Placing an ad on Craigslist searching for spaces, he ultimately secured a few weeks in Build, a gallery space in the Mission where he ended up staging a new production of Edward II, this time under the guise of No Nude Men, a production company title he came up with after someone asked him if he would be acting naked in "Jack the Ripper", which was originally intended for the Theater Rhino. As he told "Invisible Ink", an arts show aired on the Bay Area's NPR radio station, "It seemed like, for a lot of people, theater in San Francisco meant nude men and explicit gay sex on stage. I just figured, I wanted to do something different, and frustrate that expectation, and maybe even help replace it with an expectation that a show be good, without gimmicks, nude men or otherwise." And so a new theater company came to pass.
Performed by nine barefoot actors, of which Stuart was one, Edward II played six performances in the small gallery space, often to fifty or more people crammed into the tiny room. The show was done without lights or sound affects, in the round, with all the cast dressed in modern, yet period suggestive clothes that were either black, white or a combination of the two. Props were kept at a minimum, fight choreography was short and brutal, sexual scenes equally as brief but intense. Remarkably, the show did well, recouping its investment, paying the actors and single crew-person, the remarkably organized Lindsey Cook, and receiving very favorable word of mouth. Thus encouraged, Stuart embarked on a series of progressively larger and higher profile projects, following up in November of 2003 with the premiere of his new play, Speak To Me at the Spanganga Gallery and Performance Venue.
Without meaning to, he also become more concerned with promoting his own work. For the next year Mr. Bousel exclusively produced work that was written by him. Speak To Me's success was followed by Troijka, a re-write of Jean Genet's The Balcony that featured all three of the above named actresses and garnered Stuart the most publicity (and highest attendance) of any of his shows done up to that point in the Bay Area. Opening Valentine's Day Weekend of 2004, and playing for three weeks, the show sold out (including standing room) most of its run and won much praise for its leads and staging. It was also the first Bay Area show produced by Stuart to have full production values, with sexy and eye-catching costumes made on the cheap by the remarkably talented Amy Seimetz, and lights by the equally accomplished Chris Rader. As bows to the past, Quicksilver regular Wylie Herman, now also a Bay Area resident, performed the role of Tony, the Envoy, and sound effects were shipped up from Los Angeles, where Lisa Fowle was busy establishing her independent sound production company, Dragonfly Sound. Dark, passionate and funny, Troijka made a splash that rippled waves for months to come and accidentally led to the venue for the next show, Love Egos Alternative Rock.
Based on a short story by Stuart's college friend, Melissa Klepetar, L.E.A.R. was a light comedy about the rise and fall of an all girl rock band struggling to make it in post-grunge America. Though hampered in the early stages by casting difficulties, and throughout the production by technical difficulties, in May of 2004 the show opened and played to sizeable crowds at the New Langton Center for the Arts, and was at the time the most elaborate production accomplished by No Nude Men. Featuring fairly impressive sets and lights designed and built by Jesse Baldwin (who also directed the show), the show also boasted a fourteen person cast, about sixty costumes (again, thrown together with remarkable speed and economy by Amy Seimetz, this time assisted by Suchandra Bullock), and a fabulous opening dance number choreographed by cast-member Margery Fairchild, fresh from the Portland performance art scene and making her Bay Area debut. The soundtrack for the play was pulled together from numerous Bay Area musicians and bands, including the Well-Wishers, Wynne Hanner, Cristina Cantinella, Echo Beach and Carrier.
2004 saw one more No Nude Men show, bringing to a close a year of firsts for Stuart Bousel -- namely three premieres and a whole solid year of concentrated self-promotion of his stage writing. Somehow it thus made perfect sense to go back to the beginning, and it was with a revival of The Exiled, staged at San Francisco's alternative art space, the Xenodrome, that he brought full circle the first phase of his career in the Bay Area, and No Nude Men's life as a company. Combining elements from many of his past shows, this Exiled was performed with full lighting (again the work of Jesse Baldwin) but no music, making it the first version of The Exiled to lack a soundtrack. The cast was barefoot, with painted toenails, props and furnishings were limited to whatever they could find in the space or around their homes, giving the whole play an extremely informal atmosphere. The cast mingled in with the audience as they entered, worked neighborhood noise into the production on nights when it interfered, and basically conducted the show as one big dinner party where you tell relative strangers your life story. Though it received little attention from the press, the show did well attendance wise, profited and ensured that No Nude Men would always have a home in San Francisco.
