Audra McDonald calls out theatre goer for photographing nude scene

Audra McDonald and a smartphoneImage copyright
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Audra McDonald has won six Tony Awards and appeared in The Good Wife and Grey’s Anatomy

An actress currently starring in a Broadway play has criticised an audience member for taking a photo of a scene in which she appears nude.

Audra McDonald is appearing in a new production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, which opened in May.

“To whoever it was in the audience that took a flash photo during our nude scene today: Not cool. Not cool at all,” she tweeted after Sunday’s show.

Taking photos during performances is forbidden by most theatres.

Before the show opened on Broadway, McDonald gave an interview to The New York Times in which she discussed her nervousness over the scene.

“Maybe strippers get real used to it, but for me, there’s nothing normal about that,” she said. “So there’s nowhere in my mind that I can drift off and let this just kind of happen because everything about it is demanding that you be present.”

The photographer has not yet been identified. Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, which is directed by Arin Arbus, runs until this Sunday.


McDonald has appeared in TV series such as The Good Wife and Grey’s Anatomy, and her theatre credits include productions of Twelfth Night and Henry IV. She has won six Tony Awards, including one for her portrayal of Billie Holiday.

The show, which is a revival of the 1987 play written by Terrence McNally, stars McDonald alongside Michael Shannon and opens with a graphic sex scene.

Producers of the show hired a so-called “intimacy co-ordinator” to work with the actors in choreographing the scene.

Media captionIntimacy director advises BBC drama about shooting sex scenes

Such co-ordinators are becoming more common on dramatic productions, including the recent BBC series Gentleman Jack, after the #MeToo movement raised questions about how well actors are protected from sexual abuse.

While most theatres have smartphone bans in place to protect the intimacy of performances, taking photos or videos on smartphones has become ubiquitous at pop concerts.

But some musicians and comedians – including Chris Rock, Alicia Keys and Dave Chapelle – have employed companies such as Yondr, who provide audience members with lockable pouches for smartphones on their way in to a performance.

It is a move favoured by a growing number of music stars including Jack White.

For comedians, this stops future ticket sales being damaged, amid fears audiences will not pay to hear jokes they’ve already watched online.

This isn’t the first time the issue of photographs of nude scenes has come up in the theatre industry.

Image caption

Kathleen Turner appeared nude on stage during a production of The Graduate

Kathleen Turner appeared nude in a production of The Graduate, which opened in the West End in 2000, and later transferred to Broadway.

“There were photographers in the audience taking pictures of Kathleen Turner. How revolting is that? Despicable,” said Glynis Barber, who played the same role in a later production.

“Kathleen was the first one to do it. She was told she didn’t have to do anything that made her feel uncomfortable. It was her choice, and her choice only, to take her clothes off.

“That was her decision. But you don’t expect camera bulbs to be flashing when you are in the middle of a performance. The producers have given us complete freedom to choose.”

Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw also experienced pictures being taken and printed by newspapers. The Sun had a photographer attend the opening night of The Blue Room, which she was starring in, and published the images the next morning.

Image copyright
Getty Images

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The Sun published photos of Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw’s nude scenes

“I had been warned about it, that there was a large price tag for photographs of the first night – and, sure enough, they were there,” Shaw told The Irish Times.

“They were thrown out after the first time [they took photographs], but it had upset the audience, which annoyed me more. They had been completely comfortable with the play until the flashes started going. In a way, though, it got all that out of the way at the beginning and I could concentrate on the play.”

In 2009, nude photographs of Anna Friel appeared online while she was playing Holly Golightly in a West End production of Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

“Front of house staff have been put on alert to spot mobile phones because of Anna’s nudity. This is a serious production and they don’t want the naked scenes to be the only talking point,” someone close to the production told The Telegraph at the time.

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