I’m not brave enough to take my clothes off on stage. While this sentence probably makes my Mom incredibly happy, it’s also a premature statement of admiration for the cast of The Full Monty, running at La Cite Francophone Theatre June 14 – 30.
The Full Monty is the story of six steelworkers who find themselves unemployed, and decide to launch a strip act as a means of earning some extra money. While the play’s primary focus extends much deeper than nudity, in speaking with Director Adam Mazerolle-Kuss, he stressed the amount of time put into ensuring that the actors would all be comfortable with exposing themselves – both physically and emotionally – on opening night. “The level of nudity required in the show is very high and that requires an absolutely astronomical amount of trust… I started working with the men in the first week, week and a half of rehearsals, learning some of the numbers that go with those scenes. Going really slowly, talking a lot. We spent time talking about how the men were feeling, checking in with each other… We have slowly worked to a point where the men were comfortable with each other, then we brought the cast in, and the men have gotten to a point where they’re comfortable with the cast, and now as we head into tech week, we add the technicians.”
The Full Monty is a musical comedy, with the emphasis on comedy. However, the light-hearted nature of the play doesn’t overshadow the questions the play raises about gender roles. Adam says, “it turns everything we subject women to about body and profession and gender roles and turns it upside down and puts it on the men… We’ve gotten so used to accepting that it’s okay to make a judgement about a woman’s size or height or career, but as soon as you make that judgement on a man, it becomes really obvious to the audience.”
In directing the show, Adam wanted to make sure that role reversal was front and centre – that the situation the men are in (unemployed, with their life circumstances out of their control) was constantly in the forefront of the audience’s mind. Adam says, “We get real insight into how hard it is for these guys to be unemployed and to just be hopeless… [There are] issues of what to do with yourself and how to pull yourself out of that depression, boredom, and feeling of being lost. We define ourselves by our first names and what we do in North America. These men have first names and no jobs. How do you define yourself if you don’t have a job?”
When I mention the setting of the play – a town with a resource-based economy – and the parallels to Edmonton’s own situation, Adam agrees that it’s an important play to stage in Edmonton. “The obvious draw of the show is for women. But it’s not just about men taking their pants off. This show is about everybody else in the community as well. Without the women, children and other people in these guys’ lives, there’s no point to this show. We don’t care how things go at the end if we don’t understand who the whole community is – who’s with them, who’s against them, and who shows up at the end to support them… If we don’t know who the characters are, we don’t really care if they take their pants off at the end. Otherwise, it would just be a Chippendales show. That’s not what this is.”
The Full Monty runs at La Cite Francophone June 14 – 30. Tickets are $28.50.
– Jenna Marynowski