2005 saw a number of new beginnings for No Nude Men, starting with "The Book of Genesis: Remixed and Remastered", which killed two birds with one stone by being the first No Nude Men production of an original play not by Stuart Bousel, as well as the first to feature an all female cast. Produced for the Second Annual San Francisco Theater Festival (another first for the company), the script was adapted from the Bible by Nirmala Nataraj, who had made her acting debut back in No Nude Men's premiere production, Edward II. Featuring company regular Gina Seghi as the Devil and local actress Meghan Kane as God, the play used a theological conversation between the two entities as a framework in which to depict the events of the Book of Genesis, which were acted out by a chorus of six actresses playing as many as nine roles each. San Francisco burlesque diva Lori Costigan rounded out the company as the prophet Ezekiel, valiantly trying to warn the chosen people of Israel about the repercussions of their actions but ultimately to no avail. Hysterically funny and very well received, the show attracted a huge crowd and garnered many a nod in festival recaps, including much praise for Nirmala's fast-paced, sassy and sharply intelligent script.
Another No Nude Men first arrived on August 18th, with the opening of a whole new production of Speak To Me featuring a new cast, restored material, stunning new lighting design by Chris Rader, fantastic furniture (provided in large part by Jason Wong), and many new directorial choices aimed at creating an entirely different show. Marking the company's first time "revisiting" a former production, the play was also the first full run production at the newly re-opened Off-Market Theater, Stage 205, now under the resident directorship of Custom Made Theater Company. Lauded and applauded, the show was carried by an excellent cast that included Joshua Lenn and Felicia Benefield in the principal roles, and managed to hold its own both in the press and at the box office despite Labor Day weekend and several major productions opening in the Bay Area at the time. The smooth, seemless staging and innovative use of lights in a fairly small and awkward space also received a great deal of positive attention. Though the show might best be remember by the company for its somewhat rocky journey to opening night, it was over all a success and continued to establish No Nude Men's tradition of simple but powerful and thought provoking theater.
2005 saw a third production, this time of the Racine classic, Phaedra, at the Climate Theater. Directed by Stuart Bousel, the show stuck as close as possible to the original text while moving the action into the 19th century, resetting the play on an isolated island somewhere in the British Channel. With a uniformly strong cast headed by Gina Seghi and Michaela Greeley, as Phaedra and Oenone, respectively, and excellent production design by Angelina Schwark (costumes), Bekah McNeil (lighting) and John Sanders (scenery), the show received much praise for its innovative use of the Climate Theater's intimate environment- placing the audience seating on either side of the performance space and incorporating the outside noise to help establish a world of secrets and repression barely sheltered within a cocoon of hanging curtains, mirrors and candlelight. Using no sound effects but a wind-up music box and cast generated footsteps, while limiting the electric lighting to the bare minimum required to supplement hanging lanterns and candelabras, the evening provided an utterly atmospheric setting for the intense and passionate performances of the cast, including Lee Marcotte making his stage debut as Hippolytus. Word of mouth on the show was incredibly positive and, despite opening against not only the busiest time of the San Francisco theater scene, but two other productions of Phaedra occurring in the Bay Area (neither written by Racine), the show still managed to completely sell out five of its nine performances, making No Nude Men's first full-on period piece (not to mention, verse-drama) an unqualified success.
