When I was about ten years old, my dad caught me watching the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” on television. I was clicking through the TV channels and innocently stopped at a scene of people dressed up in crazy costumes. At the time, my favorite movie was “Little Women,” starring Susan Sarandon as the mother of the March sisters. Yet, in total contrast, there was Susan Sarandon on my screen in her underwear. I was intrigued, excited and enthralled. Once my dad realized what I was watching, he scolded me and insisted I turn off the TV.
Ten years later, I lost my virginity – my “Rocky Horror Picture Show” virginity. At first, I was uncomfortable because I immediately noticed how overdressed I was for such a performance: I was wearing clothes. The show has been produced annually by the Forbidden Planet Productions for 12 years now and was held in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom. In that space, it is particularly uncommon to be surrounded by an overwhelming number of girls in fishnet stockings, “pleather” and corsets. Most of these girls were a part of the cast ensemble, and they started the show with virgin initiation games. Virgins, according to “Rocky,” are all the audience members who, like me, had never seen the show before, and are singled out by a red V on their foreheads. The virgin games, which I was too bashful to join, included “eat the cookie,” “deep throat the banana” and “orgasm.” The crowd favorite was “orgasm”: all the virgins were put on the spot and required to improvise their best imitation of an orgasm.
Around midnight, the movie began playing on a screen that served as the stage’s only backdrop. The actors on stage simultaneously reenacted the movie for an embellished, 3-D effect. The beginning of the movie was also the point when I stopped understanding what was happening. My more experienced friends, who had lost their virginity to the cult classic long ago, gave me a quick plot synopsis. Basically, a couple (Brad and Janet) stumbles upon a castle inhabited by a transvestite (Dr. Frank-n-Furter), aliens (incestuous Riff Raff and Magenta) and a creature brought to life (Rocky). The only theme I could deduce was sexuality galore, and this was represented well by the actors who were fondling each other and rolling around on stage in what can best be described as explicit sexual innuendo.
The virgin games were not the only opportunity for audience participation. During the classic “Time Warp” song, “Rocky” veterans jumped up on stage and in the aisles to dance along. Plus, throughout the entire movie, people were encouraged to shout obscene things at the actors in accordance with the action on stage and in the movie. Every time the two hapless characters, Janet and Brad, have lines, people yelled variations of “slut” and “asshole.” Though the FPP actors on stage were merely duplicating their characters’ actions in the movie, I was impressed by the FPP actors’ abilities to remain unaffected and undistracted by the noisy audience.
The actors’ talent, however, did not offer reason to see the show. When I asked the producer, Chris Heffron, about the actors, he replied that, of the people who audition, many are obsessed with the show while some just want the opportunity to perform in a more provocative piece. Most of the FPP actors’ portrayals were believable, but the actors who didn’t appear to be having fun were not fun to watch. The show is a musical, and the actors’ singing voices were tolerable, but no one was exceedingly impressive. In fact, the risqu? costumes and the potential for wardrobe malfunctions often prevented me from concentrating on the actors’ performance.
For a first-timer, nervous laughter yields to genuine laughter at the spectacle occurring in front of you. Though I was shocked by “Rocky,” I agree with Heffron, who said, “It’s an experience no one should miss out on at GW.” I realized how sheltered I have been. Part of me wanted my dad to clamp his hand over my eyes again, but the other part of me began to feel like Janet (“SLUT!”) because I too wanted to rub the muscles of Rocky, the perfect man.
“Rocky Horror Picture Show” will likely be performed again next year around Halloween. For more information, visit the FPP Web site, studentorgs.gwu.edu/fpp