Gowanus Lounge

Seventeenth Century Play on its Way to Brooklyn, Naked

Nethermead, Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Photo courtesy Garry R. Osgood.

Torn Out Theater will be performing the 1677 classic written by Aphra Behn, The Rover—with a twist. It will be performed, selectively, in the nude.

You might be wondering if it is legal to perform in the public sphere, such as Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, even if it is completely free, is legal? Visitors to the park are indeed legally obligated to maintain appropriate coverage, but not performers. In a play it is perfectly legal for the actors and actresses to perform in their birthday suits.

Ryan Desaulniers plays “The Rover,” a womanizer making is moves in Naples during Carnival. He is working on his tan as we speak.

In the case of Sarah Elizabeth Grace, an actress in her twenties who plays Florinda, the virtuous young woman was also a bit worried about her skin tones. “My husband told me to watch out for sunburn,” she quipped.

In past years the company has used its special powers to perform “The Tempest” and “Hamlet,” and this show, at the Music Pagoda, running from August 16-26, will use a similar form of selective nudity as the plays that have come before.

“Nearly all, if not all, of the cast will be naked,” said director and troupe co-founder Pitr Strait. “Yes, we are trying to get people’s attention. But it’s not a gimmick. That implies dazzle with nothing behind it. There’s a mission here.”

That mission is to further the themes of the play, which feel quite modern although written in the 17th century. Those themes include personal responsibility, true love, the roles people play to get what they yearn for. Nudity is part of this, and so are gender-bent casting and trans performers.

“It’s a perfect play to do right now, even without the nudity,” troupe co-founder and director Pitr Strait said. “It’s about women trying to find their freedom, choose a husband and live life free from harassment. It all feels shockingly modern.”


James Allenby is the editor of Gowanus Lounge, bringing to his position a vast background on New York, and especially Brooklyn history, culture and lifestyle. Born and bred in the heart of "the County of Kings" James Allenby knows what it means to be a Brooklynite, and imparts this meaning at all times to his readers. Contact James at info(at)gowanuslounge.com.