Spring of 2006 proved to be an equally ground-breaking period for the company, starting off with No Nude Men's first foray into Shakespeare: Love's Labors Lost. Re-set in modern times, with a focus shift to center on the relationship between Ferdinand and Princess (excellently played by company newcomer John Russell and veteran Kendra Arimoto) and spliced with energetic dance numbers used to fill in gaps in the story and introduce new plot lines, the show played to packed houses night after night during its epic five week run at the Exit Theater- another first for the troupe and director Stuart Bousel. Garnering extensive critical praise, including some kind words from the Guardian and SF Station, the show's highlights included another beautiful lighting scheme from Bekah McNeil as well as some dazzling purple and gold scenery and hip, sexy costumes designed by Alexis Boozer and Jessica Kuper, respectively, making the show the most lavishly produced piece in No Nude Men's three year history. While the entire cast was generally lauded, particular laurels were handed out to Chris Carlone as a strapping and silly Armado, Cassie Powell as a witty and elegant Rosaline, and Gina Seghi and newcomer Lisa Rowland as a pair of cynical, wise-cracking bartenders named Moth and Nat. The show also marked the largest reunion yet of the original No Nude Men cast, with Ryan Hayes giving his finest performance to date as Biron, Chris Kelly hamming it up as Boyet, and Stacy Malia and Warden Lawlor providing much comic relief as Maria and Costard. Innovative in its approach to the text while still preserving the original language and themes of the play, Love's Labors Lost pleased and surprised on a variety of levels but will probably best be remembered for its colors and vibrancy, high production values and energetic performances, and above all else, the absolutely stunning choreography by cast members Margery Fairchild and Alexis Perry. Truly a collaborative show on every end, it was as much of a coming of age story for the people behind the production as it was for the characters in the play.
Summer of 2006 proved to be a productive time beginning with Bekah McNeil’s production of Sartre’s No Exit, using an all-female cast headed by Kendra Arimoto and Alexis Boozer. Once again using the intimate setting of the Climate Theater and staged in the round, the show approached the classic play from a transgendered perspective, creating a new relevancy to the issues of gender and sin at the center of the story. The show was also the first example of a guest production independently put together by the cast and crew but opened under the No Nude Men banner, the next being the one-act play collection, Pretty. Funny. Women. Co-produced with KellyMarie Productions (long-time company members Stacy Malia and Chris Kelly) the one weekend only engagement was a series of women-centric short theater and performance pieces emceed by Chris Kelly’s altar ego, Pretty, and included a remounting of Nirmala Nataraj’s The Book of Genesis: Remixed and Remastered. The show sold out all three of its performances, including standing room and ran in tandem with a gallery exhibition in the lobby of the theater. It was followed in July but yet another production at the Climate, this time a revival of Stuart Bousel’s Troijka, newly directed by John Dixon, No Nude Men’s first guest director. Garnering excellent praise for everything from Michaela Greeley’s commanding performance (she, along with Chris Kelly and Lisa Swanson returned from the original cast) to Chris Rader’s lights and Jessica Kuper’s costumes, the show still managed to attract good houses despite a record heat wave in San Francisco. Dixon’s innovative direction re-created the show with a whole new angle and continued the company’s tradition of trying new things, even when doing a revival.
Mid-summer, No Nude Men returned to the San Francisco Theater Festival for another show stealing year, this time with a thirty minute version of Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Miserables, aptly retitled Less Miserable: A Hot French Epic. Presaged by a half-page picture in that Sunday’s Datebook in the Chronicle depicting the cast of last year’s Book of Genesis, Less Miserable proved to be one of the best attended and received pieces at the festival that year. Featuring No Nude Men regulars and a handful of new folks, the show was collaboratively directed by the cast, most of whom also played a multitude of roles, and everything was staged with only two chairs, which doubled as the barricade (rechristened “the charricade”) for the second half of the play. The show also marked Stuart Bousel’s first time on the stage in 2006, playing the role of Javert opposite Carl Lucania as Valjean and Alexis Boozer as both Fantine and Cosette.
No Nude Men ended the 2006 season with their most experimental production to date, a two-hour, intermission-less re-envisioning of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet, produced as the group’s final show at the Climate Theater. Using only the original text but re-cutting the story in a new direction, the play’s central conceit became a story of a troubled young woman (played to perfection by Kendra Arimoto) struggling to cope with the death of her mother (played in terrifying drag by Chris Kelly) and the marriage of her well-meaning but ineffectual father (played with deep sadness by Ryan Hayes) to her manipulative and murderous aunt (Gina Seghi in her best performance since Phaedra a year earlier). Without changing any of the pronouns, all the roles traditionally played by men were played by women and vice-versa, the only exception being James Tinsley as Guildenstern, opposite Alexis Boozer as Rosencrantz, the characters re-tooled as a cute but short-sighted couple lost in the despair pit of Elsinore. Stylishly costumed all in black and gray by Jess Kuper with shadowy, atmospheric lighting by Chris Rader, the spooky little show was staged in the round to audiences who found it both chilling and moving and, due largely to the gender swap, were forced to re-examine the masterpiece of Western Drama as a personal story about loss, abuse, isolation and a plethora of other elements found and embodied by the uniformly excellent and committed cast.
