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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Do This Tonight: Naked Men Reading H.P. Lovecraft at Stage Werx

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 10:30 AM


For those of you who didn't get the handbook, Rule 34 of the Internet states: "If you can imagine it, there is porn of it. No exceptions." Even if you keep Rule 34 in mind, H.P. Lovecraft is kind of an odd choice of author to jerk off to. It's surprising how many people out there really seem to want to get it on with one (or more) of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones, the ancient gods who lurk beneath the earth and sea, patiently awaiting the day when they will rule again.

Even in the relatively innocent days of the Internet (before it had pictures), one of the most infamous newsgroups on Usenet was, much to the bewilderment of those who preferred their sexual partners not to have tentacles or require human sacrifice. Those who seek forbidden congress with creatures from beyond can even order dildos with the visage and form of dread Cthulhu himself.

San Francisco comedy theater company Ham Pants Productions is continuing the tradition this Wednesday with Naked Dudes Reading Lovecraft at Stage Werx Theater. While Naked Girls Reading has been a thing for long enough that it's practically a hipster institution, it's been considerably harder to find naked boys reading literature onstage (or anywhere).

Naked Dudes Reading Lovecraft is kind of a spontaneous deviation for the four-year-old Ham Pants, which puts on monthly comedy showcases at Stage Werx and has produced three full-length plays. "It was a Facebook joke," director and co-founder Andy Wenger confessed to the Weekly. "I was going to Naked Girls Read Sci-Fi, and I said, wouldn't it be funny if someone did Naked Dudes Read Lovecraft. It was just the first thing that came to mind, and everyone thought that I was being serious. So, we're doing it."

What's going to be presented on stage is a sort of "good parts" version of Lovecraft, with excerpts rather than full works being read out loud. This is probably a good choice on the part of Wenger and his partner Damien Chacona. As anyone who's actually read the stories knows, not only was Lovecraft's prose style a little dry, but some of his ideas about humanity are notoriously outdated. Many of his plot devices are based on the pseudo-science of eugenics, which had currency at the time, and Lovecraft himself was a notorious racist and xenophobe. That's definitely a consideration in Ham Pants's production: "We want to firmly avoid the racist bits," Chacona says.


His human characters, who usually wind up clinging to the bars of an insane asylum or being devoured by some hideous creature out of an inter-dimensional void, are not what keep people coming back for more. It's the creatures of the Mythos themselves. His most famous creation of course, is Cthulhu, who has been made into plushies and runs a campaign for President every four years, asking American voters the perfectly reasonable question, "Why vote for the lesser evil?" Equally fascinating are entities like Nylarthotep, Yog-Sothoth, or the blind idiot god Azathoth.

Pop culture tends to treat Cthulhu and his fellows with tongue firmly in cheek. But although Wenger and Chacona are comedians, they see Lovecraft as serious horror. "It's very much the basis of modern horror," Chacona says. "It's horror the way Freud is psychology. John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, Stephen King, and Metallica all borrow liberally from H. P. Lovecraft's work."

"I actually only just got into Lovecraft over the summer," Wenger says. "I loved it. I read it all, from top to bottom."

Wednesday night's reading will include excerpts from "The Rats in the Walls," "The Outsider," "The Strange High House in the Mist," "At the Mountains of Madness," and of course, "The Call of Cthulhu" along with some of Lovecraft's poetry. Each reading will last about 5-10 minutes, emceed by a discreetly clothed Wenger. Along with the reading, Wenger promises "pageantry" happening in the background. He was a little reticent to tell us exactly what "pageantry" includes, but we were able to extract a promise that no audience members would be sacrificed.

Naked Dudes Reading Lovecraft starts Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Stage Werx Theater, 446 Valencia, S.F. Tickets are $20.

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Chris Hall


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