Nudity in Theatre: Why Is It So Taboo?

Anthony J. Piccione

The naked body.

It is one of the last taboos in American theatre, or in any other form of American art, for that matter. Audience members will gladly accept all of the vulgar language and explicit in the world, but if an actor dares to appear without clothes on for even one short scene, all hell will break loose.

There are quite a few examples of how this is still the case even in 2017. Does anyone honestly believe that Equus would be anywhere near as famous of a play as it is, had it not been for the fact that it includes a man that is fully naked with his horse? Similarly, I have a hard time believing that if it weren’t for the last few moments of The Full Monty, anyone would care much for that show at all.

Even those who aren’t typically prudish individuals seem to focus a great deal on shows such as these that include nudity, even if it just for a few moments.

Why is this?

The modern-day theatre community – in terms of both the majority of theatergoers and the artists who produce the shows – has always been considered to be more edgy and progressive than much of the mainstream in American society. Yet still, there do seem to be quite a few people that are reluctant to see or be involved in a show where an actor is seen without clothes on for the entire audience to see. They might say otherwise, but the fact that it is a topic that is eluded to so much suggest that it is still a somewhat touchy issue in theatre.

This could simply be a larger cultural issue that goes beyond theatre, and it just so happens that producers and directors are trying to accommodate that. Yet if you ask me, it is not something that anyone in theatre should have to accommodate, as long as such moves would mean sacrificing or compromising on the artistic vision of the people involved in a show.

As I have mentioned before in previous columns, theatre is stronger when there is more of a variety in the amount of new theatre that is available to theatergoers, as well as when there is more diversity in terms of the content of such new theatre. This is only possible when the playwright has complete artistic freedom, without having to worry about any sort of cultural taboos in art or any fear of what might happen if he or she tries to tackle them, and these taboos very much include – in my opinion – nudity in theatre.

What do you think? Do you think that people are too sensitive when it comes to seeing nudity on stage? Do you think that maybe there are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed in theatre? Either way, please be sure to let us know in the comments section! We always love to hear the opinions of our readers…          


This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Student, playwright, actor, poet and blogger currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Anthony and his work, please visit his personal blog at Also, be sure to like him on Facebook (, follow him on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and view his work on the New Play Exchange (

Photo Joel Ryan