Berni Stapleton will perform her one-woman show, Woman, Naked in St. John’s at The Leaside Manor from November 3rd to 5th and at The Stone Jug in Carbonear on November 10th.
Stapleton describes Woman, Naked as a ‘made-up true story’ that hovers somewhere between stand-up comedy and theatre. The piece tells an embellished version of how a trip to Italy helped Stapleton overcome self-consciousness about her body that had become stifling.
Before taking a vacation in Italy, Stapleton had been working on a play that tackled the pressure women experience to appear thin and young.
“Then I went to Italy where you can’t feel bad about anything. A lot of characters in the play are derived from people that I met while I was in Italy and their influence on me and my struggle for self-acceptance,” Stapleton said about the inspiration for Woman, Naked.
Stapleton explained that this play is a departure from her regular style because although it’s a comedy, it is closer to realism than the worlds she normally creates.
“In a lot of my writing my characters are larger than life, they’re meant to be broadly funny with this play I’m stepping outside of that, this is autobiographical.”
With the help of director, Sharon King-Campbell, Stapleton decided that very simple staging would help create an intimate connection with the audience that fit with the personal nature of the show’s subject matter.
“It’s a striped downed show, it’s a solo show with one performer. Sometimes we use music and lights but other times it really is just a naked performance.”
Stapleton plays herself as well as four other semi-fictionalized characters she met on her vacation. The other characters include an aging hipster server who works in The Underground Café in London and a charming Italian server who is depressed about having to work in an unpopular, American-style steakhouse just down the road from a famous Italian restaurant.
“It’s really important that the audience can recognize each character the moment they step on stage and how we constructed this play is that all the transformations take place in full view of the audience. They happen only physically, we don’t use any costumes or props,” Stapleton said.
Choreographer Loise Moyes coached Stapleton on how to use her physicality to switch between characters on stage. In order for the characters to be recognizable, the audience has to be able to discern when Stapleton becomes a different character.
“The transformation is always the same, so that the audience knows instantly who the character is. It requires a lot of discipline especially for me because I’m a very fluid performer. In those moments the show becomes very dance-like and choreographed,” Stapleton explained.
The title Woman, Naked is a pun that reflects the play’s minimalist aesthetic and the author/actor’s decision to expose her private struggle with feeling comfortable in her own body. The punny title also hints at Stapleton’s giddy sense of humour, which is laced through out the piece.