Tag Archives: naked

Renewal, Part Two: Phantom Theatre

I awoke in time for a quick shower and change of clothes before heading down for a very special showing of Michael Whelan‘s artworks. I’ve been a fan Mr. Whelan’s work since his epic painting for “Bat Out of Hell II” graced that album, not to mention the “Dark Tower” series. There were champagne toasts and speeches, but I was wrapped up in the paintings … a nice lady was also inspecting the art and we had a brief chat about heart and art and the journey between. Later I found out this was none other than Olivia De Berardinis, whose amazing pin-up paintings and drawings I’ve admired since I can remember. I was a bit starstruck.

After a decent time spent in the gallery, we made our way down the street to dinner. I manged to overcome my anxiety of new people in small crowds and made a few new friends. The food was excellent and, even after the stress of travel and the long day, i was able to relax and get into a good mindset for my spot later. And then … things started turning, and slowly started getting real.

I’ve mentioned being starstruck and how it doesn’t happen to me often. I’ve tasted a little bit of fame, so celebrities are generally not intimidating to me. Then Paul Reubens (the artist who created and performed Pee Wee Herman) walked into the party. I was floored. Here’s an artist who created work on his own terms and gained the world through a character he invented … lost it all and, through sheer determination, made an inspiring comeback. I’m not stretching to say that he’s been a hero to me. I waited until he had said hello to friends and ate his dinner, then approached him about taking a picture … I didn’t want to interrupt his evening, but I really wanted to talk to him. He was at once shy, reserved and (conversely yet simultaneously) commanding of the entire room. He was a perfect gentleman as he declined taking a picture with me. He explained it just wasn’t a good moment for him, but possibly later in the weekend would be better. No problem, I totally get it. I was happy just to have a few words.

I left a bit earlier in order to get prepared for my performance. Erika had asked me to perform ‘The Naked Truth’ to close the evening show, and I was more than happy, though suddenly nervous. Lots of people I admire and respect and I was going to … yeah. What was I thinking, right?

The closing show for Friday was in the Chapel. All the usual accoutrements of an old Spanish chapel, including a thirty foot gold wall behind the pulpit, which I dubbed the ‘Papel Climbing Wall’. Well, I thought it was funny. Performances were accompanied by Kristian Hoffman (incredible), and began with a moving performance of Act 5, Scene 5 of Macbeth by Lindsay Benner (serious chills – she walked down the aisle of the Chapel in a robe, holding a candle and mesmerizing us all). 12141609_892943894076628_7503997406796079952_n

The act just before me was Prince Poppycock, an operatic harlequin.  The Prince absolutely blew me away with (among other songs) the most powerful rendition of ‘Rock N Roll Suicide’ since Ziggy himself. No exaggeration, the voice, the affectations … this was a broken heart proclaiming victory for all it was worth. I really shouldn’t be brought to tears just before a Naked Truth show.
(If you are unfamiliar with the Naked Truth, I describe the show here: Exposed.)

And then I was on. I stumbled through ‘Kate and Edith’ while staring out into the blackness. With the lights in the Chapel dimmed, all I could see was the spotlight, the stained glass, and a void. I had forgotten how much I rely on eye contact during this piece to flesh out the humor. One cannot mug to a black mirror. It wasn’t badly relieved, but after the high caliber of acts before me, my ‘fraud’ feeling was loud and harsh. About halfway through, I realized I had failed to prep anyone to lead the audience up … I was on my own in the dark. I very nearly fled to the backstage, and it was only the anxiety of how I might be viewed following that escape that kept my feet glued. I set up the audience for what was about to happen, and the silence was just heavy on me. I had no idea of how they were taking any of this (or honestly, if they were still out there at all). So I stripped, and I cued the music … raised my arms and … nothing happened. I could sense no movement, no sound for at least 20 seconds, which (trust me) is an eternity standing in terror in a spotlight. Then, from behind me, Poppycock stepped up, grabbed a pen and began writing, and the audience moved. I was suddenly completely surrounded and pens were moving furtively over my skin. People were frowning in concentration, some were crying and clumsily hugging me. I knew of only three specific things:

Poppycock finished and stood close by in support.
Jeff McBride came up and wrote many words .. completely covering my right shoulder. He wrote in a flourish, sober but whimsical, and honestly only Jeff McBride can accomplish that.
Through a trick of the reflections, I saw Paul Reubens’ face in the second row. He didn’t come up, but I could tell he was moved. I had his silent support.

