Everybody getting naked up in here.
By Kimberly Lew (Playwright/Blogger)
In case you're not familiar with cheap relaxation mecca Spa Castle, out in the mists of Queens lies a palace, a four-story warehouse filled with saunas and pools with jets to soothe every sore muscle you can imagine. For an entrance fee, you're granted unlimited access to the facilities: soaking in the heat of a jade-covered sauna room and lets jets massage your feet underwater. It's basically a waterpark for adults or a waterslide-less waterpark for kids.
For the most part, the facilities require you to wear a uniform around the premises (equivalent of a t-shirt and gym shorts), with the pool areas being where everyone shows off their bathing suit finest. But downstairs in the locker rooms, there are a set of spas that are naked-only.
I'm hardly an exhibitionist, but participating in these particular spas seems like a rite of passage. And as I shed my clothes and dashed into one of the pools, I found myself strangely more comfortable chillin' freestyle than I thought I would. When I wondered why, I came to a realization: we were all naked. We were imperfect, but we were all exposed. And with an awareness that we were all freely putting our flaws out there, it became a lot less daunting putting things out in the open.
I also realized that this is, ideally, how communities are made. Especially when creating art, we as individuals always feel exposed (or should, if you have a stake in it). But the beauty of working in a team is that, if everyone cares and is willing to do their best, everyone is equally exposed. Everyone has something to lose. Everyone is relying on everyone else to have faith that the emperors among them might have clothes. There's something kind of beautiful about that.
The truth is that trust isn't given freely; but we can earn it by shedding our guards and being more open. There's a reason why they advise calming your nerves by imagining your audience is naked. And when we also acknowledge that everyone is baring themselves, we can see ourselves as not just being naked, but being a part of just a naked community.
KIMBERLY LEW is a playwright with two published one-act plays for high schools, as well as full-length Searching for Candi (co-written with Gabriella Miyares), which debuted at Mt. Holyoke college. Her latest play, Other People's Children, was recently featured as a part of The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective's new works reading series and was a semi-finalist for the 2012 O'Neill Playwrights Conference and Ashland New Play Festival. She also created/manages the Emerging Musical Theatre blog. www.kimberlylew.com
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