When “Take Me Out,” a baseball play with nude shower scenes, first hit Broadway, there were no iPhones in theaters because they hadn’t been invented yet.
This year, when the acclaimed play returned for its first revival, the nonprofit hosting the show instituted a no-phone policy, requiring patrons to put their phones in locked cases before entering the theater, in an effort to avoid photographing nude actors.
The effort failed.
This week, someone posted a naked video on social media of Jesse Williams, a star of the play, in a shower scene. The video was widely circulated.
The incident sparked outrage from both Second Stage, the nonprofit organization that produces the play, and the Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents stage performers.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the creation and distribution of photos and videos of our members during a nude scene,” Kate Shindle, the union’s president, said in a statement. “As actors, we regularly agree to be vulnerable on stage to tell difficult and challenging stories. This is not to say that we agree that such vulnerable moments should be widely shared by anyone who feels like sneaking a recording device into the theater.”
Second Stage, which distributes Playbills with an insert reminding users that “photos and videos are strictly prohibited,” issued its own statement, saying “we are dismayed that this policy has been violated” and that “Taking photographs of any naked person without their consent is illegal. highly objectionable and may have serious legal consequences.”
The theater said it was trying to remove the online videos and was adding theater security to enforce its phone ban.
Second Stage has been using Yondr bags to restrict phone use: when patrons arrive, they are asked to turn off their phones and place them in the locked bags, which patrons hold during the show, then return them to be unlocked afterward. let it end finished. The system, used at some comedy shows, pop concerts and other live events, is flawed: Some people have figured out how to open those bags, while others smuggle in phones despite the rules.
“Take Me Out,” written by Richard Greenberg, is about homophobia in baseball; Williams plays a star of the team who comes out as gay and faces discomfort from some of his teammates. In 2003, the drama won the Tony Award for Best Play; this week, the current revival garnered four nominations, including one for best revival and three for actors, including Williams, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Michael Oberholtzer. Oberholtzer can also be seen, nude, in some of the online videos.
In the run-up to the show, Williams, best known for “Grey’s Anatomy,” opened up about nudity. “He is terrifying in every way,” he said on “The Ellen Show” last year. In an interview this year with The New York Times, he was more optimistic. “I’m here to do things that he’s never done before,” he said. “I have a life, that I know of. It will be OK.”