Archive for July, 2017


The Work Behind Cosplay

From well-crafted Deadpool costumes to perfectly executed Harlequin make-up, the Canberra Cosplay community make it look effortless when showing off their outfits at conventions such as the Impact Comics Festival and CanCon. As someone wanting to one-day cosplay, I cannot help but wonder, what goes on in the sewing room?

Debri Madhatter

Picture: Debri Cosplay

Sitting down with two Canberra Cosplayers, Bri Edmonds (Debri Cosplay) and Jacob Murnane (Mischievous Cosplay and Games), I first ask what exactly is cosplay?

“Cosplay for me is dressing up as a character and representing them, or having fun and dressing up with friends. But I suppose if you wanna be really technical cosplay is costume play”, said Bri.

Jacob Munrane believes there is a misconception about Cosplay.

“A lot of people think that it’s limited to T.V. shows or movies. But I’ve seen someone who dressed as Aragon before the movie (Lord of the Rings) was made and designed the costume based on the description in the book, so cosplay is not just what you can see, it’s what you make of the character as well,” said Jacob.

The costumes are extravagant for sure, but how much work goes into making them?

“I think my quickest most complicated costume was my Mad Hatters one that took me a week…otherwise I do have one that I have worked on for about two months now and that’s probably the longest that I will work on a cosplay for,” said Bri.

Jacob agrees with his counterpart.

“It also depends on the detail in the costume. My Reaper costume is going to take close to 5 months of preparation, not only is it a head to toe piece, you’ve got some insane angles on it. The eyes will light up and it’s got L.E.D.S (Light-emitting diodes) included in the weapons. Not only do I have to physically make them (the weapons) and have to holster them like the actual character does, but I have to put the L.E.D.S in them as well and that alone is a lot of work,” Jacob said.

Jacob Cosplay

Picture: Mischievous Cosplay and Games

When asked about the costs of Cosplaying Bri answered without hesitation.

“A minimum cost of $200 per cosplay. That’s so you’ll have everything for it, because things like wigs can cost you from thirty dollars up, because you want quality,” Bri said.

Jacobs Reaper costume is going to cost him over $700 and Bri mentioned a friend of hers who commissioned a cosplay outfit that cost $1500. Although none of that seems to matter to Bri.

“Yes Cosplay can cost you thousands. You do have cosplayers who go for the cheaper option and sometimes it does show, but so long as they have fun it’s all good at the end of the day,” she said with a smile.

Now knowing the cost and hard work behind the look, I see sewing lessons in my future and the raiding of a piggy bank.

Naked Girls Reading

Pictured Left to Right: Ivy Ambrosia, Virginia Fizz and Ursula Wolfe

An attentive audience watch as Ursula Wolfe, Virginia Fizz and Tiffany Blue let the words of Terry Pratchett flow from their lips. The three enthrall the audience with their enthusiasm and vocal gymnastics, bringing Pratchett’s comical and zany characters to life. But this is no normal reading, as the only garb the three women were wearing, were mauve dressing gowns and those gowns have been discarded on the floor.   

Making my way up the Polit Bar stairs to watch Naked Girls Reading, I noticed the venue was filling up quickly. Venturing further through the intimate venue, I noticed four booths with nicely cushioned seating, chandeliers that shed a yellow crystallised light and an antique lounge where I chose to sit. 

The event was started in Chicago, on March 2009 by international showgirl Michelle L’amore 

As I sat and waited for the naked reading to commence, I noticed the highly verbose crowd was made up of people from varying ages and that there was an even mix of both males and females.   

Then soon as the three mauve figures made their way to the stage, there was no rock star cheer, no raucous round of applause, instead, silence 

As I wait for the reading to commence and with a brief intro by Tiffany Blue, the gowns slipped off to carpeted floor. At that moment it’s hard to know where to look. Looking intently at them could be seen as perving, but looking away could be seen as wrong. With nudity used in a burlesque or a tableaux performance you are meant to look at the body as its part of the art form. 

 

With a silent crowd watching on in anticipation, Tiffany Blue’s passionate voice lit up the stage and bought the world of Terry Pratchett to life. As her words washed through the crowd I became more comfortable. After the first session of five minute readings, their naked bodies were nothing more than a backdrop to the fun and crazy stories they were telling. 

Throughout the readings, a supportive crowd laughed and listened intently as Ursula, Virginia and Tiffany would add their own personality to each of their stories. At the same time a friendly staff would wonder around delivering an unusual array of menu choices from cheese platters to olive dishes.  

During the last of the three readings, I found myself gazing around the room. I could see people either paying their full undivided attention to the women, or with their eyes closed, painting their own images to the words. 

When engaging the audience for their thoughts one patron suggested, “There is something profoundly comforting and enjoyable about it,”  

Another said, “A lot of art is juxtaposition, and this is juxtaposition on steroids. The material anchors the experience, but the visuals make it something quite new. As an audience, there are a lot of ways to experience a performance like this, and a lot of stories to hear. Would watch/listen again”. 

 

As the night drew to a close the venue erupted in applause.  

I found that each of the women gave a committed performance and both the audience and venue added an amazing atmosphere. 

After the performance, a now fully dressed Ursula Wolfe, offers revealing insights into how and why the event works.  

Responding to a complement about her hair she smiles brightly “Thanks, I didn’t think it would come out this bright, but I really like it”. 