2007 started off with a number of smaller projects (all staged at the Exit on Taylor) that kept the majority of the No Nude Men folks (and then some) busier than they’d been in a long time. On Friday the Thirteenth in April, Meghan Kane and Stuart Bousel produced an evening of short plays, done as readings and featuring the work of a number of Bay Area Playwrights, including Andy Black, Bekah McNeil, John Robinson, Mike Ricca and David Duman. The cast was a virtual who’s who of No Nude Men regulars including Felicia Benefield, Chris Carlone, Ryan Hayes, Chris Kelly, Stacy Malia, Cassie Powell, Lisa Rowland and James Tinsley as well as several folks appearing for the first or second time on the No Nude Men stage, and special guest stars Randy Taradash, David Rice and John Dixon, who lent their local celebrity status for the evening to perform Tom Swift’s play about three men putting on the “Turkey Lurkey” number from Neil Simon’s Promises, Promises. The following night was the first official No Nude Men fund raiser, which featured everything from Scott Alexander Ayres doing twenty minutes of lounge singing to Lauri Costigan performing burlesque and Chris Carlone, Alexis Perry and Margery Fairchild bringing in their cult phenomena performance band, Borts Minorts, to finish off the evening. Two weeks later the company returned to the Exit on Taylor with their spring show, an evening of fairy-tale themed one-acts collectively titled Cerberus Barking. Featuring a cast of eight, including company newcomers Claire Rice, Kevin Tierney and Janna Sobel, the show moved from Alison Luterman’s dark parable, Oasis, through Hilde Susan Jaegntes’s absurdist comedy Spoon Justice and ending with Stuart Bousel’s bittersweet fable, Polyxena In Orbit. With Stuart directing his own piece and Alison’s, Wylie stepping in to direct Hilde’s, and James Tinsley helming technical direction for the whole evening, the show was staged in a whirlwind rehearsal period and built around the premise that everything had to fit back into a chest that, along with some purple curtains, silver stars and two chairs, provided the only scenery. A throwback to the older, simpler days of No Nude Men, the show turned out a charming little success and marked the end of the first half of a busy year.
The summer saw another contribution to the San Francisco Theater Festival, this time a more fully realized staging of David Duman? Five Short Episodes in the Life of Sacagawea, an expanded version of his play which had been included in No Nude Men? night of readings. Directed by Stacy Malia with a huge cast featuring long-time company members Chris Kelly and Margery Fairchild, as well as the return of Sara Razavi in the title role, the show capped this year? mainstage presentations and pulled in one of the largest audiences of the day, continuing No Nude Men? tradition of making a bold impression at the festival and garnering some excellent press along the way. The follow up production, a quiet and understated workshop of Stuart Bousel? play Mathew 33:06 at the Exit Theater, finished off the year on a thoughtful note. Starkly staged with beautiful, moody lighting by James Tinsley, the play was praised for both its excellent cast (including New York transplant Ryan Hebert making his San Francisco acting debut in the title role) and powerful writing. Simultaneously a social/political exploration and a personal piece about loss, the show made an appropriate swan song for a long year of growing and learning by a stalwart band of artists who never expected to last as long as they did.