When they were finished, I turned slowly to show the entire canvas, took my bows and left the stage. The response was loud and prolonged, and I shuddered my way back up toward ‘normal’.

Epilogue. 
I put on pants, leaving  the majority of the writing exposed, and followed Erika to a small room. For the next hour or so the audience came through in small groups and talked with me about the act. Some had questions, some simply wanted to let me know how they felt. They brought me water, and one brought me a bit of ice cream. It was surreal and beautiful. At some point I got fully dressed, because I was catching a chill. The ‘comedown’ from a Naked Truth show can be brutal, but I wasn’t alone. There was love in every direction.
Paul Reubens came in last, and alone. We spoke for over half an hour. He told me his feelings about what he saw. As private an individual as he is, I don’t feel comfortable sharing everything that was said without his approval, but he admired what I did. We spoke of art and fame and obesity. He was kind and open. I gained a friend.
As he was leaving, he paused and said,
“How about we take that photograph now?”

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The Naked Truth 5/5/16

Atlanta, Georgia.

I had an audience of about 40 people. A little above intoxicated, for the most part. Friends, loved ones, strangers.

The ‘Liar!’ portion of the show went beautifully .. new additions of ‘Rugby’ (a multiple card selection) and ring-linking were quite well received.

As I (kind of) expected, this audience had deeper-seeded issues. Some of the language in the photos below is pretty harsh.

For those new to this: I spoke to them about my own issues of body image and being in the middle of a crowd of people. I asked them to think of their own issues and one word or phrase that causes them shame or sorrow. A label unfairly placed on them that mutes their music or shames their spirit. I asked them to give their pain to me, for a little while. Write down their word or phrase on my skin and leave it behind for as long as they could. I took off my clothes and and let the crowd surround me, writing on my skin. I didn’t run or cower, though my mind was screaming at me to do so.

They wrote, they purged, they wept.
Two souls left me messages: one wrote, “You are love” and the other wrote “You are beautiful”. It humbled and renewed me.
The results are below. Probably NSFW.

Photographs by Megan sky.

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First Act

My first fully public show of 2016 was for the Lili VonSchtupp’s ‘Monday Night Tease show. Five fantastic dancers. one hilarious host and me … and I did card tricks.

That’s what I do, you know? The cards are my canvas.

And then, once again I took off my clothes and asked a big room of strangers to write their burdens on my skin. Way out of my comfort zone, far from home. (Of course, I had a fantastic support team, people that love me and care for me, but still …) If you are unfamiliar with this act of mine, here’s a description of a prior night: Blank Space

The results are powerful. Tears, thank yous … lots of personal stories. My art … my craft genuinely touched people. We bonded and I made some amazing new friends. I want to perform this again and again.

Brian C. Janes photographed the event, and the stories those pictures tell is outstanding. See more of his work at bcjmedia.com

Here is a small gallery of my portion of the show. I hope it speaks to you.
The Naked Truth

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Missing Peace

The Naked Truth
September 11, 2015

UpStage, Charlotte, NC

Aftermath

The pictures of most of the words are below. I’ve been struggling with what to say for weeks. Here it is, in all its muddled, ragged glory. On my body, the words literally burned. (This due to toxic reaction from marker ink, nothing woo) In my head … I hear these word yelled:

SLUT! WHORE! GARBAGE! WORTHLESS! COWARD! FAILURE!

These words, these feelings didn’t grow on their own. Someone placed them in someone else’s head. Two things go through my mind:
I hurt for the people who wrote on me. I became the coward, the slut … I felt shamed and humiliated. To carry such burdens daily and have them feed on you … well, honestly, I know that feel.

I hurt for the people who said these things in the first place. What must go through someone’s mind and soul that would cause them to plant such bitter fruit? What had they suffered through that led them to try and slough off some of it to someone new?

