to the mash-up of sex, Shakespeare, and educational discourse of my debaucherous dreams.
The idea for Stripping Shakespeare came to me one morning while I was painting my room and listening to the Democracy Now! broadcast about Aaron Swartz’s suicide. His tragic death is a result of the fight to protect individuals’ privacy and to create free access to educational content online. I started to wonder; what that would take. Will there be secretly traded sites with textbooks for download financed by banner ads for porn and foreign brides for sale?
I put down the paint roller and made the following note:
Sex, women’s bodies, paying for education . Create series to contribute to the world of online education, (public education on television) Self-reflexive satire about what we watch, and why we watch it.
Eight months later I was on set for the first four segments of what is now Stripping Shakespeare, a series that showcases acting, dancing, and filmmaking talent, and invites analysis and conversation about the empowerment/exploitation of women who take their clothes off for art, money, pleasure….
It’s been a whiskey-drenched road my friends. This little idea has taken me from Portland, NYC, SLC, and back to LA to work with the amazing talent you see in these StSh episodes. I produce the concept, the shoot, and then hand it off to a director who must shoot their concept- in FOUR hours. It’s a challenge, but the time-constraint makes it a bit of a competition and again, a showcase for what they can really pull off.
Being the theater geek that I am, I hate that Shakespeare is put on the pedestal of High-Art where Boring lives.
Shakespeare was an ACTOR, the most notoriously horny group of people on the planet. He was also the Tarantino of his day, writing for both wit-loving intellectuals and bawdy crude-humored -- everyone else. He wrote good verse, a lot of it about sex, and it only helped him get more of that good lovin'.
The focus of the analysis on this site is to point out the sexy in Shakespeare. But that’s just the gateway to stripping down the many layers of meaning in his writing. There’s beautiful imagery, metaphor, poignant comparison and allusion that, when unpacked, reveal the nuance of moments we live in love, rage, ecstasy, fever, madness, despair… it’s the juicy stuff that’s worth reaching past the antiquated language and weighty importance of Shakespeare’s writing for.
The Internet is full of images of naked, sorta-naked, implied naked, women who sport their birthday suits with an air of submission. I’m not dogging on what flavor of kink anyone might be into- S&M certainly has a place- everywhere. But women are too often portrayed as objects with no power or, are overtly exploited as part of the 'art' of the image.
We all lived through 2013, or the year Miley Cyrus critique broke my Facebook feed. What's worth keeping from all the blogs and enraged mom rants is the idea that women are being tricked into thinking they are empowering themselves through their sexuality where really, they are just confused little pawns oblivious to an industry that made money off of their flesh.
Which brings me to Burlesque dancers. If you’ve never seen a live Burlesque performance, go. Now. Start with Polehibition in LA, the amazing ladies you'll see in the first four episodes of Stripping Shakespeare.
The ladies who pole-dance and Burlesque are artists who craft their costumes and every move down to the subtle wink. They are decidedly in power when they perform, showing not just their bodies but revealing the individual woman behind the curves. That kind of performer, no matter what they are doing, is enigmatic. But let the ladies speak for themselves. Stripping Shakespeare will soon feature commentary from the ladies who dance and will share why they choose to bare it all for their art form.
So there you have it- the filmmaking challenge, the analysis and the discourse! I can’t wait to share everyone’s creative efforts with the world, and if you are a writer, performer, filmmaker or academic jazzed by these same ideas, drop me a line- I’m always up for a chat with another curious mind.
"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
Hamlet Act 2 Sc 2