“Sweet Spot,” by Mike Sugerman

NEW YORK – To bare, or not to bare? To thine own self be… nude.

“This is my first all-male naked Shakespeare,” said director Pitr Strait.

Mine too. And probably yours, unless you saw the same company put on an all-female nude “Tempest” last year.

Why exactly do we need naked Shakespeare?

“It is not a gimmick at all,” said the man playing naked Hamlet, Jake Austin Robertson. “It just brings the text to life in a brand new way.”

Which is tough for a play that’s been done about one million times. You know, the guy’s uncle kills his dad and becomes king. Dad comes back as a ghost. Guy ends up killing his girlfriend’s father.
Robertson said it lends itself to the character, Hamlet.

“He is received by people around him as a madman. And a person without clothes is often received in the same way, as a madman,” he said.

Not everyone is naked – just certain characters at certain times. Like the ghost, played by Robert Aloi. He said his parents were all for it.

“They said you know maybe this is a good learning experience for you, because someday if you make it, you never know you might be in a Hollywood movie that calls for a nude scene,” he said. “So why not get a head start.”

So here we are, a couple hundred people watching some naked men doing Shakespeare. Is that even legal?

“As long as it is part of an artistic performance, full nudity is legal,” Strait said. “Which means that as soon as our permit starts, we can be naked in this area of the park. But one minute before or one minute after, or if we step outside the area called the Music Pagoda, it’s illegal again.”

What about kids? There are warnings to parents there will be nudity in the area. Though mom Melissa and her two little ones missed that sign.

“No, I didn’t know it was in the nude,” she said with a laugh.

She had been looking for a Shakespeare-themed food event unfortunately scheduled nearby at the same time.

Most of the others, like Jacquline Hall, planned on being here.

“Really breaking down and becoming fully nude – I think it really gave a whole new twist to Shakespeare,” she said.

Which, after 500 years, is pretty hard to do.

Find more from the “Sweet Spot” here.