I stood like a Shaman and took on the burdens of my tribe. Backstage I had them photographed and read to me. Hateful words. Pointed words. Meaningless words. Meaningless words that have the potential to kill or lay ruin.

Women I love wrote whore and slut. Friends that I love wrote such words as DEBT, COWARD and Damaged. My son wrote MORON, and I knew where he heard it. Callous, unthinking gardeners sowing seeds of shame and hatred. It hurts and those written words have continued to weigh on me and hurt.

My friends, please stop. Stop cutting into your fellow travelers. Stop training them to dislike themselves. Stop judging, especially in your very limited experience. Heal, instead.

There was a kind, loving woman who met with me after. Her family told her growing up that she was inferior and not very smart because she was female. She would never, ever be equal to a man in task because: Women are stupid. Women are inferior. Her male relatives made bets about when she would become a teen mom.
Heinous, disgusting … but they themselves need care and understanding.

I wept. I watched the words fade daily and I wept, because these hurts were going back to their owners. Someone asked how I dealt with carrying these wounds. The answer is: I just did it. I surrounded myself with friends who love me and I poured myself out to them. I had a fall, a big one. They were there to make sure I could stand up again. I prayed. Not to a god, per se, but …

You know? Let me insert this right here. Believe how you want to believe. If religion is your drug of choice and it gets you through this insane, painful, beautiful world … I’m not going to shame you or disparage your choice. It’s right for you, and that’s perfect. BUT: if your religion prompts you to hate, hurt or demean another human being? You’re just plain wrong. Be the light. Be the love. Man … I’m dizzy up on this soapbox. Let me step down and wrap this up.

I can’t write any more right now. The pain is too great and my heart is breaking again. So, this (for now):

You can hurl words like spears, you can burn me and brand my pain onto my body. It’s still not me, this pain.

… or you could love.

Brace yourself. And please … let me hear your thoughts. Comment or email me (info@chrishannibal.com)
I really need to hear from you.

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I’ve Got a Blank Space

The Naked Truth
September 11, 2015
UpStage, Charlotte. NC

Part three

The Naked Truth
I stood in my bare feet, facing the crowd. They were with me, and behind my message. I placed a handful of colored markers and a couple of bar towels on the table. Here’s what I told them:

“All of us are carrying baggage. Some of it is light and some … are crushingly heavy. We have problems with our self image. Sometime, somewhere in our past, someone gave us a burden. Maybe we were made to feel stupid, or less than acceptable. For me, specifically, it’s two things: My body image and crowds. I’ve been made to feel self conscious of my size for years. And as for crowds, I can’t stand to be in the midst of a group. I can entertain thousands from a stage, I can have a great time with four or five friends in a group. More than that? I get anxious, edgy. I get quiet and remove myself. I always feel like the fifth wheel or the dumbest person in the room. Tonight I’m going to embrace both of those burdens for you. I’m going to remove my clothes and invite you all to come close.

But there’s more: I want you to think of your own burden, reduce it to one word or phrase. One word that sums up your fear, your frustration, your self deprecation. Choose a marker and write that word on my skin. Dry me with a towel first, if you need to. Write the word and agree to leave that burden with me for a short time. Don’t take it back with you. Let me carry it for a day or two. I can’t take it forever, but I can bear it for a few days.”

I played “Neverland” by Marillion during the final part.

I stripped down. Nervous and shaking. I could barely breathe. I was suddenly cold and embarrassed. The crowd … all stood and moved at once forward onto the stage. They took their pens and wrote on me. All over me. Moving my limbs and turning me slightly to reach. The audience, the bartenders, the servers … all joined in. Someone was in my face, writing on my forehead. They used the towels. They wrote. They cried, a few of them.

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It took roughly ten minutes. After about four, I had to close my eyes, because I was beginning to feel panic. I could still feel the hands on me, I could feel the claustrophobic press of the people. I felt the shame in my nudity. I was acutely aware of my flab and girth and … and more importantly I could feel them writing. I could feel, literally feel my body growing heavier as they unloaded their shames and pains onto me. So I stood. I didn’t run off the stage. The last author was my own son. He took a marker, put an x on my right nipple and wrote a word I couldn’t see on my belly.

