“The only known nudist colony in the world to sell tickets to spectators.”
“See you at the Nudist Colony,” says John.
This rainy Saturday afternoon happened in the last days of the lockdown. Still no gatherings allowed. John Drehner and I were so bored, we came up with this brilliant idea: “Let’s do Shakespeare in the Park!” I suggested. He’d do the acting, I’d be his audience of one. The governor couldn’t object to a crowd of one.
Drehner’s a retired mail carrier whom friends know for playing bit parts in a ton of Shakespeare plays right here in Balboa Park, ever since the 1990s. His more famous portrayals include the gravedigger in Hamlet and the porter in Macbeth, small but funny roles to relieve the tensions of the plots.
“I started off being hired as a spear-carrier, but if you hang around long enough, you can end up being a star,” says John, “just because other actors don’t turn up.”
So here we are where he acted, in the sunken dell behind the Fleet Science Center in a deserted Balboa Park. Today, it looks unused, but intact, like a classical Greek stage in the round, with galleries climbing up towards the Prado.
But our crazy Shakespeare idea also reveals another secret of the park to me. It turns out this was also, in its day, a full-fledged — unfledged? — naturist demonstration park. “The garden got its name during the 1935-36 International Exposition when it housed a nudist colony exhibit called “Zoro Gardens,” explains a sign erected by Friends of Balboa Park. “Several times a day, the mostly female troupe conducted rituals to the Sun God. To enter, visitors were charged 25 cents, later raised to 75 cents, for unlimited observation time.”
Source: San Diego Reader
Original publication 3 February, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 3 weeks ago
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