By Shayla Teague, Individual and Family Benefits Consultant
It might surprise you to know that The Rocky Horror Picture Show started as a musical stage production in 1973. It was performed in the Royal Court Theatre in London. This is how Tim Curry got his start and became a household name. As a matter of fact, Tim Curry (Dr. Frank N Furter), Richard O’Brien (Riff Raff), Patricia Quinn (Magenta) and Little Nell (Columbia) were all from the original theater cast when they were recruited for the film adaptation in 1975.
If you have never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I must warn you, it is not for the faint of heart. It was created as a parody to the science fiction and B horror films of the 60s. There is nudity, strong sexual content, and violence. Although initial reactions to the film were that of shock and the thought “what the heck did I just watch,” it didn’t take long for the film to catch on and become one of the most famous cult classics.
Rocky fans from the UK to the US started dressing up as their favorite character to attend showings of the film. “Callbacks” were created where audience members would yell at the screen after a certain line was said, thus inserting the audience into the story to give their own commentary. These callbacks have become more and more creative as time has gone by. Most of them are quite sexually explicit, as is the film, but here is an example of a G rated dialogue:
Eddie, the nephew of Dr. Scott (GREAT SCOTT!) has gone missing and Dr. Scott has come to Frank N Furter’s castle to find him. He doesn’t know that Frank N Furter has killed Eddie and is serving him for dinner when Dr. Scott agrees to join.
Dr. Scott: We came here to discuss Eddie.
Audience yells: Dinner?
Frank: That’s a rather tender subject.
Audience yells: That’s a rather tasteless joke!
Callbacks are not the only rituals that Rocky fans have created. There are additional scenes where audience members can participate by blowing bubbles, putting on a party hat, or throwing hot dogs and toast at the screen. Amateur actors and theater companies began acting out the movie in front of the screen as it played. This became known as a “shadow cast,” due to the actor’s shadow appearing on the screen behind them.
I had the opportunity to play Columbia, the squeaky voiced girlfriend of Eddie and tap-dancing lover of Frank in a local production of a Rocky Horror Shadow Cast. We lip synced and acted out the scenes from the movie in front of a large screen in a local hotel. We had four shows total with 100 tickets to each show. We were completely sold out!
During the songs, the singing was live, and the dances were choreographed. This was my first experience with theater and it was absolutely thrilling. We had full audience participation with the exception of throwing toast as the venue wouldn’t allow it. I heard new callbacks that had me giggling backstage and trying not to break character on stage.
We had rehearsals four times per week leading up to the performance, during which I built a true comradery with my cast mates. I will still refer to them as their character names and not their own. We all contributed concepts and choreography to the show and truly worked together to make our ideas come to life. The theater company that presented the show intended to cast people without a theater past to allow us the chance to experience the magic of bringing a production to life. There was a great mix of actors with experience and not so much experience, but an abundance of enthusiasm all around.
I can’t begin to express how much fun I had. I will certainly be continuing my acting adventures. Theater showings with audience participation, shadow cast and full live theater productions are put on in almost every major city. If you haven’t had a chance to experience it for yourself, I highly suggest attending. Be sure to bring your tap shoes and be prepared to do The Time Warp!