I stood as everyone left the stage. I stood as they started clapping. I stood (dizzy) on my feet and absorbed the weights. I reached out for River and sky and we took our curtain call.  That was the end of the show, but there’s lots more that happened that night and in the days following. The story continues soon. Writing about how this makes me feel is far harder than I thought. I’m going to wrap it up in the next chapter, which I’m starting immediately. Please … I want to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment, positive or otherwise. Let me know what you’re thinking or feeling right now.

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#thenakedtruth

“Bakers gonna bake, bake, bake …”

Not everyone is going to like your art. Honestly, not everyone is going to like the really cool shoes you just adore …

So I’ve been getting some emails and texts and such from (well meaning?) people who want to discourage me from doing tonight’s finale’. Most of the reasons hover around ‘you’re just doing this for attention’. Now, this is a fair point and it is the truth. I am doing this for attention. I want your attention and I’m going to try to earn it during the first two thirds of the night.Once I have it, I want to give you my opinion. Then, I want you to take your pains or fears or whatever and write it on me. Symbolically GIVE IT UP for a little while. Be happy and unashamed. Be restful and relaxed. Realize how beautiful you really are.

That’s the idea. The entire agenda. And I’m going to do it again and again as long as I feel it helps even one person: It’s on.

Earlier today I got a text from a long time friend.It was the harshest plea of all. Unedited: “I don’t approve or appreciate the act you’re doing tonight. It’s all for attention and you’re being a pig. A whore about it. Nobody wants to see your flabby, pasty body. They are there because it’s a fucking freak show.”

It stings and my mind tells me there’s a lot of truth there, between the words. And if you are genuinely coming for the ‘freak show’? Come on ahead, there’s plenty of room for everyone. The point is: I dislike my body. Society dislikes my body. I’m fat. Big and fat. I get very uncomfortable in groups of people. Stand up in front of them and act, speak or do card tricks? Oh, yeah.Here I am. But … socialize? Hang inside of a group? I get very anxious.
So I’m embracing both of those fears head on and inviting others to cast theirs off.

That’s what I’m doing. Make up your own mind about how that makes you feel and SHARE it with me. Public or private. I won’t ‘out’ you for whatever your view is. I love you, and I want your unedited feelings. If you feel moved to write your insult on me: COOL. Do it. Get the bad feeling OUT and let me carry it away.

I do this out of love and hope. THAT is the naked truth.C__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_tumblr_ns7hgkuD5z1sk87juo1_400

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“It’s just a magic show”

I have some incredible fans. I have a bunch of friends who visit my little show again and again, and bring new people to see it. In almost every public show I do someone will say to me: “I didn’t want to come. I was forced or coerced to come. I don’t like magic shows, but this …”

In all humbleness, yes. Yes I have something different and it’s not like anyone else. Sure, there are card tricks, but there’s also heart and soul and pain and love in every second of this piece I’ve created.

Created with tears and heart and joy.

Last year I débuted an act after the main one. “The Naked Truth”. I talked truth to my audience and then stripped. I asked Them to write their own pains: Their body issues, fears … whatever They wanted on my skin and let me hold it for a while. The response was astounding. I wrote about it in detail here. There was a follow up on that post here. It touched people, it uplifted people.
It changed my own viewpoint about what and where my art should travel.

I’m doing it again. 10PM Friday, September 11 at UpStage in Charlotte, NC. I’m going to take you a little further down the road I’m travelling, then I’m going to invite you to hang your grief, your views, your love (if you want) on my canvas. This act is … extremely difficult for me. I’ve wrestled with it for a long time, but it is right, and I’m ready. I think.

This will be a magic show. And it will be much more. My friends River Nuri and Megan Sky will be presenting some powerful art as openers.

Please come. Please bring friends. The show is ‘Pay what you want’, and reservations can be made at

http://www.upstagenoda.com/events/the-magic-of-hannibal-with-special-guest-river-Nuri/

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