After a six month hiatus during the first half of 2008, No Nude Men returned to the stage with founding member Chris Kelly directing Learning From Hilde’s Mistakes, a collection of three one-acts by Hilde Susan Jaegtnes produced and performed for the San Francisco Theater Festival. These absurdist montages, starring company veterans Kendra Arimoto, Nathan Tucker, Warden Lawlor, Ellie Davis and Shannon Kelly, also featured Matt Gunnison in his first role with the company and marked the first time a company show was performed twice at the Festival. The summer was followed that autumn by the world premiere of a massive new work by another founding member, with Nirmala Nataraj’s The Monk, based on the novel of the same title by Matthew Lewis, directed by Stuart Bousel. Returning to the Exit Theater (this time in the Stage Left space), the show ran for a record fifteen performances, most of which were sold out, and received largely positive reviews. The large cast, headed by Ryan Hayes, Cassie Powell and Margery Fairchild, was practically a who’s who of No Nude Men regulars with Paul Rodrigues, Rana Weber and Alison Sacha Ross making noteworthy additions to the company. A rambling gothic epic played out in cast-off bridesmaid’s gowns, formal wear and beautiful masks crafted by Gregorio de Masi, the production was additionally supported by a specially rendered, limited edition comic book by artist Cody Rishell using excerpts from the Nataraj script for its storylines. Closing out the year was a formal reading of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, put together as a benefit to help raise money for Equality California’s fight against the passing of Prop 8, banning gay marriage in the state. Featuring Nathan Tucker as Shylock, Stuart Bousel as Bassanio, Kendra Arimoto as Portia and Christopher Kelly as Antonio, the all gay/lesbian/bisexual cast performed the text for a full house and followed it with a discussion panel including premiere west-coast Shakespeare scholar Denise Battista, famed international author Peter S. Beagle, and John Fisher, artistic director of Theater Rhino and noted Yale theater professor. The evening was recorded and later aired on the radio and over $1,300 was raised.
Perhaps the crown jewel of the 2008-2009 season was the world premiere of David Duman’s romantic comedy, Fishing. Based on his experiences as a waiter in a seafood restaurant, the comedy was staged at Periscope Cellars in Emmeryville, marking No Nude Men’s first production to leave the borders of San Francisco. Directed by Stuart Bousel, the show was mounted in a truly atmospheric staging in the tradition of Phaedra and Edward II. The cast and crew created a mock restaurant in the middle of Periscope’s industrialized warehouse (formerly a naval submarine repair facility), with the audience sitting at wine barrels turned tables and the cast using an actual test kitchen as the kitchen where the bulk of the play took place. Featuring Rik Lopes and Kendra Arimoto in the leads, Rana Weber and Matt Gunnison as a pair of neurotic yuppies, John Russell and Jennifer Gebhardt (in her No Nude Men debut) as worldly wise waiters, the show played an eighteen performance run bolstered by excellent reviews before heading down to Los Angeles for an encore performance at the Dramatist Guild stage for new works where it was equally well attended and received- thus also making it the first No Nude Men show to go on tour.
The 2009-2010 season continued to take No Nude Men new places. The San Francisco Theater Festival saw another mainstage production by the troupe, this time Stuart’s adaptation of a Peter S. Beagle short story re-titled Tai-Sharm And The Great King of Baraquil. Marking the No Nude Men debut of Ashley Cowan, and return performances from regulars like Christopher P. Kelly, Matt Gunnison, Chantel Benson and Kendra Arimoto, the short was featured as the opening for the festival headliners, performers from Wicked and Beach Blanket Babylon. Incorperating puppet and storyteller theater elements, the fully costumed period piece was well-received and heavily praised by both audience and festival staff alike. Following their first ever company retreat at the Sacramento Youth Hostel in September, a flurry of new productions and events began. A traveling salon dedicated to monthly casual readings of famous plays was put into effect. Long time company member Wylie Herman executive produced, directed and wrote his first full length No Nude Men show, Better Homes and Ammo, featuring company staples Molly Benson, Warden Lawlor, Cassie Powell and James Tinsley. Widely acclaimed by critics, the show ran three weeks in December, finishing out the year. But by February another No Nude Men first had occurred when the company stepped in as co-producers with Three Wise Monkeys on the 9th Annual Bay One Acts Festival. Stuart Bousel’s short, bittersweet comedy, Housebroken, was one of eleven plays included in the program, which also featured work by Tim Bauer, William Bivins, Meg Cohen, Bennett Fisher, Daniel Heath, Sam Leichter and Lauren Yee. Directed by Claire Rice, it featured Kirsten Broadbear and Ryan Hayes in addition to the No Nude Men debuts of Julia Heitner and Andrew Strong. A fast-paced, tightly directed twenty minute fable about a couple who adopt an unruly grand piano, the piece garnered an extremely positive reception and critical praise for the script, acting and directing across the board, becoming one of the standouts in what all agreed was among the strongest years in BOA’s history.
