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Portland Gets a Chapter of Naked Girls Reading

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This weekend, Portland gets its own chapter of the bluntly titled Naked Girls Reading series—with chapters in Seattle, Chicago, and elsewhere, the series features women taking the stage to read aloud from books they love, while... you know. Naked. I spoke with local burlesque performer Sophie Maltease—who is co-producing the Portland event along with Rayleen Courtney—about the hows and whys of putting on this event in Portland.

MERCURY: Have you ever attended one of these readings in another city and if so, what about the experience made you want to start a Portland chapter?

SOPHIE MALTEASE: I had the opportunity to attend my first Naked Girls Reading [NGR] event at Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas, which was presented by NGR founder Michelle L'amour and several burlesque performers from around the country. Rayleen had already done research into the process of starting a chapter, and wanted to work with another local producer on the project.

As we discussed the project more when we returned to Portland, we noted that NGR is a very "Portland" idea... we're an incredibly literary-minded city, and very open to various forms of nudity. Also, Rayleen and I are both avid readers. Having attended the [Vegas] reading, I can say that it was an incredibly engaging experience... there's an excitement unlike most other literary readings, and, while there is a bit of initial shock along the lines of "Oh, my god! Naked girls... reading!" it quickly wears off once the readings begin and the readers' personalities and the storytelling takes over. Of course, it's a very sexy concept... it's ridiculous to pretend that it's not. But it's a fascinating blend of physical and intellectual sexiness.

It looks like your lineup features a lot of burlesque artists—will there be any performance aspects to this other than just reading?

While most of our readers for the initial event are local burlesque performers/producers (with the exception of our guest, Heidi Von Haught, who is a Seattle burlesque performer), and while the concept of NGR has its roots in the burlesque world, we hope to make it clear that this is not a burlesque event, nor does it fall neatly into any one sub-genre of erotic entertainment. It is very much its own unique entity, one that can bridge the gap between different genres of both erotic art and the literary arts.

Any hints as to what titles or (even genres) we can expect to hear from?

For our initial reading, we won't have a specific theme... it will be a readers' choice evening. However, we can tell you there will be selections from a local author, an astronomy book, a children's book, and a popular science-fiction/fantasy novel, to name a few. We're aiming to have stricter themes for our future readings, which we'll be announcing soon.

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