If all the world is a stage and we are merely players who have exits and entrances, as the Bard put it, are you happy with your current role? Are you proud of the part you are playing?
I asked myself those questions before the crack of dawn early last Sunday morning — i.e. 5 a.m. — as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, spreading a thin layer of moisturizer on my face. In just a few hours, I would be posing nude for artists participating in a body acceptance life-drawing workshop in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.
I saw the impending session as a symbolic theme of my whole life. Yes, I was happy that I had the chance to play this role, just as I was happy for the opportunity of being alive on the material plane. And I wanted to be proud of what I had accomplished when it was time to exit that morning’s stage, in the same way I would want to be content with my life’s accomplishments as I draw my last breaths.
I had worked hard for that morning’s role. In the two weeks leading up to this morning, I had studied and practised for the session — which would last three hours. I studied many images of gesture positions, standing positions, sem-reclining positions and reclining positions, practised those that interested me and improvised on some of them, and worked on some of my own creations. I wanted to give the artists more than the typical positions they see most of the time. I would be employing various props, including the Irish whistle I had used in my two preceding sessions with other workshops in Montreal.
Yes, the morning’s session spoke for my whole life, in a way. Everything I had ever done and thought before — in this and myriad previous incarnations — had led me to that morning’s session.
It was quite the buildup, wasn’t it?
If you think about it, we can all say the same sort of thing about the present. Of course, most of us don’t think about things like that as we rise each morning and face ourselves — and the day ahead — in the mirror. But there I was, getting quite introspective and metaphysical about what lay ahead of me that morning.
I wonder now, as I write this five days later, if actors/actresses have thoughts like this before they step out onto the stage, be it a film set or a live theatre setting. Surely they must, at times . . .
Perhaps it was an extension of stage fright, what comes beyond the butterflies in the tummy stage. After all, I had done this sort of thing before. And, as a member of a naturism organization, being naked in a social setting is not unusual for me.
Maybe it was the realization that I would be performing, really — that I was expected to put on a show by posing in several positions of my choice.
And that’s really the difference between posing for an individual artist or group of artists who dictate your positions, and posing before artists who ask you to choose the poses — in fact, have asked you to study and practise poses beforehand. It is a performance, more so than that presented by actors/actresses who study and practise roles in script. I had had only the barest outline of a script: I knew I would be doing a series of 2-minute poses, 5-minute poses, 10-minute poses, 15-minute poses and 20-minute poses during a three-hour performance.
There would be one more moment of introspection before I took the stage that morning — the stage being an area defined by a large, square blanket laid out on a floor in front of a wall in the studio in Mont-Tremblant.
I was briefly — only briefly — dismayed when I discovered there would be only four artists sketching me, one of them being my g/f. In previous workshops, there were as many as 15 artists.
But then I remembered something I learned as a child in this life, and perhaps in lifetimes before, and that has served me well ever since: “If you’re going to do a job, do it well.” Indeed, whether you are sweeping a floor or piloting a passenger jet . . . or posing for any number of artists, do the best you can.
And, really, all of the above is what I got out of the whole experience, valuable introspective reminders of life lessons.
As for my performance, there were some “oohs” and “awws” from the artists, three of whom are female. For a few poses, I wore some sexy stiletto-style strappy shoes, which accentuated my legs. One of the artists said “your legs go on forever,” and followed that up with “You are a true model!”
Truth be told, as I explained to them — yes, it was very informal, and we chatted it up at times — I wore the heels because they allowed me to appear to be standing on my toes, positions I couldn’t hold for very long if I tried the same poses in bare feet.
There is not much else to report: the artists were happy to have me there, happy to have the opportunity to practise their art, and I was happy for the opportunity to practise my art as a nude model. There were some poses that I discovered were a little overambitious, and holding them for the required length of time was difficult. I’ll make adjustments for the next time, and keep refining my performance art.
I’ve also discovered that posing gets easier and easier with each session. The next time, I’m going to wing it: I’m not going to practise any positions beforehand. That’s how comfortable I am with this now: I think I can come up with enough spontaneous and interesting poses for a three-hour session without much preparation . . . such is my repertoire. Such is the value of my experience up to this point in time that now includes Sunday’s three-hour session.
Of course, I will still bring along various props, or as one of the artists put it on Sunday, my “little bag of tricks.” I fake-played my Irish whistle for them on Sunday, a la Pied Piper. I used an umbrella, a wide-brimmed floppy pink sunhat with flowers on it, aforementioned stilettos, my smartphone for a pose showing Western society’s fixation on the gadgets, an apple, sunglasses and more, and there were others in my bag that didn’t get used this time.
All in all, it was a good session, and I look forward to the next one.
Curtain closes on this scene . . .