“Rocky Horror Picture Show” gets students to do the Time Warp again
When Kendall Day first joined the shadow cast of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” she had never watched the movie or attended the show. The Central Michigan University alumnus thought she would be performing in a show about the famous fictional boxer, Rocky Balboa.
Then she found herself mouthing the lines and acting out the comedic sexual scenes in little to no clothing.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a cult-classic film about a newly engaged couple whose car breaks down near a castle. They approach the castle to ask to use the owner’s telephone, they discover the castle isn’t only full of strangers in costumes, but a mad scientist — who is also an alien transvestite who has created a living man.
Live satirical performances of the show are interactive, and audience members are encouraged to engage with the actors. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” hosted by the Alpha Psi Omega fraternity, was performed twice a night at the downtown Mount Pleasant Broadway Theatre Oct. 27-29.
“(To be in the cast) you have to let go of any inhibitions because there’s no limits with Rocky,” Day said. “We had to embrace the weird and love it.”
The performance is an “interactive movie going experience,” said Claire Sullivan, an Eaton Rapids junior and host of the show.
Patrons could purchase a prop bag that had a Central Michigan Life newspaper, rice, toilet paper, a piece of toast, tissues, toilet paper and playing cards. As the main characters, Janet and Brad, stood on stage with newspapers over their heads as the film characters were rained on behind them, the audience raised their papers over their head. When Brad and Janet attend a wedding, performers were rained on by rice — thrown by the audience.
Getting comfortable with the sexuality
Brad and Janet, the newly engaged couple, are stark contrasts to other characters they meet. While the couple is portrayed as innocent, Dr. Frank N. Furter — who is “just a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania” — is introduced wearing a tight corset and thick makeup.
He introduces the couple to his creation, a living man named Rocky. Frank seduces both Janet and Brad, and Janet eventually also becomes intimate with Rocky.
Day, who has played Janet, said the Rocky’s she has performed with haven’t always been comfortable with sexual scenes. The first time she ever rehearsed “Touch Me,” a song where Janet works to seduce Rocky, Day went to place the actor’s hands on her breasts. He paused and told Day he was uncomfortable.
The key to performing sexual scenes comfortably comes down to good communication, Day said.
“Janet and Rocky do more intimate stuff, so I chat with my Rocky to make sure we don’t make each other uncomfortable,” she said. “I just graduated, so I’m older than most people. I don’t want to come across as making them do things they don’t want to do.”
Rehearsing the sex scenes is anything but sexy. During rehearsal, the actors have to work to choreograph where each limb will fit.
“We have to orchestrate how to make it look spontaneous after that, but it’s not like we could have just acted (out) the orgy on stage for the first time in front of an audience,” Sullivan said
Mount Pleasant has hosted the show every Halloween weekend for more than 30 years. Last fall, Alpha Psi Omega — who has hosted the show for about 30 years — added a genderbent show where actresses play the men’s roles and actors are casted in female roles.
“With genderbent shows, you have to be even more confident. It’s such a sexual show, you have to be willing to go for it,” said Allie Jackson, a Sterling Heights senior and actress. “I played Frank before, and he’s a very open character who has a lot of contact. Most female characters aren’t like that.”
The genderbent show took place
The performances raised money for the It Gets Better Project, Alpha Psi Omega fraternity’s philanthropy. The project works to send the message to LGBTQ+ youth that their struggles will eventually ease, and to inspire the changes needed to make it better.
“As a theater fraternity, we have a history of fundraising for LGBTQ rights because of our connection to the community,” Sullivan said. “The movie itself has a lot of LGBTQ themes.”
A Lack of Clothing
A little before
It’s the community mentality surrounding “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” that makes the undressing to impress possible. No matter what a person wears to the show, Sullivan said, they likely won’t be the craziest dressed one.
“It’s relaxing to know everyone will be as dressed up as you,” she said. “If a guy has always wanted to wear a dress but never felt comfortable enough to, they can at Rocky. It’s a huge sense of freedom for people.”
Rocky Horror celebrates the idea of breaking the mindset of feeling ashamed of one’s body, Day said. At the show, when men walk into the room in a corset and women walk in wearing “short shorts,” Day said, no one cares.
“In fact, they cheer you on. I’ve never been to a Rocky show where someone judges you. The crazier, the better,” she said. “It’s the one time people feel comfortable.”