On again, off again 


The first indignity suffered by the theater piece The Naked Guy was that it was forced out of its scheduled venue.

The second indignity was that a pivotal character had to cover himself with gray boxer briefs for what was supposed to be his climactic nude scene.

By Monday, the one-hour play was back to the full monty, but not before the Orlando Fringe Festival had the usual debate about art and censorship -- all over a single character who bares himself for a total of three minutes in a comedy, ironically enough, about censorship.

"The sad thing is we're having one of our best years, and nobody is talking about that," says Fringe organizer Matt Wohl. "Everyone's talking about nudity."

"The Naked Guy's" problems began after its original Fringe venue, the Church Street Exchange, said "under no circumstances" would the play's troupe be allowed to perform there. The Exchange, citing its "family-themed" environment, had discovered that "The Naked Guy" contained an actual naked guy.

As a last resort, another production agreed to switch venues with "The Naked Guy" to get it out of Church Street.

Everything seemed set until two policemen showed up at "The Naked Guy" late Saturday night, asking questions and implying that arrests might be made.

"They were nice guys," Wohl says. "They came to check us out but didn't go into the venue." Wohl says several levels of city government bureaucracy had misled the officers into thinking they had to issue a warning.

The message that got back to Dennis Giacino, the writer and co-producer of "The Naked Guy," was that if the actor who portrayed the character Josh went on stage naked, he would be arrested.

"That's a first," says Giacino, whose play has run for two years. "We've never had the police visit us before."

Giacino notes that "The Naked Guy" even ran in a city-owned venue for two weeks in 1998 as part of a Central Florida Theater Alliance production.

Members of the Oops Guys Comedy Troupe, which performs "The Naked Guy," agreed to censor themselves instead of risking arrest. So Josh wore Hanes boxer briefs onstage during his Saturday and Sunday performances.

By Monday afternoon, Wohl and Giacino had straightened out the misunderstanding with Orlando police, and at Monday night's performance the title character stripped to his birthday suit.

"They're perfectly legal as long as they're not having open displays of sex onstage," says police Sgt. Orlando Rolon.

Giacino was happy to put the incident behind him. "Really, our main goal is to make people laugh," he says. "We're really bad at drama."

Wohl, meanwhile, was pleased to see creativity triumph over bureaucracy, if not censorship. "It's a great day for art in Orlando," Wohl says. "This says that you can freely express yourself in this city. You can express yourself within reason, and you'll be fine."


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