Law in Popular Culture

Nudity and jurisprudence are juxtaposed in 'Arguendo' play about SCOTUS case

Nude dancing may be a good topic for a play, but what about this dry dialogue?

“And for that reason this is the type of general prohibition that this court … such as the one in Employment Division v. Smith … can be applied consistent with the First Amendment notwithstanding a claim that the conduct at issue is protected.”

The line is part of a new play called Arguendo by an avant-garde theater group called the Elevator Repair Service, report the New York Times and the Volokh Conspiracy. The play dramatizes the U.S. Supreme Court case about nude dancing and the First Amendment, Barnes v. Glen Theatre.

The five actors in Arguendo portray Supreme Court justices, the lawyers in oral argument, reporters and an exotic dancer, the New York Times says. The play contrasts “legally dry language” with the legal issue (whether exotic dancers can be required to wear pasties and G-strings) in “an automatic collision of form and content,” the review says.

The play “is so wittily inventive that it makes you think that the Elevator Repair Service might as well have a go at the Pittsburgh phone directory next,” the review says. “If anyone could find the poetry therein, it’s this troupe.”

The review does not reveal the play’s ending, except to say “that it does involve, as you will be warned, full-frontal nudity.”

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