It’s a simple dare: Come undressed to our musical featuring unclothed actors and we will undo your entrance fee.
That was what the Musical Theater House in Bremen, Germany was offering for the premiere of the rock musical “Nackt!” or “Naked”. In the musical, several actors were to appear in their natural state and the audience was invited to follow their example.
In what was seen by a German blogger as a desperate attempt to revive the sluggish ticket sales, the musical’s organizers soon found themselves in an uncomfortable position: So overwhelming was the response to attend the musical nude, and hence for free, that the theater had to eventually pull the plug on its offer.
German news site, The Local, reported that the theater had made the offer at a September press conference this year. And clearly, the chance to combine two favorite German past times of saving money and stepping out naked proved too irresistible to the country’s army of nudists.
In a statement to the paper, organisers said they were worried that nudist groups known as the FKK had planned to hijack the performances “for their own self-promotion, which has nothing to do with theater, music or the meaning of the work.”
The Freikörperkultur, or FKK, is a German movement whose name translates to Free Body Culture. It endorses a naturistic approach to sports and community living. The followers of this culture are called traditional naturists, FKK’ler, or nudists. There has been an extensive removal of restrictions on public nudity in Germany since about the 1980s.
The concept of nudity, or what two video bloggers call “nakedity” in the video above, is starkly different in Germany than in the United States. There is generally much greater tolerance for exposure in Germany and often has little sexual dimension to it – quite unlike cabaret shows in Las Vegas, or Janet Jackson’s 2004 wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl.
There are a good number of nudist beaches in Germany where families show up in the buff and even hiking trails that are reserved for those who choose to trek in their birthday suits. Comparatively, there are only a handful of places that allow nudity in US. Nudity in the open is banned in three states in the US – Alabama, Alaska and Arkansas. In Missouri, only two spots allow for public nudity.
Equally provoking is the musical’s plot itself, which is based on Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler’s Reigen. Schnitzler’s play, an unflinching look at sexual mores and class ideology, offered a social commentary on how sexual contact transgresses boundaries of class. It rocked Europe and scandalized the continent when it was performed in the early 20th century.
While this is the first time it’s been staged as a rock musical, the script, which can be read in full here, has been adapted for cinema, television and other plays. The musical is apparently not a classic rock musical, but rather a punk rock theater or a drama project with punk rock music, according to Weser Kurier.
“The piece has always been interesting, because it has a contemporary energy,” the musical’s director Christian von Götz was quoted as saying on a German site nmz.de.”With the nudity I bind the viewer and can thus produce a dramatic, charged atmosphere,” said the 40-year-old, who staged the popular musical “Evita” in Bremen
“Nackt!” premiered on Oct 31, with all its audience dressed – and to no one’s surprise, was not a sell-out. In fact it received some harsh criticism for its sordid sexual scenes that involved a lot of groaning. The portrayal of a rape scene of an under-aged girl almost had one audience member walk out on the show. “That was already borderline,” Svenja Teiwes told mopo.de after the show. “There were moments I was wondering whether I stay or go.” Those who stayed rewarded the cast with but only a brief applause.
The musical will run till the end of November – and has seven more performances to prove if its worthy beyond its naked cast.
Would you dare to show up naked for an event if you could gain free admission to it? Do you think the theater company should have stuck to their initial offer?
Additional reporting and research by Jon Cecero & Tatiana Alexenko.