I CENSORED MYSELF
I was very excited and validated when I was accepted into the Women In Comedy Festival and shared the news with joy and pride all over my Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter, so it makes sense that I share my feelings about my experience at the festival now that it is over.
When the WICF first approached me about my possible acceptance into the festival they asked if I would be willing to do NAKED PEOPLE without the final moment of complete nudity wherein I have “finally outrun the censorship bars”.
This may seem like a joke since that final moment of NAKED PEOPLE expresses the point of the show; how freedom from censorship from within and outside of ourselves is joyful and accepting whatever we look like and whatever our past shames. Anyone who would ask this could not possibly have watched the show in its entirety, which is improbable because any application to the WICF requires a full video.
Despite this obvious irony, faced with the possibility of being accepted into the WICF, I said that I would come up with a solution that would maintain the integrity of the show and abide by Boston law and the Improv Asylum, which does not allow pubic regions onstage.
As the festival approached, Angela Dee, my director, and I went back and forth about our options. Should I just get naked anyway? Should we censor my pubes with a picture of pubes? Should we censor my pubes with a sign that says “Boston law prohibits my pubes”?
The Monday before we traveled down to Boston, I started getting angry. I wasn’t angry at the WICF or the Improv Asylum, where I would perform, or even Boston law. I was angry that this was an issue I had to deal with at all and that I had done this to myself when I exchanged the integrity of my work for acceptance into a festival.
So I started Tweeting about the censorship to get a conversation going and perhaps buck up my courage, rally emotional support for the show that I had thrown under the bus. And then, a representative from the WICF called me up and asked me to take down my Tweets. I was told that the Twitter responses from NAKED PEOPLE supporters were displeasing the Improv Asylum and that my show was putting the theatre at risk of shutting down. A friendly phone call/veiled threat. I told the WICF that I would tweet to make it clear that the censorship was due to Boston Law not the Improv Asylum. When I got off the phone, I felt even more censored and now stupid and increasingly so very angry at myself.
If I had just said “No, I will not do NAKED PEOPLE without the final joyful moment of discovering that I had outrun my personal physical and emotional censorship bars” I would not be in this position, trying to decide how to make a festival happy while still maintaining some personal integrity. If I had just had some integrity to begin with I wouldn’t have had to go up to Boston to perform NAKED PEOPLE at 11pm on a Thursday night for a “crowd” of 20 at a theatre that required me to cover up and where I highly doubt I was “scouted” as the WICF suggests you will be! If I had some integrity to begin with I wouldn’t have dreamed of changing NAKED PEOPLE for anyone or anything.
I woke up on Thursday determined not to think or talk about the censorship because I did not want it to ruin my experience at the WICF or allow my anger at myself to bleed into the performance of NAKED PEOPLE. Angela said that she supported me no matter what I decided to do and we dropped the subject. We teched the show in the early part of the evening with the help of some lovely people (Brittany and Kelsey of Improv Asylum and Josh Garneau of the WICF), had a delicious dinner, came back to the theatre to watch the shows before our slot, put on my face of makeup, threw on my wig, and performed the show.
Performing NAKED PEOPLE has always been enormously fun and that did not change in Boston! I wiggled my bottom in people’s faces and fucked myself with a puppet and simulated masturbation and served people chicken and ran so fast throughout the show that, as per usual, I was a glorious sweaty mess by the final moment. But for that final moment I changed my show and made the mistake of allowing anger to enter. I came out with a censorship bar across my pubes and said “You can’t outrun the censorship bars in Boston!” took my bow, and when the lights came back up I ripped the bar off my body and threw it into the audience and whilst fully nude I threw kisses at the audience like I had always done.
NAKED PEOPLE has never worked from a place of anger and I am ashamed of myself for ruining that final moment of joy in the show. I have been told that it did not read as angry, but that is what I felt in my heart in that moment on stage. Angry that the WOMEN in Comedy Festival asked me to cover up. Angry that the Improv Asylum wouldn’t bend their rules for a 10 second moment in a piece of theatre. Angry that a major city still has nonsensical laws about pubes. But most of all angry at myself that I didn’t stand up for my work and censored a moment of celebration and acceptance that I had created in the first place.
Nothing is worth this cheapened feeling I have sole responsibility of making myself feel.
I am sorry to all the people that have supported NAKED PEOPLE and believed I was beyond this lesson and stronger than this censorship.
I am sorry for disappointing my director who has dedicated herself to this work by my side for two years of her life.
I am thankful if you have read this far.
I made a big mistake and I am ashamed of myself and I am telling you about it because I hope you can garner some lesson from the lesson I hope I never have to learn again.
And I am glad that this experience is in my past because now I know even more that I must find my worth within.
Photo Credit: Ian Stroud
As usual, Julia is a boss.