2010 continued to be a year of success for No Nude Men, with collaboration between the company and Conlan Media Group, representatives for Peter S. Beagle, author of Giant Bones, newly adapted for the stage by Stuart Bousel and given its world premier at the Exit Theater in May. Featuring a universally praised cast of ten including Rik Lopes, Mikka Bonel, Jay Smith, Jessica Rudholm, Katrina Bushnell and Warden Lawlor, the show reset the bar for largest production in the company’s history, with forty-one costumes designed and crafted by Jennifer Pokas and Max Larson, numerous puppets and props (including a twelve foot-tall glowing giant) imagined and wrought by Lanie Wieland, an original score composed by cast-member Kai Morrison and played live each night on backpacker and harp by himself along with fellow actors Christopher Struett, Paul Rodrigues and Sara Breindel, and numerous sound and light effects orchestrated by Jim Lively and Wil Turner, respectively. Set designer Joshua Saulpaw transformed the Exit into a Renaissance era fantasy of white-washed walls and oak panels, chandeliers and scarlet curtains. Critics lavished the show with praise and many encouraged future productions, hoping to help launch what some perceived as a potential new classic. Exhausting as it was incredible (oh, the stories stage manager Seanan Palmero could tell!), the legacy of the show continues to echo and even the gala weekend party, thrown by executive producer Connor Cochran, has earned itself a footnote in the cannon of Bay Area Theater legends.
Mythology being central to the No Nude Men world is an easily ascertained truth but in July it attained its rightful focus with the company’s new flagship production, the San Francisco Olympian Festival. A four week event composed of dramatic readings of twelve new full length plays- each about one of the twelve Olympian gods and each by local writers- the festival featured 72 actors, original artwork for each show created by 11 different artists, and an array of raffle prizes from the traditional bottle of wine (Dionysus) to the outlandishly bizarre briefcase filled with Red Bull energy drinks (Hermes) and an action war pack, including an authentic hunting knife (Ares). With almost every night selling out (Poseidon, Hera and Artemis all required extra rows of chairs) and a plethora of press attention the new works extravaganza was an unquestionable success, ensuring it would return in subsequent years.
Rounding out the summer on either end was a pair of one short plays included in larger collections. Marking No Nude Men’s debut with fellow indy theater company Piano Fight as part of their Short-Lived Play Competition, Word War” was a text-message dating saga penned by Ashley Cowan and directed by Julia Heitner, both relatively new but very welcome additions to the company. In August, founding members Nirmala Nataraj and Ryan Hayes brought A Grave Situation to the San Francisco Theater Festival mainstage. A thirty minute meditation on death complete with songs and dancing, and staring company staple Carl Lucania, the show continued the ensemble’s tradition of finishing the summer on a high note, before going dark for the rest of the year in preparation of a busy 2011.
No Nude Men had its most ambitious year in 2011, with six productions hitting the stages of San Francisco. The year began in March with a full production of Bennett Fisher’s Hermes, one of the highlights of the 2010 Olympians Festival. Directed by Tore Ingersoll Thorpe, the show transformed the Exit Stage Left into an airport terminal (design work by Alejandro Acosta, Aubrey Millen, Tanya Orellana and Colin Trevor) and featured a tightly directed cast of actors who local critics lavished with praise, particularly Brian Trybom in the title role and Geoffrey Nolan as an ultimately sinister male ingénue who helps condemn a struggling nation to economic disaster. The attention the play received has since led to national and international productions- including a translation into Greek! At the same time, Julia Heitner brought M. R. Fall’s Test Preparation to life as the 2011 No Nude Men contribution to BOA 10, garnering the company yet another national nod when it was included in the festival highlights article in the Huffington Post. Over the summer, founding member Ryan Hayes brought his one man show about Walt Whitman to the San Francisco Theater Festival and artistic director Stuart Bousel directed the premiere production of his new full length, Edenites, this time transforming the Exit Stage Left into an apple tree shaded beer garden where the secret and not-so-secret lives of ten San Franciscans played themselves out over a pair of body outlines. Wil Turner IV, who had previously assisted James Tinsley on past No Nude Men shows, made his lighting designer debut and built a canopy of multi-colored lights that hung like branches over the theater-in-the-round playing space. Another critical success (with leading lady Kirsten Broadbear and supporting players Kira Shaw and Christopher Struett receiving a particularly large amount of praise), the show made an excellent set up for the next round of the Olympians Festival.
