Afterglow Actor Joe Chisholm On Performing Nude in the Off-Broadway Hit

Special Features   Afterglow Actor Joe Chisholm On Performing Nude in the Off-Broadway Hit
 
The star shares what it’s like to be seen naked by crowds of strangers and get a shoutout on Saturday Night Live.
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Joe Chisholm Marc J. Franklin

Ten thousand.

One hundred and thirty performances as Alex, at an estimated average of 85 percent capacity, and I have been seen naked by around 10,000 people.

Who needs dating apps?

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Joe Chisholm Marc J. Franklin

I won’t lie, I am the last person I ever expected to agree to be in a show with nudity. Six months into my time at Afterglow, a sense of disbelief still bubbles up when I think about it. Disbelief that triggers decades of self-confidence and body-image issues, making the awkward, overweight 12-year-old Joe—a Joe that is still very much alive and well inside me—want to go hide in a corner.

But the show must go on. And I couldn’t be more grateful and proud that it has, for months and months past its assumed end date. This show needs to be seen. This story needs to be told.

But the nudity!

I’ve seen people passing our theatre and gawking at the poster. Nakedness is definitely everyone’s favorite topic going into the show. And long after the immediate and emotionally jarring effects of the show wear off, we invariably get asked the same questions:

Is it awkward? No.

Did getting naked frighten you? No.

How do you keep from getting excited? Being naked onstage is truly one of the least arousing things you could ever possibly imagine.

Have your parents seen it? …Yes. My mom surprised me at the theatre and really enjoyed it.

I love the discourse that has been sparked by Afterglow and its moments of nudity. And the conversation is spreading. It is not every day that Saturday Night Live gives your little show a shout out on Weekend Update. But why is it such a big deal? Every single one of us is naked at some point every day. American culture has spent the last century demonizing nudity, making it into something naughty or bad, but it’s the most basic human state of being. Somewhere along the way, we sexualized the naked body. But I think it is important to reaffirm the fact that sex and nudity are two separate things. That is a big takeaway of this show. In my mind, nudity onstage or onscreen, as long as is it serves a purpose and is not gratuitous, is simply another costume (or lack thereof).

Read More: HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT LGBTQ THEATRE HISTORY?

But what about that first time?

I joined Afterglow with only two rehearsals and a put-in. So even if I was concerned about being naked, my mind was stretched so thin that first week of performances—trying to figure out my track and walk across a wet mirrored floor without dying—that there was no bandwidth in my brain left to be concerned about people seeing me in the buff. By the time I had finally felt settled in, it was already a week into my run and hundreds of people had seen me naked, so there was no point in caring about it. The condensed rehearsal time ended up being a blessing.

A very stressful, very unclothed blessing.

Leaving nudity aside, my favorite part of Afterglow is the audience discussion that I get to take part in or hear about after the lights come up. For whatever reason (I am keenly aware that our effective marketing team has drawn many a person inside the door for the onstage shower and naked bodies), you came to the Loft at the Davenport and you leave in one of two ways:

If you came with a friend or partner, you will go to the nearest bar to drink and have some serious conversations about fidelity, love, and relationships.

If you came alone, you will text your friend or partner and have them meet you at the nearest bar to drink and have some serious conversations about fidelity, love, and relationships.

Afterglow moves you. That is what drew me to it. It’s relatable to anyone and everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, or relationship status. Audience members will inevitably relate to one, if not all of these characters. We have all experienced, to some degree, each of the three arcs of love that these characters traverse over 90 minutes. Afterglow is as naked a show emotionally as it is physically. It takes a giant stick and pokes at your foundational concept of love; I promise if there are any holes to be found, our show will shine a bright light on them and make you face some hard truths. It is a marathon, for actor and audience. If you think this show is for you, come! If you don’t think this show is for you—it is. Come. For a show that is assumed to have a niche demographic, it is truly universal in its concepts and questions. You should join the conversation; you won’t regret it. Or if you do, at least you saw some guys get naked.

Plus, my mom highly recommends it.

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