Acts To Grind Theatre brings to Montréal the Québec première of the Off-Broadway (since 1999) salacious, sexy and sensational production of Naked Boys Singing. Sinj Karan from Rampage spoke to one of the show’s performers Quentin Brn.
Sinj Karan (SK): Tell me a little about the show, how long have you been with it and what brought you to the group?
Quentin Brn (QB): I think the Broadway musical started in 1998-99 and the show has since been off-Broadway for years. I joined the show last year in September. I was in New York and there was a call to audition. I showed up and got in. The cast has changed a bit, some of the boys in the show have done it before and well I have been with the group for a year now. I am French-American and this was my first tour in the United States, so that was quite an experience. We did multiple cities in the US and this is the first time we are bringing it to Montreal.
SK: Obviously when people see Naked Boys Singing, the idea is to watch these naked men singing. But other than the obvious, can you speak to what really makes the show special?
QB: You are correct, on the face of it this is why I guess people are drawn to it and trust me we don’t disappoint. You do get to see all these boys dancing naked. But then when people watch the show, it has music and songs about relationships and love and, yes, nudity. There are laughs and a lot of entertainment (we hope). So more than anything the show is about life and all of its facets. All of us share a bit of ourselves through the show, our performances, so I think that bit makes it special for all of us. We hope we are able to make the audience feel the same way.
SK: Naked performances have become more popular now, but for the longest time and even now there is a huge taboo attached to such performances. These are seen as niche audience driven. Do you feel that you have something that is universal that rises above these stereotypes?
QB: Actually not really. Artists have performed in the nude for years. Like even this show as on Broadway in the 1990s. So what is happening is that we are becoming more aware of these artists and performances. Female nudity has been on display forever; its male nudity is perhaps what is new. I can think of a few right now: Oh Calcutta, Hair from the ’60s had nudity. So this is not really anything new. What is perhaps happening is that barriers are being broken and we can now access a larger audience. People from all walks of life come and watch these shows, so that perhaps is a change.
SK: Is your audience mostly gay men or have you been able to expose the show to a diverse audience?
QB: We do mostly attract gay men, for sure. But through this tour I have seen a diversity of people coming to our shows. We are definitely more popular with bachelorette parties and women, but even straight couples see the show. What we offer is entertainment, so anyone and everyone can connect to that. I can’t speak about places I haven’t toured and most of our shows were on the East coast, but we have attracted all types of people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
SK: Can you tell me what you like most about the show personally? What has it brought to you and your craft as an artist?
QB: Personally this was my first professional tour in America. It was also my first nude show outside of performance art. In the beginning I was very aware that I was naked in front of an audience. When you rehearse with the group, after a while you get comfortable and it’s just a routine, but with an audience it takes a bit to work through that awareness that you stand naked in front of people. Then you become the character. While there is no character arc per-se, there are these mini-stories and then you forget that you are naked and you are immersed into the craft. My performance ranges from being semi-butchy to wearing high heels, so it’s very varied. And what the show has brought me — a new fun adventure, new friends and lots of new life experience.
SK: Any personal challenges that you had to work through before taking this role and being on stage?
QB: I mean a little bit, that stress of being naked, and the audience reaction to that. I can’t think of a single negative reaction; our audiences here have been so great. I also realized that audiences here laugh a lot, which has been great fun to see and makes you very comfortable with the performance. They are more like participants in the show. It also inspires you to work doubly hard. And even when we have had a long day, or aren’t up to it physically, we get together to give the best show we can for each and every performance.
SK: Last question: how long does it take to put a show like this together?
QB: I’m here in Orlando today and we are going into rehearsal right now. I’d say a couple of weeks to get something like this on its feet. We will probably be rehearsing all the way through before we make it to Montreal next week, which I am very excited about.
The show premieres on August 16 th Acts To Grind Theatre at Café Cléopatra, 1230 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC H2X 2S5 and has seven performances (Wednesday August 16 at 8 pm (Montréal première), Thursday August 17 at 8 pm, Friday August 18 at 8 pm and 11 pm, Saturday August 19 at 8 pm and 11 pm, Sunday August 20 at 6 pm (Cocktail Hour!) Tickets HERE . The show is part of Montreal Pride week (Fierté Montréal) and additional events can be seen HERE.