In an first-person essay for Playbill, Afterglow star Joe Chisholm opened up being nude on stage in the off-Broadway hit.
The out actor figures some 10,000 people have seen his naked body across more than 130 performances of the show, which focuses on a polyamorous gay couple. (“Who needs dating apps?” he jokes.) The show’s garnered headlines and a mention on Saturday Night Live.
But acting au naturel still triggers lingering body image issues for Chisholm, who writes, [It] makes the 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,” he declares, “the show must go on.” And the clothes must come off.
Chisholm joined the cast of Afterglow after only a few rehearsals, which ended up being a blessing: For the first few weeks of performances, he didn’t even have the mental capacity to consider his nudity—he was too focused on his acting.
After every show, Chisholm loves overhearing or engaging in audience conversations. He invariably gets asked about being naked: Is it awkward? (“No.”) Does it scare him? (“No.”) Have your parents seen it? (“Yes.”)
Okay kids. Today is my last performance in @afterglowtheplay for a bit. If you haven't seen it yet, please come. The next time you can catch me is Nov 8th. But come anyway. This show is important. @braw_haw and @pat_titty give their hearts and souls onstage every night and it is truly an amazing thing to witness, and an even greater gift to perform alongside. And @mrrobbiesimpson is spectacular and cooler than I will ever be, so the show remains in greatest of hands. I hope to see you at the Davenport tonight, otherwise I'll catch you in the showers next month.
Above all, Chisholm is glad the play is sparking a dialogue about nudity and sexuality.
“Every single one of us is naked at some point every day,” he writes. “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,” Chisholm adds. “Nudity onstage or on-screen, as long as is it serves a purpose and is not gratuitous, is simply another costume (or lack thereof).”
Afterglow runs through March 18 at the Loft at the Davenport Theatre.