PHOTOSTREAM: Rocky Horror Picture Show Live: Relentless Diva Energy

02.17.2024 Rocky Horror Picture Show Live at the Kent Stage

Before sitting down to write this article, I attended the January showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Kent Stage. The School of Rocky Shadow Cast hosts a monthly showing and live performance, and each month, cast members rotate roles from the film, which acts as a backdrop as the cast pantomimes onstage. The audience is encouraged to participate. Those living in Kent or nearby have almost certainly heard of it. Once upon a time in high school, my attendance was religious. Admittedly, I hadn’t thought about it for years until my friends, Monica and Howie, invited me. We got great seats, right in the front middle (but not the first) row. Sitting in red foldout theater chairs, I was made aware that Monica and Howie … were two virgins

For the unaware, or uncultured, a virgin is someone who has never seen Rocky Horror the way God (Tim Curry) intended: in a theater with an audience and a live cast. To add to my shock and horror, they had never seen the movie or knew anything about the plot. This revelation would prompt the question, “What’s it about?” 

It would be faster, easier and safer to describe what it’s not. How could I provide an answer for a subject that, by its very nature, demands a thesis? I had no choice but to simplify, “It’s queer culture,” I spent the next hour and a half watching my friends’ first experience of the cult classic and preparing myself to ask the cast for an interview. I would be back next month, dragging Howie and his camera with me.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is the successor of Richard O’Brian’s rock Musical, The Rocky Horror Show (1973). The original stage production starred Tim Curry and was successful in London. After Lou Adler saw a showing, the musical would storm Los Angeles. Following its L.A. run, Twentieth Century-Fox took notice, resulting in a midnight movie that would forever change history. 

Jackie, playing Dr. Scott in the February show, has been performing in Rocky Horror since the first show at Kent Stage. She described her time as “unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never met a group of people quite as inclusive and accepting and loving as I’ve met through Rocky.” Referring back to my friend’s haunting question, I asked cast members how they would describe Rocky Horror to someone with zero working knowledge of the subject. 

Cassius, acting as the famous intro lips and prop cue card handler, describes the movie as “alternative weird pride. I think the underlying values of the show are very community-based. Is it bad? Yes. Is it also a cornerstone? Yes, I love it.” Recalling their first viewing of the movie at age 13, “I remember seeing Frank-N-Furter and thinking, oh there’s a third option. There’s a middle ground of self-expression and relentless Diva Energy. I don’t know how else to describe it.”

Rhiannon, in the role of Brad Major, finds a synopsis of Rocky Horror unobtainable. “I don’t know if I have an answer… I [usually] explain it as, theater for queers and whores. It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve seen the movie probably 200 times, still couldn’t tell you what it’s about.”

Hunter, filling the shoes of Riff Raff, credits Rocky Horror as the inspiration needed to get out of his shell even before landing the role of Riff Raff six months ago, “Since I started coming here with my boyfriend, I’ve really felt like myself,” describing their current spot among the cast as “That outlet where I can be the gayest fag I can be.” He recounts the film as “A bad movie with bad actors, bad everything. It’s a movie that relies on your understanding of it. They made a moment that’s more fun to recreate than watch,”  As for the people watching, Hunter defines the experience they want the audience to have.  “I want them to leave thrilled, chilled, fulfilled — and if I may be so bold — a little horny.”

The audience plays the biggest role in all of Rocky Horror. Dressing up as your favorite character is a time-honored tradition at all showings, as well as a way to get discounted tickets at the Kent Stage. The venue also offers prop bags for sale, another staple in these cult classic screenings. It’s customary for the audience to throw rice at the wedding scene, hold a newspaper (a Plain Dealer, as in the film) above their head to mimic Janet walking through the rain and raise a piece of toast for Frank-N-Furter’s dinner toast. While these examples are universal among the fanbase, the contents of prop bags vary between locations and showings.

The most beloved participation among fans is the kitschy call-and-response. Hearing Brad’s name is the audience’s cue to yell “Asshole!” and for Janet, “Slut!” Some responses require memorizing specific lines. Audience members will yell a setup and let character dialogue fill in the answer, distinguishing bonafide fanatics from casual viewers.

How did this kooky, low-budget, B-midnight-movie transform into a celebration of the LGBTQIA+? It always was. Readers who aren’t sitting down may want to grab a chair when they discover that- queer people have always existed. At its time of release, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would provide a rare observation of characters engaging with gay, lesbian and bisexual activities. The oddity of said characters was attributed to the twist that they were aliens, not their lack of heterosexual tendencies. The sexual exploits happening to and around the characters are never used to shame or belittle anyone. Even vanilla Brad and Janet are only concerned with the other finding out they had strayed. Throughout this fever dream story, audience members have a place to gather and feel “normal” for lack of a better word. Viewers who have ever felt strange, unusual, or alienated (get it?) are responsible for Rocky Horror’s multi-generational success.

View the PHOTOSTREAM here.

Liv Ream is the Arts and Entertainment Editor for the University of Akron publication The Buchtelite, founded in 1889. She  is majoring in Public Relations and spends her time writing, painting, and forcing her friends to participate in her experimental horror projects. Liv plans on pursuing a career in journalism and the arts.






Kent, OH 44240



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