[A short excerpt of a draft play titled “The Model” adapted to fit my experience with Erica and the Embody Project]
The stage is fully lit. Four artists (Erica, Skip, Tebbe, and Mark) with art pads are standing behind easels. Center stage a low rectangular platform is lit by a solitary directional lamp. Seated on the edge of the platform is a single model, David, in a blue robe exchanging pleasantries with the artists. He asks if everyone is ready to begin. They all nod and David rises and stands on the small stage. He casually kicks off his flip flops and comfortably slips out of his robe, dropping it to the side. David begins a series of short one minute gestures effortlessly moving from the first to the next, ticking off the seconds in his head, until ten poses have been completed. As agreed, he places a stool and sits for his first of three ten minute poses. As he remains still all the action and conversation takes place among the artists intently sketching. The lights grow dim on the model as the tranquility of the scene is broken by Mark.
Mark: “I’m very impressed. David is a great model”
Erica: “What do you mean? How do you define a great model?”
Mark: “Well, it’s a model that doesn’t shrink back when they’re nude, comfortable in their own skin. A model who shies away has to be constantly directed. That’s distracting. David seems very comfortable and more importantly confident in what he is doing. He holds great poses and provides a wonderful sense of energy in his stillness.
Erica: “Yes, I can see that. He does appear to be very good. (To Skip) How important is it to draw all different shapes and sizes?
Skip: We as artists appreciate using different types. (Chuckles) We can’t always use a Christie Brinkley. The world is made up of all kinds.
Tebbe: (With a sly grin) Yeah, but having her up there for one night wouldn’t be a bad thing. But seriously, I love using all types in my work. It makes for very interesting art.
Lights go down on the artists and up on David as he puts on his robe and addresses the audience with his monologue.
David: I can pose all day and never think twice about being nude. Go figure. I have saggy breasts, a gut (no six pack, more like a keg). My butt is huge. I’ve got cellulite, blemishes, a prominent mole on my nose, and crooked teeth. But just look at them (points to the artists drawing). I’m sure their perceptions are much different than mine. You heard Mark. I imagine they see circles, triangles, squares, lines, and contrasts, even negative space. I know they appreciate my modeling. But from my perspective there’s definitely no “negative space” in this package.
But the artists that see those qualities pass no judgement other than my abilities to hold a pose and to project energy in a static stance. It’s a comforting feeling to be viewed as an aesthetic object of beauty. Much different than the feeling I get when I’m at the beach. My level of comfort greatly wanes. Are people staring? Are they laughing? If truth be told probably not many are truly looking my way – completely opposite the intense focus I get in the studio. But should I really care? I think it’s sad that I can’t view myself in the same way the artist does. How liberating would that be?
But I judge myself. Passing a mirror out of the shower I view myself as not “The Model” on the platform but as David, with love handles, uneven eyes, double chin and jowls. Why can’t I see myself as the artist does – someone who is appreciated for what he gives and provides – inspiration and excellence? Isn’t that who I really am?
The lights go up once again on the artists as David steps up on the platform, slips off his robe as before, and positions himself for the next pose.