Some community theaters tackle 'Liaisons' without nudity

'I want the audience to be titillated, then imagine what happens. It isn't as seductive seeing it as imagining it.' - Nancy C. Jones

In addition to the Naples Players, at least seven additional community theaters in the United States and Canada plan productions of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" in their 2012-13 seasons. The Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival is also mounting a professional production in February 2013.

The Daily News attempted to contact five of the companies to see how they handled the provocative and sensual material.

A University of Kentucky production, currently running in Lexington, uses no nudity, although the director considered the option and had actors willing to strip bare in front of audiences.

"I was willing to go wherever I though the piece would take me," "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" director and University of Kentucky Department of Theatre chair Nancy C. Jones said.

Jones moved Christopher Hampton's script into an early 1980s French punk rock setting, with modern costumes and a strong, pulsating soundtrack. She also added an ensemble of six actors to act as servants and stage crew, moving the furniture and serving as a bridge between scenes.

'I was willing to go wherever I though the piece would take me,' 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' director and University of Kentucky Department of Theatre chair Nancy C. Jones

University of Kentucky

"I was willing to go wherever I though the piece would take me," "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" director and University of Kentucky Department of Theatre chair Nancy C. Jones

Her ensemble served another purpose - to keep the audience in suspense about what they might see - or might not see.

She describes her production as "you never see anything happen, you see it about to happen."

Jones repeatedly uses the word "titillating" as she enthusiastically describes scenes, especially one of the show's most controversial, where the Vicomte de Valmont seduces the underage, fresh-out-of-the-convent Cecile. Jones set the action on a bed in the center of the stage, with the Cecille character in a nightgown. As the scene climaxes, the ensemble surrounds the couple, dances to the wild soundtrack and then whisks the bed off the stage.

"I want the audience to be titillated, then imagine what happens," Jones exclaimed. "It isn't as seductive seeing it as imagining it."

'We are finding that the scenes are so sensual and uncomfortable at times that we have plenty to challenge the audience without nudity,' Kirsten Trump, University of Shenandoah.

University of Shenandoah

"We are finding that the scenes are so sensual and uncomfortable at times that we have plenty to challenge the audience without nudity," Kirsten Trump, University of Shenandoah.

Kirsten Trump, director of a production at Shenandoah University in Virginia, about 75 miles outside Washington, D.C., says that her group has a history of doing "conservative theater." Trump calls the material "provocative" but elected to do the show sans bare skin.

"We are finding that the scenes are so sensual and uncomfortable at times that we have plenty to challenge the audience without nudity," Trump said.

Shenandoah plans one brief moment of skin, in a scene where Valmont writes a letter on the back of a courtesan during a break in their lovemaking. Hampton's script contains no real directions for staging; theaters can opt to make the scene as chaste or daring as they wish.

"We will be offering some low back in the … desk scene, but otherwise we will be working without nudity," Trump said.

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