens when we come down from the mountain, or leave the concert?

Participant C enjoyed momentary confusion regarding whether ‘Revelation’ pertained to the word revel/reveal.

I found myself a little nervous to share the true impetus behind the calling of this session. I felt moved and privileged to be in this conversation with them, which had an exquisite quality of sensitive cerebral vitality I have not encountered for some time.

I took the moment for the Reveal…and shared that this conversation was an ongoing enquiry following a year of exploration into creating clothes optional theatre events, in which audience members are allowed to be naked/clothed to whatever extent they choose. This exploration is taking place under the name ‘Revelation - our bodies through life performance and art’. Since this exploration was begun by Chris Grady at D&D 2016, there have been two open space conferences on this subject, research at festivals during the summer, one workshop at the British Naturist annual conference, and a storytelling performance of my play, Eve Ate Figs, to an invited audience who were in various states of undress.

The atmosphere in the group changed somewhat at this new information. It felt like what happens when an animal you are privileged to encounter in the woods might stiffen if you make a sudden movement. I am grateful that they did not run away!

We gradually eased into a discussion of the cultural taboos around the naked body, and the differences in other cultures, as well as some of the participants' memories of being naked in various social and performance situations, which were in turns amusing and moving. Participant D mentioned a UK band who, at their live gigs, get totally naked, as do most of the audience. He said that if you stay clothed in that environment you start to feel very uncomfortable.

I asked the participants whether they might be tempted to attend a theatre performance which was clothing optional for the audience, and if so what might draw them to attend. The response was an emphasis on trust in the process and the creation of a safe space. Participant G brought up the question of how the audience gets from being clothed to being naked? It could be a slow, mindful journey - and yet this could, in a way, highlight the sensual nature of the experience and thus its taboo. Another option would be to get the undressing bit over and done with quickly in the dark!

A few of the participants agreed that they would be most persuaded to attend by the play itself being a really good piece of work. And yet we also acknowledged that it is an unusual experience is a draw in itself.

We will be continuing this journey, anyone who would like to be on mailing list for clothes optional theatre events is encouraged to contact Chris Grady via his website.


Chris Grady

18 January 2017

Thank you so much to Naomi and A to F - and especially for the beautiful BSL revelation. Powerful and joyful. Thank you.

In terms of clotjing reveal I've been in two settings - our own open space conferences inviting a gentle meditative removal of clothing if wanted, and an EdFringe annual naked cabaret where we were all sitting in a standard fringe venue shoulder to shoulder, knees cramped, and there was a whoop and a 3 2 1 and all on stage and all in the audience just got naked. Bumping bodies and no hiding. Then we put a cloth/shirt on the seat and we were all, side by side, naked. It was awesome and joyful.

I look forward to talking with others and seeing how we move forward to make art which reveals our lives and humanity through life and art. (with or without clothing for audience and performers).



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