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Actors slip into birthday suits for revealing 'vulnerability vigil’

Fringe performers to get naked outside Vancouver Art Gallery
In 2012, Tasha Diamant (second from left) took part in a vulnerability vigil outside the legislature in Victoria.

Performing can be a vulnerable experience. But this Friday a writer/actor is joining a performance artist to take vulnerability to a whole new level by appearing naked in public.

Robert McLaughlin, creator and star of the hit Vancouver Fringe play Jack the Ripper, will be standing naked with Tasha Diamant for a Vulnerability Vigil in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. According to the pair’s press release, “Vulnerability Vigils are a form of non-violent direct action to bring attention to our mutual vulnerability. Also, to be in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable.”

McLaughlin, 48, said as a self-described “dwarf” he is used to being stared at so getting naked in public won’t be that uncomfortable for him. “People always notice me clothed or unclothed,” he said.

He became interested in being involved in the project a few years ago when he saw Diamant perform in Edmonton. It is a “non-exploitive thing … that is empowering in a positive way,” said McLaughlin. While in his hometown of Edmonton there are still malls that do not allow public breast-feeding, he said he doesn’t expect there to be any public outcry over nudity in Vancouver. His only concern over fallout is if someone makes a YouTube video out of it.

Diamant, 51, said she still feels a little nervous about standing naked in the street, even though she has performed nude on stage for the past eight years in her show Human Body Project, which is on at the Fringe. She said she started her naked vigils in public to “turn the dial up on mutual vulnerability” and to express her “rage and grief” over the fact that humans don’t take care of each other very well.  

Diamant, who considers herself an activist, said not wearing clothes is “not about nakedness.” She said she is neither an exhibitionist nor a nudist and that shedding her clothes is about being as open as possible to challenge our culture.

“We live in a culture of domination: over nature, over our emotions, over people less fortunate, over women and children,” said Diamant who is the mother of two pre-teen girls. “It has been going on for millennia. It’s invisible to most people. We take it for granted.”

While this is the first time she has held a vigil in Vancouver, she has done it in Victoria and said the reactions have ranged from threats of arrest to being ignored. Both Diamant and McLaughlin say Vancouverites can join them, clothed or unclothed, Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. at VAG.

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