Club takes artistic license

Club Juana bills itself as "the finest in adult entertainment," with 11:30 a.m. happy hours and plenty of female dancers who, until recently, undulated in the buff.

Seminole County's anti-nudity ordinance has changed all that, and the vicious legal battles over that law (and a similar Casselberry-only ordinance) have become the stuff of local legend. Now the legend continues.

Morris Sullivan, an Orlando theater director and playwright (remember "Bimbo Elves in Bondage" last Christmas season?), under the influence of Bob Fosse, William Shakespeare and the Marquis de Sade, has created a 40-minute play to be staged in the club and performed by four of the club's regular dancers.

"They all have some theater experience," Sullivan says.

The piece is as-yet untitled. But its genesis has as much to do with a legal puzzle as it does with art. "I got a call from [civil-rights attorney] Steve Mason -- oh, gosh, about a couple months ago," Sullivan says. "They were trying to understand what exactly is meant in the Seminole County ordinance by ‘artistic production.'"

"They" were Club Juana owner Mike Pinter and Mason, his lawyer. So did Sullivan steer his dramatic talents in the direction of these legal concerns?

Oh, my, yes. "The attorney said something about the Marquis de Sade, I think without really knowing who he was," says Sullivan. "He was a Victorian guy who was busted repeatedly for obscenity and eventually jailed." De Sade then wrote "The Politics of the Bedroom," which Sullivan is adapting -- along with parts of "MacBeth" -- for the Club Juana show. Given de Sade's reputation for raciness, does this mean we'll see lots of sex acts? "Really I'm toning it way down," Sullivan explains. The dancers will, however, perform unclothed.

Another of the pieces in the play is about a girl who loves cybersex, Sullivan says; the research for that piece came two years ago as he produced a feature story for this newspaper.

The show's players are volunteers who auditioned after notices were posted at the club. "Audition," though, is perhaps not the right word. "I'm sort of looking at it the way I do workshops with students -- hold auditions to see how many I have and what their abilities are," Sullivan says. "I'm not looking to stretch anyone's abilities too far."

Sullivan's show will not be the first to challenge a nudity ban. In 1995 and 1996, plays were staged at nude beaches in Palm Beach and Brevard counties, respectively. Players were arrested in both cases, although charges were dropped and some of the arrested countersued and won damages. The Brevard play, at Playalinda Beach, was part of a long-term battle over the status of nudists on federal property there.

The Juana show has not yet been scheduled, says Sullivan, in part because a key player has injured her foot. So for now patrons will have to be content with the usual "girl-on-girl oil wrestling with audience participation."

But when the show debuts, says Sullivan, police will be invited.

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