Last updateFri, 27 Mar 2020 10am

The Naked Stage: Only the bare essentials

The Naked Stage concept exists around the world under various names including “Readers’ Theater” and “Bare Bones Theater.” Long-time Lakeside resident Jeritza McCarter founded one as an expat in Japan, which is still going. In 2009 she brought the idea to Lakeside where it has flourished and the entire community benefits as all profits go to the Red Cross. 

The philosophy is simple. There is nothing on stage: no set, props, costumes, stage lights, music or microphones. The actors are seated, read their lines and wear black. The absence of visual “clues” allows their voices and words to stimulate audiences’ creative imaginations. This approach works to such an extent that no two people’s recollections of a production are identical. “It’s just like radio,” McCarter says, quoting some audience feedback: “As a matter of fact, I preferred the costumes in the last show,” and “I don’t know how she held all those cards in one hand.” Her irrepressible grin says it all.

When told about Naked Stage, theatre people are skeptical that the concept will work. McCarter admits that as an actor/director this was her first reaction. Then she was invited to see it for herself and realized its potential. She drew the same initial reaction from friend and former professional actress, Betty Lloyd Robinson who, convinced, then joined her as co-founder of Ajijic’s own Naked Stage.

There are few rules but they must be followed. McCarter holds them in high regard and refers to them as “magic rules,” but declined to go into detail about them, or the founder of the concept who introduced her to the medium.

Naked Stage produces one show each month year round. The rules are always applied, with the exception of the Christmas show where “anything goes.” Casts are limited to ten actors by stage size and crucial to each show’s success is the job of its narrator who “paints the scene,” firing up the audiences’ imaginations.

Unusually, casting is no problem. While local full theatrical productions struggle to cast younger actors and other unusual roles within the expat community, Naked Stage has no such constraints. The narrator simply announces that a specific actor is three, or Asian, is a talking bear or has six legs and that’s exactly what they become in the audience’s minds. Easy!

Actors who find learning lines difficult, or cannot commit to two month’s rehearsals plus a week’s performances, find Naked Stage ideal. Lines are read and three rehearsals precede three performances. New actors and directors are always welcome.

Patrons can sign up for the newsletter which details upcoming productions, auditions and the six-monthly calls for plays, when its selected board of seasoned theatre professionals choose the slate for the subsequent six months.

The next production, “Oleana” by David Mamet, directed by Collette Clavadetscher and starring Mark Bennett and Tina Leonard, runs Friday, October 25; Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27 at Rio Bravo 10, Ajijic. An unusual and provocative fast-paced play, it will have the audience’s imaginations working overtime. Call 765-6408 for tickets (an 80-peso donation is required).

This will be Clavadetscher’s fifth directorial role for Naked Stage. A popular actress at Lakeside Little Theatre, most recently as Stella in “Local Hero,” she also serves on the boards of both theaters. There’s a symbiosis between members of LLT and Naked Stage both in terms of shared actors and directors and synchronizing performance schedules.

Playwright Mamet said, of Stanislavsky’s theories, “The purpose  … is, to free the actor from extraneous considerations and permit him or her to turn all of his or her concentration to the objective, which is not ‘this performance’ but the meaning of the play.” That same freedom surely applies to an audience watching a Naked Stage production.

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