The show must go on, even if the clothes must come off.
After months of negotiations with University officials, a new theater company on campus has won the right to produce a show complete with full-frontal nudity.
Doug Wright's "Quills" - which covers topics like sex, pornography, religion and censorship - is slated to show in the Mitchell Theater in May.
"Quills" is an award-winning production set in 18th-century France that tells a fictional story of the last days of aristocrat Marquis de Sade, who was notorious for his pornographic novels and sadomasochism. In one scene, the character playing de Sade appears naked after asylum wards strip off his clothes.
The University almost pulled its support of the show this week because school officials said a D.C. law prohibits obscenity in theater productions. It was not until the play's director, senior Paul Rozenberg, presented evidence that no such law exists and argued the merits of his show that the school backed down from its decision to censor the show.
"It's been a trying few days. It's hard to see something that you've worked on for a while and thought of for years go through such trial and tribulation," Rozenberg said.
Originally the student theater group The Company, which formed last semester, planned on producing the play on Feb. 19 in the Mitchell Hall Theater. Because of the conflict, the play has been pushed to May and rehearsals were stopped for a short period of time this semester while the project was up in the air.
Student productions typically do not need University approval, but "Quills" was a special case because it contains nudity. In October, Rozenberg received verbal confirmation from the University that the group could produce the play as long as two conditions were met, Rozenberg said.
Rozenberg and Mario Peraza, Student Activities Center coordinator for student involvement, agreed that all posters would contain a disclaimer about mature content and nudity and that no one under 18 would be allowed in the audience.
"We had an agreement to keep nudity in as long as we did those two things," Rozenberg said. "The initial conversation was that the University didn't really have a policy. They didn't know how to act."
But Rozenberg received an e-mail from Peraza in early February saying the SAC "had problems to discuss."
When Rozenberg met with Peraza and SAC Assistant Director Bridgette Behling, they said the students could no longer put on the show in its original form, and wanted immediate ideas on how to cut parts of the production.
Rozenberg said he was told in the meeting that according to D.C. law they could not show anything obscene on stage.
"I wanted to be up front about it unlike what happened with 'Hair,' " Rozenberg said, referring to a controversial student theater performance last year that included nudity.
Local D.C. theater organizations have performed plays with full-frontal nudity, including "Quills." The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company has produced the show in the past with nudity.
Woolly Mammoth's production manager Taryn Colberg-Staples said she is unaware of any D.C. law restricting nudity in productions.
"If such a thing existed or was enforced, most theaters in town could not do their productions," Colberg-Staples wrote in an e-mail.
Rozenberg defended "Quills" by citing the Supreme Court decision Miller v. California, which allows obscenity when it is put in the context of a play with literary or artistic value.
On Tuesday, University officials told Rozenberg The Company could produce the show in full.
Freshman Ana Quijano, a member of the six-person cast said she has been inspired by the conflict with the University.
"The whole experience of having to fight the system in order to get our voices out there is awesome especially now that the University has given us permission. It just makes it so much better," she said.
Peraza declined to comment on the concerns about the play. University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said GW reviewed "the context of the play looking at District of Columbia law, our policies" and will require an adult content notice and a disclaimer for its production.
Rozenberg said he is relieved the ordeal has finally come to an end, but it served as a learning experience for him.
"I've wanted to do this show for about two years now because I've always been interested in the idea of censorship and how in modern society it is still being used even when you have codes like the First Amendment," Rozenberg said. "Institutions still manage to tell people you can't read something and look at something, watch something. This show speaks directly to it."