As Connor James dons his strawberry-blonde wig, he repeats a motto he created for his character: “Be creepy.”
In the original “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the unnerving demeanor James hopes to emulate helped turn a low-budget film into a cult classic that has been honored and celebrated for 36 years.
For 17 years, Forbidden Planet Productions has brought Rocky to GW, but along with the Virgin Games and the cat-calls of “slut,” the show has developed a reputation for its sky-high heels and barely there costumes.
“Its like liquid latex on my scalp,” James said with a laugh, referring to his wig.
The provocative musical depends on erotic fishnets, garter belts, corsets and heels, paired with over-the-top makeup, all put on by a cast not afraid to show some skin.
For the Rocky Horror crew, less is more.
“Basically, I tell myself to take a breath and pretend like I am the most erotic woman ever, one who must have the audience gasping for breath,” sophomore and cast member Emily Nichols said.
Nichols is taking on the role of Usherette for the first time, a performance demanding scant clothing, dagger-like high heels and an ability to enthusiastically incite direct participation from the audience.
“Once those fishnets came on, I couldn’t help but feel a little risque and damn proud of it!” Nichols said.
Cast member Jo Jo Speranza, a sophomore and second year Rocky Horror veteran playing Frank-N-Furter, said an accepting and tight-knit cast helps the frenetic costume changes and behind-the-scenes chaos go smoothly.
“You have to think highly of yourself during the entire process. I just keep telling myself that I’m hot and work it,” Speranza said.
As Frank-N-Furter, Speranza strips down backstage, changing from a red to black corset, rotating between each piece throughout most of the show.
While the lead cast members juggle at least one costume change each night, all involved must strip down throughout the course of the show.
Nichols says the costume changes add a level of sexy confidence only a red lace bra and little else can tease out.
“Don’t get me wrong, you can be sexy in a T-shirt, but it’s about having the attitude underneath the clothing,” Nichols said.
While the quick changes can cause a whirlwind backstage, massively high heels can prove to be cumbersome for the actors both onstage and off.
“Last year, I had to sleep with my feet propped on pillows,” Speranza said. “This year I knew I needed new heels that wouldn’t hurt me as bad.”
Walking with ease on 6-inch heels is a battle for most women, let alone Speranza’s size 13 foot.
Like singing, cross-dressing was also a first time experience for Speranza, but James bluntly shared plans to continue his cross-dressing hobby offstage, dressing as the pop star queen of costumes – Lady Gaga – for Halloween.
“I go watch drag queens perform all the time here in D.C. I love me some queens!” James exclaimed.
This article was update on Nov. 2, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly quoted Emily Nichols as saying “I am the most erotic female,” when in fact she said, “Basically, I tell myself to take a breath and pretend like I am the most erotic woman ever, one who must have the audience gasping for breath.”