What first comes to mind when we think about naked men reading on stage? Penises. In fact, when I attended Naked Boys Reading for the first time, a friend remarked to me that she hadn’t seen that many penises in one evening. There were eight of them, fully exposed, on stage… each, under a book.
With seven to eight readers per evening, the event certainly promises an opportunity to admire male genitalia, but once you’re in the room you may realize it does so much more than that.
“This is not a peep show, this is a community-building performing arts experience” says Rick Telfer aka Tricky Ricky, who is an actor, burlesque performer and producer of Ottawa’s Naked Boys Reading.
A certain magic happens when people take their clothes off in public. As Tricky Ricky tells us, when the hesitation and titillation about men’s genitals falls to the side and a nude man begins reading on stage, the focus on genitalia becomes irrelevant. It is then possible to see a vulnerable, empowered human in their fullness, performing a reading in their natural form.
Indeed, this literary salon that doubles as an occasion to celebrate masculine bodies is welcome to folks of all genders and orientations. It celebrates the masculine form and the form of people who call themselves men while offering an opportunity to explore the vulnerability that comes with being on stage, celebrating the diversity of different body types and sizes, inviting curiosity about the masculine form. Most importantly, it juxtaposes this with literary works of fiction and non-fiction that offer the audience a very unique and intimate space for imagination.
Naked Boys Reading strives to normalize diversity and includes any reader who identifies as masculine.
Naked Boys Reading strives to normalize diversity and includes any reader who identifies as masculine, and aims to hit back at beauty standards that also impact men by showcasing readers of all sizes, colours, shapes, body types and orientations. Naked Boys Reading is a show that is by queers for queers. The originators (who gave their blessing to the creation of an Ottawa-based series of events under this name) were queer men. The Pride Edition goes beyond this.
Tricky Ricky reminds us: “Literature is about building bridges.”
The Pride Edition is an important opportunity for many folks to be part of queer spaces. While there are many queer spaces in the city, many of them are centered on drinking or club culture, which is not for everyone. Pride is about more than sex and sexuality, it is also about community, belonging, and love.
This year Capital Pride chose the theme of community. Through readings by an all-queer cast, the Pride Edition of Naked Boys Reading on August 20 will explore the concept of community through various genres of literature. It asks a quintessential question that is central to queer communities: what do we really mean when we talk about community?