Sunday, October 10, 2010

Are Angels Naked?

From my intrepid forays around the internet regarding the subject "Angels in Art" - the answer seems to be No.

And if you are mistakenly having an image of cute naked Cupid in your head, here's news: He is actually NOT a cherub. Cherubic, maybe. But a cherub - Nope.

That bare-bottomed winged creature is actually the God of Love or eros in Greco-Roman mythology. I find him an annoying, pesky being. I feel like clipping his wings off and sticking that dastardly arrow up his .... . *evil diva smirk*

Regarding the subject of nudity - angelic or otherwise - some weeks ago, there were murmurings about nudity in Signature Theatre's production of Tony Kushner's "Angels In America" which stars Christian Boyle, Robin Bartlett and our bb, Zachary Quinto, amongst others. The rumour was sparked off (kinda) when Zach himself tweeted a picture of a warning sign for the play (see next pic below).

What followed was a series of breathless gasps and talk about FFN, and several "very concerned" comparisons to Daniel Radcliffe's daring stage role in "Equus". People were beginning to worry that ZQ had the gumption to bare more than his biceps. As if male nudity is something so scandalous? (I know nudity in general, runs against so-called prudish sensibilities of most Asian cultures but I could heatedly argue about that to said culturalists/moralists too.)

I was in Europe some years back and there was a rather serious TV breakfast news feature on prostate cancer. So there he was, this rather handsome male model on screen with his wares dangling out and about, while the doctor standing beside him continued to natter nonchalantly about how proper personal check-ups should be conducted.

At that time, my travel roomie and I were quite amused by the way that culture viewed nudity. We were no prudes and we thoroughly relished that the subject of sex (and sexual organs) was free from its confining reins of taboo and censorship. It was a sight to behold.

So, regarding "Angels in America", I did read on a forum that someone has clarified that were indeed nude scenes in the play but no clear ZQ-FFN's. (Source: forum) No need to bring your handkerchiefs to shield your virginal eyes or bring your breath inhalers, people.

When the production run opened, the first few shows have been reserved mainly for press reviews and invited guests. The play has been popular with tickets being snapped up very quickly and so, Signature Theatre has decided to extend the run till 20 February 2011. Most ZQ fans that I know have gotten their tickets for November 2010 to January 2011.

There is a particular reviews that is less "fan-squee" which I've gleaned from the internet:
- Welcome to Opinionated B's blog (for Part Two: Perestroika)
and more play attendee reports can be found here on a growing list at ZacharyQuinto UK.

@omhassan7 from Twitter also attended the play recently and she kindly contributed this report for the blog:

"Angels in America" was phenomenal, magnificent, excellente', breathtaking! When I read the play I was looking forward to absorbing each character and feeling the emotions/the energy each character had. Each character was portrayed as a delicate specimen learning and absorbing life as he/she journeyed through understanding him/herself. When Tony Kushner wrote this play I'm sure he didn't think of the play as changing the world, but it did!

I was very pleased with how each actor took the time to study, learn and become his/her character as they performed in "Perestroika". I love theatre to death but these actors made me realize why I love theatre so much and why I am a playwright.

Robin Bartlett is an amazing woman! She had me convinced she was born to play Hannah Pitt. I love her appearance her stage.

I fell in love with Christian Borle's dominance of becoming Prior Walter. I really thought he was Prior and then I had to remember I was watching a play. Bill Heck was so sophisticated with his style in his portrayal of Joe Pitt.

Zoe Kazan lead me to believe she was Harper Pitt. I wanted to be curse Joe out as her sweet innocent looks allowed me to embrace her as Harper more fully and that Harper's innocence as a Mormon seemed to be emotionally felt by Zoe. She was phenomenal!

Billy Porter was one of the main actors I wanted to see portray as Belize. He was so believably awesome, fantastic, hilarious as Belize the diva, that Prior had to be thankful for having him in his life!

Robin Weigert as the "angel" was breathtakingly beautiful! I thought she was an angel for real!

Frank Wood as Roy Cohn was good! He had me in a trance.

Zachary Quinto as Louis Ironson was more than just Louis the bad guy. ZQ was so expressive as Louis he made me feel sympathetic for Louis and I wished Prior could see where Louis was coming from. ZQ as a stage actor is the best thing one can ever experience! He really wanted the audience to feel his love for theatre. The emotions he expressed on stage made me respect him on a whole new level. ZQ's NY theatre debut was magnificent!! He is the new Al Pacino/ Brian Dennehy in theatre.

