Just in time for Halloween, Red Curtain Theatre presented The Rocky Horror Show, starring several Hendrix students among other actors from the community.
The production became a cult classic after the film version was released in 1975, starring Tim Curry as the mad scientist Frank N. Furter. My grandmother had a big crush on Tim Curry—she’s the type of grandmother who watched Godzilla, IT, and The Blob obsessively—and my sisters and I spent countless weekends at her house watching the film. The overtly suggestive jokes and themes always went over my head; the only part I cared about was the Time Warp. During Red Curtain Theatre’s production, I finally saw how raunchy, chaotic, and thrilling the production was outside of my grandmother’s living room.
It’s important to note that the plot of the play doesn’t seem to matter as much as its camp sexuality. Brad and Janet, a very vanilla, recently engaged couple, end up at the castle of Dr. Frank N. Furter in time to witness his creation of Rocky Horror, a muscled man who’s good for relieving Frank’s tension. The unexpected arrival of Brad and Janet sparks a chaotic series of sexual adventures and uncovers galactic secrets.
Most fans agree that Rocky Horror is better watched as a live production, and I have to agree. Audience participation is an integral part of the play, and the fun began before the lights went down in Trieschmann. Hocking apple pies and sweet tea, cast members insulted audience members who were reluctant to buy the concessions. When it got closer to show time, one of them asked an audience member a shocking question: “Are you a virgin?” (I found out later that a virgin meant someone hadn’t seen the show before.) Traditionally, show-goers are encouraged to interact with the play using noisemakers, throwing toilet paper, and blowing bubbles. Audience participation is so embedded in the Rocky Horror experience that it’s customary to shout at the actors between their lines, and many people dress up in their own fishnets and lingerie. At intermission, the audience batted condoms around in the strangest game of “don’t let the balloon touch the ground” that I’ve ever seen.
A highlight of the production were the phantoms, who acted as part of the setting. Cast members kneeling on the ground made up the seats and headlights of Brad and Janet’s car. When the couple arrived at the castle, the front door was another phantom, and the doorbell was his nipple. Actors were not confined to the stage, making for an immersive experience. Dr. Frank N. Furter chased Rocky past the front row and ran into the wall of the theater. From the stage, Colombia pointed and yelled at Eddie, who entered from behind the audience.
The cult following of the show is well-deserved, and Red Curtain Theatre nailed it. The cast made it obvious that it’s impossible to act in Rocky Horror without enjoying oneself; each member was thoroughly committed to their strange, corset-wearing, sexually enterprising characters. Any virgin should try to see the show at least once in their life. In the words of Frank, “Don’t dream it, be it.”