Nudity in the Upspace: An interview with the new coordinators

It’s that time of year again–Nudity in the Upspace time. Coming off a wildly successful 2013 iteration, despite its fair share of controversy and Fox News coverage (are they synonymous?) that included an always welcome visit from Jesse Watters, new Nudity in the Upspace coordinators Cherise Morris ’16 and Sam Keamy-Minor ’16 sat down with Blog to talk changes to the week, staying true to its roots, and expanding Nudity’s presence and types of participants on campus.

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BlogDH: What does Nudity in the Upspace mean to you?

Sam: For me, personally–and I think any one of these answers is going to be incredibly personal–Nudity in the Upspace is a space where people can be radically honest about a lot of the issues that we as Brown students discuss in sometimes frustratingly veiled terms. Things like body positivity, body acceptance, body disability, race, gender expression. These are all conversations that we’re used to as Brown students and I think Nudity in the Upspace provides this new forum to explore them in a much more honest way.

Additionally, being involved in events of public nudity (Naked Donut Run, Nudity in the Upspace) has really helped me come to terms with a lot of the aspects of my identity both connected to the way I look but also connected to other things. My queer identity, my male identity and how I perform my gender.

Cherise: Looking back at myself as an involved member last year, I do think it took me some time to get my feet wet. I was able to take my time. And I think that’s one of the really important missions of the week. We’re not just saying, “Oh, nudity should be normalized and you should be comfortable!” Because that’s a really hard thing to do. The week gives people all these opportunities to take their time and feel out what the experience is going to mean to them. Creating that system of dialogue is something that we often aren’t able to do as students, especially in a classroom setting when we are discussing these issues. We know what we are supposed to get out of it and what we should put into it. Even as coordinators we kind of don’t really know how everything is going to pan out. That spontaneity that accompanies the honesty is really important.

BlogDH: What are some differences in Nudity in the Upspace this year?

Cherise: One new thing we’re doing this year is partnering with Bluestockings to release a Nudity: Bodies in Context zine at the devised piece. We went to Bluestockings with this idea because we wanted to engage different audiences. There is this stigma around the event–you have to be naked and you have to be okay with being naked to have these opinions and to discuss these issues. You don’t have to do that. We wanted to engage people who wouldn’t even be comfortable showing up to the event. Expanding that range of voices is something we’re looking for this year, especially in light of all the controversy last year.

Sam: When you have a week where so much of it is exploring identity–whether it’s the identity we wear in our bodies or the identity that we construct external to our bodies–the fact that Cherise and I have very different identities [is important]. I’m the first male-bodied phe coordinating. Me and Cherise are both queer.

Cherise: We do want to respect the goals that Becca and Camilla set out as the event’s founders but inevitably, it’s taking a different form. This year we did different things with the space physically. We have a whole back wall that we are going to be performing in front of that is [covered] by attendee’s drawings. It’s a huge mural with all these different voices and input on it.

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PW Presents: Waxwing

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Originality in a theatrical production comes in many forms– content, structure, unique casting and acting choices, a novel use of space, an unexpected twist on a familiar trope, etc.

Waxwing, written and directed by Evan Silver ’16, is a simultaneously familiar and original piece of work. The story is immensely simple: two parallel love stories that eventually converge, one ending happily, another, not so much. An elementary plot comes as no surprise; after all, the show runs only 45 minutes long, hardly enough time for plot intricacies and complex character development.

However, Silver’s originality lies in the presentation, in the characters he’s constructed to tell these stories, and in an effective use of space and music to tease out tension from even a tired, old love story.

First off, I’ll address space. Silver, who triples as set designer, transformed the room into a runway, utilizing the tennis-court-arrangement of the space to evoke a love story that verges at times on a duel. It is an inventive use of the Upspace, and one not commonly seen.

From the moment the lights, subtly designed by Jordana Rosenfeld ’17, dim, you’re thrown directly into Silver’s world. This universe is one in which a bird and a boy not only converse, but also have sexual tension, and the sea and the sun are personified as starcrossed (see what I did there) ex-lovers with a juicy history.

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PW presents “The Pillowman”

“I don’t really have a worldview. Well, actually, my worldview is that the world is a pile of shit.”

That’s definitely the idea you get as you walk into the Upspace for The Pillowman, which opens tonight at 8 p.m. and runs through Monday. With a dark, minimalist set and eerie dolls hanging on the wall, averting their gaze from the audience, this dystopian world director Andrew Ganem ’16 has created is unsettling before the actors even take the stage.

Yet, it is the cast, as they vacillate abruptly between riotous dark comedy and engrossing drama, that truly brings the text of Martin McDonagh’s terrifyingly brilliant three-act play from 2003 about a writer, Katurian Katurian (Alex Ostroff ’14), accused of carrying out the murders of three children exactly like they take place in his short stories, to life.

First, there’s Tupolski and Ariel, played by Sam Rubinek ’17 and Keston McMillan ’17, the abusive and deliciously sadistic policemen. As they nonsensically question Katurian about murders he did not commit, McDonagh’s biting satire is in its purest form, thanks to Rubinek and McMillan’s mastery of the comic tone and timing. Rubinek, with a drawl reminiscent of a 1950s Chicago mobster, is the good cop (although in this hopeless totalitarian dictatorship, there is no such thing) . McMillan is certainly the bad cop, his speech menacingly quiet and his body language hinting at the imminent doom each of these characters is hurtling towards. The first act belongs to this freshman duo.

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