Where I sat, the production allowed me to absorb all the characters and appreciate the love/ emotions each actor shared with the audience (and with me). For those who think ZQ is always typecast, this is a lie. The people who have invited him to portray these characters know that with his training and talent, he can bring out the emotions and characteristics that need to be seen and expressed. As required and expected by the respective writers.

I had to constantly remind myself over and over again that I was watching a play because the ensemble of actors were so convincing!

Tony Kushner really captivated me with "Angels in America". He is a brilliant man and I will be forever grateful that I was blessed to see his epic work as I embark on my new journey as a playwright.


Note: The new "Angels in America" playbill image right at top, left is by the acclaimed designer Milton Glaser. He also designed the art for the 1993 Broadway production of “Angels”, which is the accompanying image on the right.
Do check out Signature Theatre's "Angels in America" site which has a great list of videos and interviews!

And if you have watched "Angels in America" and want to contribute a report, tweet or email me!


  1. Sadly, American audiences act like small children when the subject of male frontal nudity is broached- or worse- actually portrayed. I had to sit on my hands and stop following a few communities because of some of the less-than-civil comments and suggestions that resulted from some posts about AiA.

    I'd still go see the play if I could. I'd probably have more trouble with the strobe lights and the temperature of the auditorium than any glimpses of peoples' privates. I want to experience the story. I want to see Zach and the rest of the company perform this play.

    I grew up outside the US- and it took me a while to get used to our particular cultural prudery. It's quite different in Asia and Europe. I wish we'd grow the heck up.

  2. Nah.. it's way more conservative in Asia. Other than probably Japan where they are more open with regards to nudity in some circumstances and within certain protoccol.

    It irks me that a high percentage of people in this region (Asia) treat the entire subject as something that you cannot discuss about. That and death. Total superstition and prudishness on most parts.

  3. Some ppl seem to like glossing over the intent of my words. I mentioned "CLEAR" FFN.

    For those who are "unaware" -- Full frontal nudity describes a state of full nudity with the subject facing forward with the whole front of the body exposed, including the intimate parts – the penis, vagina, and breasts.

    Like what Sir Ian McKellen performed in recent King Lear production

    "Sex scene" and "Dropping pants" do not equal to Full Frontal Nudity.

    Get it right. And then after you've watched it, let me know.

  4. There is in fact full frontal nudity in Part I, during a scene where Prior is at a doctor's appointment. His underwear is around his knees, so I guess he's technically still wearing them, but he is facing forward with the whole front of his body exposed. That is the only moment of full frontal nudity in the play. The nudity in Part II is not frontal, and depending on where you're sitting, you may or may not see anything.

  5. Yes, I was aware of Prior's FFN in part 1. :)
    and finally a straight Direct answer re: this subject. Thanks. :)

    The emming--oohing--aaahing and hedging around this particular subject was one of the other things I felt annoying.. especially from people who claim the FFN is no big deal, but can't stop talking about it.

    Who's objectifying whom?

  6. Oh, okay, sorry. I didn't know if you were just referring to ZQ or everyone in general when you said that you'd heard there was no clear FFN in this production. Because in the scene with Prior & his doctor it is very frontal and very clear, so I wanted to clarify, in case there still are people who feel the need to bring handkerchiefs. :P

  7. I think people should bring handkerchiefs anyway :P hehehe

    Yeah I was referring to ZQ for he was the subject of that topic floating around. No one was really referring to Christian's nudity.

    Nah. no worries.
    All in good bad fun. ;)

  8. I was lucky enough to be able to see both "Millenium Approaches" and "Perestroika" last week on a visit to NYC!!! [Thank you to my best friend John!]

    I would like to do a full report later, but yes, bring your handkerchiefs because AiA is a very moving play: it's loaded with wit, dark humor, the ugly politics of the 80's as exemplified by Roy Cohn, and HEARTBREAK.

    Louis Ironson, ZQ's fantastic portrayal, is the center of much of this, with his self-doubts, fears, socio-political concerns, and simple needs as a man. OMG, if I could see this production every day of its run, I would do it. Quinto's command of the moment is fantastic to witness! His fellow players are equally fantastic, especially Christian Borle; don't get me wrong -- but I was a little heavily focussed on Quinto ...

    I was also seated [Part 1] three seats away from Corey Moosa, who was very absorbed in the play as well!

    Talk about a dream trip to NYC ... I am still floating