So what drew you into Naked Girls Reading? Soon as I asked the question the passion of her voice cut through the noise of the crowded café. “The importance of having a space where naked women were presented in a non-sexual context was really interesting, the whole idea behind Naked Girls Reading is to appreciate nudity as a form of beauty without it being seedy or a peep show. It wasn’t about sexual arousal, it was about just enjoying the human form in a completely natural state without it being for the purposes of titillation”. 

Ursula smiles at the waitress, and as she sips her coffee I ask her how does she best describe naked girls reading as an art form? 

 

She pauses for a second and her hands gesture as she says, “The easiest way to describe it, is literally it is what it say on the can”. She then goes on to explain “There’s something really beautiful about the simplicity of nudity and being read to as two separate ideas and pushing them together and creating something different. As children we are read to a lot, we had teachers and parents reading out to us and it’s something we don’t get a lot as adults and it’s a really simple pleasure. Then adding in the visual spectacle of beautiful women of all shapes and sizes and persuasions sitting nude in a really lavish context, I think it’s just a lot of fun, there is no highbrow element to it. It’s just purely naked girls reading”. 

I ask what books most engage the crowd? 

As she’s about to answer the question, a tall brown headed man wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, walks over with a Kit-Kat chocolate bar. He softly prods her shoulder and puts the chocolate on the table. With a smile and a brief holding of hands she focusses back on the question and says, 

“Anything that makes people laugh, I really love that because it gets the audience really engaged”. She talks about how she has found the audience’s favourite books are those of Terry Pratchett and Dr Seuss. She goes on to reflect on some of their misses, such as the Naked Girls Reading Erotica night.  

“It really didn’t go down well, which I thought was really interesting. It might be a step too far towards titillation and people seemed uncomfortable with the idea of naked girls reading about sexually arousing scenarios. So I don’t think that would be a theme we will be revisiting” she says laughing. 

I Asked about the amount of preparation needed, she says “personally I would rehearse for probably a good hour or so for each five minute reading”. She then goes on to explain the differences in difficulty between the books. She suggests Terry Pratchett is an easy read, due to its conversational nature. Where Dr Seuss, is trickier due to tongue twisters and rhymes that are easy to stumble over. 

  

I then enquire about a naked males reading event. 

This is met with a laugh “I get this asked a lot” as she talks about one of the issues being the London based Naked Boys Reading group being very protective of their copyright. She then clarifies that “there’s also a legal issue on why we won’t be able to do a Naked Boys Reading. There’s a very specific section of the Liquor Licensing ACT that deals with sexually explicit entertainment. It’s to do with the exposure of genitalia and women can get away with it a little bit more easily when we are sitting, we can have our knees together or our legs crossed, so everything is a little bit more hidden. It would be a bit harder for a guy, with all your stuff there,” she says giggling. “And the other thing is, because of those licensing laws we would have to put it on in a space such as a theatre or somewhere alcohol was not being served. So at the end of the day it just comes down to what we can legally do and what we can’t”.  

 

As I’m about to ask my next question, I briefly pause to tuck my chair in to let a patron squeeze past in a fast filling café. I then ask Ursula about any problems she has faced when trying to find a new venue for Naked Girls Reading? 

 

Her tone turns more serious as she talks about how there are very few venues in Canberra that has easy accessibility to a stage and adequate dressing room facilities. She acknowledges that some audiences at other venues struggle with the concept, “Naked Girls Reading might at times challenge a person’s views of feminism and the objectification of women. I can really see how that would be a difficult concept to reconcile”.  

As she takes a sip of her coffee and with the noise of the Café picking up, she goes on to say “But at the same time it comes from a misunderstanding of what Naked Girls Reading is about. We are a non-objectified way that you can be covered from head to toe and feel empowered or you can be uncovered head to toe and feel empowered. But it’s no one’s place to tell you what’s empowering and what’s not, it’s about the individual’s choice. In a society where female nudity is automatically designated as a sexual thing or as a titillating thing, female nudity is framed in the male gaze, which that’s what makes it objectifying. 

“So to then be presented with an event that reframes female nudity in a way that isn’t for any particular gaze, it’s just completely a non-objectified frame of reference for female nudity. It’s nothing we come across very often as a society and culture and it can be very challenging for some people to accept, that female nudity doesn’t have to be sexualised”.   

With Ursula working her way from being a performer to the creative director of Naked Girls Reading in Canberra, she has noticed that it has a large female viewership and she has found the female audience appreciate what they do. 

“I have had women who’ve come up to me after the show and say how much they’ve appreciated seeing women who are more curvy or women who look more like they do, or women who don’t shave. These are the things that we are challenging cultural attitudes while still being able to present something really beautiful and I feel like we have a lot of the odds stacked against us because we are having to work against so many preconceptions about female nudity and because the other issue is unfortunately because of those liquor licensing laws that we were talking about earlier I can’t fully open Naked Girls Reading to the whole gender spectrum.  

What about the future of Naked Girls Reading?  

She leans forward, “I am actually working quite heavily at the moment on bringing it into a more central location. We are looking for more venues closer to the city that are disability friendly and I also would like to start collaborating with events like Art, Not Apart and continuing our relationship with the Spring Out Festival for the LGBT community. And really just bringing it to different communities, audiences and seeing if there are places that would be interested in Naked Girls Reading, but not have necessarily heard of us and the real focus is making people aware of what we do”. 

After thanking Ursula, I’ve come to the conclusion that Naked Girls Reading is more than a fun and entertaining event. It also puts three very passionate women on a stage who are combating cultural attitudes, preconception, and law. There are different ways you can combat these things and Naked Girls are doing this all while enjoying a good book.   

 

 

kalee pic Naked Girls Reading

Pictured: Ursula Wolfe