Chicago theater artists’ stories of sex and nudity onstage

For TOC’s Sex Issue, we asked theater practitioners for their funniest, most interesting or most awkward stories about representing sex onstage.
Photograph: Getty Image
Advertising

For this week’s Sex Issue, readers answered our questions about their proclivities. We also asked Chicago theater practitioners to share their favorite stories about sex and nudity onstage. Some not-so-sexy memories:

Jonathan Edwards, Steep Theatre ensemble member: I was only in the last 20 minutes of [Jez Butterworth’s The Night Heron in 2006] and was completely full-frontal naked the whole time. We opened on the coldest weekend Chicago had in two years, so there wasn’t a very accurate representation going on. A tremendous fear came over me—I realized we had about 50 people in the audience. That’s 50 people all looking at my business. At intermission I didn’t think I could go through with it. But it was too late to turn back. I was wearing a long wig, and through this veil of hair I looked at the audience and I realized they were the ones acting tense and nervous. I had complete power over that entire room.

Somer Benson, actor: I spent seven months getting naked every night while playing Sharla [in Profiles’ 2010 production of Killer Joe]. The oddest part wasn’t being naked, but all the attention that was drawn by the supposed merkin. We had a spray bottle of water that assistant stage manager Corey Weinberg labeled “jiffy muff spray” to fluff up that big ol’ matted-down mess before going on.

John Zuiker, designer: I once had to make a Martha Stewart–inspired poncho out of a blow-up doll for Kama Sutra: The Musical. I was living at home at the time and had to ask my mom if I could use her sewing machine. Quite an awkward conversation… Not to mention that as the prop master for the show, I had to buy something like 20 dildos from a sex shop. Got some interesting looks from the clerk.

Eric Roach, Factory Theater ensemble member: I once had to make out with and grope my director’s wife every night for a few months [in Dead Wrong, 2009]. Oh, and my wife was the assistant director. We called it the “Summer of Divorce.”

Harmony France, Bailiwick Chicago collective member: At the end of Act I of [the just-closed] Violet, there’s a “sex” scene—my scene partner Courtney Crouse and I simulate foreplay. The act ends with a blackout, with the implication that the two characters end up having sex. [During] our first preview, we’re doing our thing, and there’s no blackout. We didn’t know what to do! So we froze for a moment and then got up, gathered our clothes, and did the walk of shame across a fully lit stage as I tried desperately to hide the fact that I was cracking up.

Matt Hawkins, actor/director: [Hawkins played Stanley Kowalski in Writers’ Theatre’s 2010 A Streetcar Named Desire opposite his real-life wife Stacy Stoltz as Stella.] We had a section of seats that we named the “ass seats.” During the sex scene, these were the seats that had a direct view of my rear end. My parents came to see the show, and they were seated in the “ass seats.” To this day, I’m not sure what was going on in my head during that moment of the performance—having fake sex, with my real wife, in front of my mom and dad.

Stacy Stoltz, actor: For me it was totally technical and probably the easiest thing I had to do in the play. The only thing that I felt a little weird about was, I was wearing a white see-through nightgown and he was wearing soaking-wet boxers. Sooo…that made me appear…wet in a certain area…but not for real! Just from the water. From his boxers.

Michael Menendian, Raven Theatre artistic director: Back in 1996 Raven was operating out of its old storefront theater in Rogers Park. Whenever actors exited downstage, their only means of access to the dressing room backstage was to go outside onto Clark Street and around the corner to the backstage area. That winter we were in the middle of our run of Death of a Salesman. Larry Grimm as Biff and Ann Clements as Willy's secretary had to make that exit after one scene, with Ann dressed only in a slip; Larry had to change costumes and reenter from upstage in a matter of minutes.

On one particular, extremely cold night, the secretary, in her slip, ran out of the theater, followed closely by Biff who was tearing off his clothes. Apparently two policemen caught this action and assumed that some sort of a sex crime might be in progress. So naturally they pursued both actors into the back hallway off Morse Avenue, where Biff was being quickly helped into his change of costume by other actors who heard voices yelling "What's going on in here!?" Another actor, Chuck Spencer, immediately went to see who was making this noise, only to find two cops with their guns drawn.

Bilal Dardai, Neo-Futurist: A few years back, we had a play in Too Much Light called "2-Minute Strip Rock Paper Scissors," which is exactly what you might expect it to be: An audience member and a member of the cast played rock-paper-scissors until two minutes or full nudity occurred. In most cases the cast member lost or the audience member teased for time, but one evening we had a guy who was completely fearless and not very lucky. He got down to his underwear, lost the round, and went the Full Monty. Later, I discovered that he was the boyfriend of one of our ensemble members.

Kerry Reid, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Reader critic: Greg Allen quizzed me about losing my virginity when I was reviewing [the Neo-Futurists' 2003] A Duchampian Romp, Even. I did ask Greg later (after I filed the review) as to how he happened to pick me. He said it was opening-night jitters and a mistake, as his usual rules for audience participation are that he doesn't pick people he knows or people that he knows have performing backgrounds. He was just looking for a friendly face and hit upon mine and then realized "Oh shit, she's reviewing," but by then it was too late to pull out. So to speak.

Advertising
This page was migrated to our new look automatically. Let us know if anything looks off at feedback@timeout.com