Doing the Time Warp again!
It all began innocently enough in 1973, when director Jim Sharman and actor Richard O’Brien put their heads together and concocted a kitschy, campy, musical homage to horror, sci-fi and B movies that reigned supreme at the box office from the 1930s until reaching their heyday in the 1970s. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was intentionally written as a parody, and when transferred to the silver screen with Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick in the lead roles, the “screwball comedy” somehow, magically, took on a life of its own, thanks to an audience that embraced the film after critics universally panned it.
Searching for an outlet to recoup any losses, the film was re-released as a “midnight show” at the Waverly Theatre in New York City in 1976. Spontaneously, organically, audience members across the country began dressing as the characters in the film and talking back to the screen, while members of Pittsburgh’s King’s Court Theatre got it into their creative heads to create a “shadow cast” miming the action on screen above and behind them, while lip synching the character’s lines. Above all odds, and without any actual design, “Rocky Horror” morphed into an audience participation experience. Today, both film and stage versions have a large international cult following and pop up on screen and in theatres all over the world—usually around Halloween.
Enter producer Franklin Trapp and his own wacky cast of characters, actors who are presently inhabiting a spooky castle of their own design, singing, dancing and dodging rice being thrown at them by the audience as they bring the story of Brad, Janet and the “transexual transvestite” known as Dr. Frank N. Furter to life for two sold-out weekends in the Tavern at the Forestburgh Playhouse. For the third year in a row, Liane Zielinski is back playing Columbia. “I get to be sexy and mysterious in our own mini-horror film,” Zielinski said during a rehearsal break. “I have the opportunity to scream and scream and scream! It’s fun!” she laughed as prop master Lorelei Davis looked on while draping the walls of the place in spider webs. “It is fun,” Davis concurred, “and while it’s an homage to horror films, ‘Rocky’ is more camp than scary, in the respect that it’s not gruesome. We want it to be creepy and hilarious, more than frightening, per se.”
Part of Davis’ job is to provide the audience with “participation bags,” which audience members can purchase at the door to match the action on stage. A balloon (“Science Fiction/Double Feature”), flashlight (“Over at the Frankenstein Place”) and playing cards (“I’m Going Home”) are provided, along with rubber gloves, noisemakers, toast, water guns and the all-important rice, which is showered upon the actors during Frank and Rocky’s wedding at the end of Act I.
Local radio host Paul Ciliberto thoughtfully summed up his experience playing the narrator. “This is the third time I’m doing this presentation,” he said, “and I’m having a blast, as always. I’m always blown away by these amazing cast members and the talent that surrounds us all. I’m honored to have been asked back and once again, simply amazed by the energy that the audience brings to the production. They are as much a part of the show as the cast.” Have no fear, “Rocky” will be back in all its glory next year.