Sub-titled “Heavenly Bodies”, the second Olympians Festival was centered on gods and characters of the sky: from Selene, the Moon, to Zephyrus, the West Wind, and those mortals who inspired such constellations as Cassiopeia and Orion, or the various moons orbiting Jupiter. Dramatically larger in scope, this year’s festival included 32 plays (a mixture of full lengths, one-acts and shorts), written by 29 writers, acted by 75 performers, supported by 15 directors, 11 fine artists, 3 composers and 1 choreographer. In addition to the usual commissioned posters, art director Cody Rishell was able to secure a month long showing at the Café Royale of the original pieces created for the festival, including five beautiful mosaics by Molly Benson and stunning ink and collage works by Emily C. Martin. The art was debuted at the opening party on October 1st, which marked the beginning of the festival and included a ten minute preview of the plays to come. A year of leaps for the Olympians, marketing included an iPhone ap created by Kirk Shimano and an article about the festival appeared in American Theater Magazine. Perhaps the best news of all was the announcement that Exit Press would publish a collection of the previous year’s highlights, five plays in total, by Stuart Bousel, Bennett Fisher, Evelyn Jean Pine, Nirmala Nataraj, and Claire Rice. Larger and more exhausting than anyone had expected, it’s not unsurprising that the final production of the year was a return to basics: a stripped down evening of three short plays (all of which had been work-shopped at the original No Nude Men retreat) by long time No Nude Men collaborators Hilde Susan Jaegtnes, Alison Luterman and Claire Rice, directed by Claire, Sara Judge and Stuart (respectively) and collectively titled Ladies In Waiting. An exploration of women by women writers, the show was also a celebration of the company’s core values of good text and good actors.
2012 proved a slower year for No Nude Men, with two productions back to back in the springtime followed by a summer off and the third installment of the Olympians Festival in the final month of the year. March opened the season with Susan Sobeloff's Merchants, a new full length drama directed by Stuart Bousel and starring a cast four (Tony Cirimele, Maura Halloran, Ariane Owens, Trish Tillman), all of whom were making their No Nude Men debut with the show. Featuring scenery by Joshua Saulpaw and lighting by Wil Turner IV, the show was the only full length production put on by the company in 2012, but they once more participated in the Bay One Acts Festival, with Claire Rice returning as director for Erin Bregman's short play In Search Of Explosive Possibility, an experimental piece mixing emerging feminist sensibility with the phenomena of stem cell research. The third installment of the San Francisco Olympians festival was produced at the Exit in the month of December, with each night featuring a pair of one acts (for a total of twenty-four), one focusing on the Olympian gods, and the other focusing on their reciprocal Titan counterpart, the age-old showdown picked to tie in the "End of the World" theme that had permeated so much popular art that year.
A partial return in 2013 saw a short reading festival at the end of March and a limited engagement workshop of a new play by artistic director Stuart Bousel, The Age of Beauty. The Behind The Curtain festival was three nights of play readings, each featuring a full length (by Marissa Skudlarek, Meghan O’Connor, and Stuart Bousel, respectively) in the backstage comedy genre. The Age of Beauty, an all-female comedy composed of monologues and conversations between eight different women, played for nine nights in the Exit Studio, featuring Megan Briggs and three No Nude Men debuts by Allison Page, Emma Rose Shelton and Sylvia Hathaway. Wil Turner and Jim Lively returned on the lighting and sound fronts, but the show was so small Stuart ran the tech himself for all nine performances. Simple and economical, Age of Beauty profited and received generally favorable reviews, while also helping to keep the company growing. A fourth year of the Olympians Festival, this time drawing its themes from the Trojan War, proved to be the biggest year of the festival yet, with 30 writers, 12 directors, 25 artists, 92 actors and 4 crew members. Projects ranged from a one woman show by Megan Cohen and two-handers by Anthony Miller and Sam Hurwitt (the later making his playwrighting debut), to a sixteen person epic by Stuart Bousel, which now holds the title for the largest single Olympians show yet. Well-received and well-attended all around, plans for the fifth year of the festival began as the year came to a close.