The first time I saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” I was 14. I was looking for something to do that afternoon, because my friends were going to see the new Justin Bieber movie and I was not about that life. I didn’t know how much that one decision would change my life.
Anyone who’s ever the seen the film will tell you that it is utterly bizarre and makes very little sense half the time. And yet, I fell in love. Something about it really struck a chord with me, and I’ve adored the music, the story, the characters- the whole thing- ever since.
When I was 17, I finally saw the movie live. And you’re probably wondering, “what’s the difference between seeing it at home or at the theater?” Well, I’ll tell you.
“Rocky Horror” is not famous because it has alien transvestites and catchy music- it’s because of its midnight movie experience. Ever since the movie came out in 1975, people have been shouting things back at the screen, throwing props at certain cues, and dressing up in costume- performing the movie live as it happens. This performance style is called a shadowcast, because the cast is acting as shadows of the characters on the screen.
When I first came to JMU in Fall 2014, there was no shadowcast in Harrisonburg. The Court Square Theater downtown aired the movie multiple nights during the week of Halloween, but they had no performers. Because of my love for the film, I naturally attended a showing, but it wasn’t the same. So, the next year, when I was a sophomore, I started JMU Rocky Horror with the help of some fellow fans of the film and we have put on at least one performance per semester since Spring 2016.
So why should you see “Rocky Horror” live? I’ll let members of this semester’s cast tell you!
1. “It’s a Halloween Tradition
Shadowcast performances have been going on (year-round), since the 1970s! If you’re old enough to go see this movie, you’re probably too old to go Trick-or-Treating. So this is a great tradition to be a part of and an awesome way to spend Halloween with your friends!
2. “It allows you to interact with theatre without getting onstage.”
If you have stage fright, but you still want to be a part of the spectacle, audience participation is a HUGE part of Rocky Horror. You can shoot fellow audience members with squirt guns during the scene where it’s raining, and throw some bread at the screen when Frank N. Furter calls for a “toast” at dinner! There’s always something for you to do in the audience to be a part of the experience.
3. “The call-outs add so much to the experience it’s like you’ve never seen it before, even if you have.”
Every cast will have their own list of callouts for the show, but anyone in the audience is allowed to shout out things at the screen! The most common calls are shouting “asshole” when Brad’s name is mentioned, and “slut” when Janet is mentioned. But you don’t have to know all the calls to have a good time. Just hearing other people shout out funny things is still a great time and makes the experience fresh.
4. “There’s Truly Nothing Like It”
This movie is really weird, but that’s only half of it! The fact that the film is being performed by actors while it’s screening, that there are callouts, and that there are timed audience responses makes this an experience that flips “going to the movies” on its head! You’re encouraged to get up and be loud, rather than sit and be quiet, and you won’t find that anywhere else.
5. “It’s a great way to enjoy Halloweekend if You Aren’t Into Partying”
Although drinking on Halloweekend can be a good time, it’s a smart idea to give your liver a rest at least one of the nights. By going to see “Rocky” instead of partying, you’ll not only remember everything- but I’m sure it’ll be a night you’ll never forget.
6. “You’re supporting local artists and the art community.”
At least in Harrisonburg’s cast, every actor is a JMU student, participating in the local community. We perform at The Court Square Theater for love of what we’re doing rather than money, but we do bring in a lot of profits for the theater. Because we help them to make “Rocky” showings financially successful, we’re able to do what we’re passionate about every semester! So when you go to see a showing, you’re making it possible for the theater to continue running and for the actors to have a venue so they can keep performing.
7. “It promotes body positivity and individuality and encourages people to be comfortable [in their own skin].”
Numerous cast members have come to me saying how good they felt about themselves after performing in “Rocky.” They had no idea they could ever be so proud of their own bodies, let alone be confident in their underwear in front of 200+ people. That openness extends to the audience too! We encourage you to wear costumes or lingerie if it makes you feel beautiful, and no one there will judge you for it. It is a safe space, in that way.
8. “This is one of very few places where it is not only acceptable, but encouraged, to throw things and shout profanities.”
It is very rare that you will be a place where screaming curse words and dumping confetti everywhere is normal. Anything (except hate speech) goes! The humor is raunchy and horribly inappropriate, but if those kind of jokes are up your alley, you will love it here.
9. “No two shows are ever the exact same, it’s a new and exciting experience each [time you see it].”
In live theatre, you can never perfectly replicate anything. Each time you see the show, it’s going to be a little different. And from semester to semester, we switch our casts around, so you will rarely see the same actor playing the same part! This offers more opportunities for our performances, and makes the show more interesting- especially for repeat audience members!
10. “You’ll never feel more included and loved in a place you’ve never been before.”
When I helped to start this club, I never could have imagined that I would be meeting some of my best friends in the world. Something about spending hours in your underwear with people brings you together I guess. People have come to showings only to wind up joining the club the next semester, because the passion and excitement that these individuals have is contagious. This is my family, and we hope that you’ll come and see why we do what we do.
(If I’ve managed to convince you, our performances are Saturday, October 28th, Sunday, October 29th, and Tuesday, October 31st at 10PM at The Court Square Theater downtown! Follow @jmurockyhorror on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter for more information!)