Homage to a classic

BY AMBER AINSWORTH, Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of fanpop.com
Photo courtesy of fanpop.com

When a couple gets lost and gets a flat tire, they end up in a castle where an annual Transylvanian Convention is taking place.  While spending time at the castle, they experience outrageous scenarios in the world of a transvestite by the name of Dr. Frank N. Furter.

“Rocky Horror Picture Show” has been deemed a cult classic and has gathered a following of such.

“At a basic level, it’s a satirical sci-fi/horror musical with a rock n roll soundtrack that pays homage to the B movies of the 50s and 60s,” said college student Austin Gullett.  “What most people associate the movie with is the outrageous main character—a mad transvestite scientist—and the similar motifs of cross-dressing, over-the-topness, and absurdity that carry over the whole movie.”

The musical comedy, originally released in 1975, still continues to garner attention from fans both young and old as they dress for the parts of the film and shadow cast the movie. Essentially, the actors perform in front of the screen as it plays.

While this is happening, the audience is encouraged to throw items at the actors and be loud.

This form of performing is a common practice among fans of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”; the phenomenon has been described as both a culture and a tradition.

Michigan had a lack of casts for some time, but groups are causing a revival.

The Michigan Rocky Horror Preservation Society (MRHPS) has roughly 55 members that suit up for the twisted and off the wall performances. New members are often gained from people in the audience that are fascinated by the concept.

Members of the MRHPS range in age from 18 all the way to members in their 50s, making for a diverse cast to play out the obscene musical.

18-year-old Morgan Rabidue sat in the audience for a year before deciding to get involved. Since then, she has performed in 12 shows to date. For Morgan, Rocky Horror gives her a place that she can be as crazy as she wants without being judged for how she acts.

Photo courtesy of the MRHPS facebook page
Photo courtesy of the MRHPS facebook page

For those involved in RHPS at the State Wayne Theater in Wayne, Michigan, every second and fourth Saturday of the month is a chance for the cast to let loose and embrace their “rocky persona.”  It’s a sold out show nearly every week.

Austin commutes from Michigan State University to perform in the shows. He has been involved with Rocky Horror for nearly five years, two of those years have been with MRHPS. His drive to Wayne from Lansing and the show itself can force him to be awake for 24 hours at a time.

For Austin, the journey can take a lot out of him, but he considers it to be a “labor of love.”

Despite the toll it can have on him, Rocky has had a definite impact on him.

“The best thing about Rocky Horror, from my perspective, is the sense of friendship and community you get out of it,” said Austin, noting that even though he may not be best friends with the people he meets, he has formed bonds with both the cast and members of the audience.

Rocky Horror participant Jessica Harris, who goes by the name Uncle Jessie, says the show, “is an “experience” where a group of like-minded weirdoes dance around in their underwear.”

While this may be true, there is much thought and planning that goes into each and every show.

RHPS is truly an artistic undertaking, as the performers are extremely creative throughout the entire process of crafting each show. They make most of their own costumes for the performances, a process Uncle Jessie describes as being, “as easy as finding a dress at a thrift shop or as difficult as creating a gold lame quilted spacesuit from scratch.”

In addition to costumes, they also try to make as many of their own props and they do their own hair and make-up.

Austin describes the show and what is put into it as not just being “a chance to be silly and sexy.” Though there is a whole lot more than just dressing up involved, of course he sees nothing wrong with being silly and having a good time; everything ties together to make Rocky Horror what fans know and love.

To keep the show from getting boring or overplayed, the cast switches up their performances by including theme nights, swapping characters, and encouraging the audience to get involved by providing prop bags that they can use throughout the show.

The whole point of the show is to give fans of the movie a place that they can break out of their comfort zones and act however they please for a few hours.

“What Rocky Horror is to ME, and to the other people who devote a significant amount of their time to it, however, goes beyond a movie,” said Austin about what it means to be part of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Those who are part of the MRHPS have gotten so much more than just a chance to act and enjoy a Saturday night out; it’s a place that has changed the lives of some that have gotten involved.

“It has changed my view of myself,” said Uncle Jessie.  “When I started, I was a stay at home parent who had lost so much confidence and so much of my own identity.  Performing in such a revealing and ostentatious way, I feel like I have gained back everything tenfold.”

Photo courtesy of the MRHPS facebook page
Photo courtesy of the MRHPS facebook page

Rocky Horror is an environment that allows for so much freedom and exploration that those who attend and even choose to become performers get a chance to break out of their shell more than they ever would have otherwise.

“In my everyday life I’m just a quiet, introverted English student,” said Austin. “I get the chance to be ridiculous, outlandish, and confident in myself in a way I don’t get anywhere else in my life.”

Rocky Horror participant Brittany Stoliker says her favorite part of RHPS is the community, while Morgan enjoys how she is in an environment where she can be free.

Ultimately, Rocky Horror is a place where people with a common interest in the film can come together and be themselves while enjoying something that they really like.

Unfortunately, the subject matter of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” sometimes draws negative attention and causes people to look down on the shows before they understand them. Despite the immense amount of popularity surrounding Rocky Horror, there are doubts and stigmas that have arisen.

Austin thinks that some people view Rocky Horror as being an endeavor that only people that meet a certain profile fit.  He immediately counters that false belief, saying, “We’re seen as intimidating or rude or belligerent or something, but we are the most inclusive group of people you may ever meet.”

According to Brittany, the biggest misconception she hears about RHPS is that it is harmful.  She compares it to the LGBT community, saying, “It gets a lot of the same stigma that the LGBT community gets.”

Morgan agrees, adding a common misconception is that, “it’s JUST a bunch of gay men rubbing on you and making you uncomfortable.”

Both Brittany and Morgan completely disagree with these incorrect assumptions, Brittany saying it is all just for fun, while Morgan notes, “We only touch the comfortable (insert some creepy winking emoji here).”