Written By: Angelie Roche
The St. Mary’s Triangle and Rainbow Society (STARS) presented four showings of the 1975 musical comedy The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Cole Cinema during the Halloween weekend. The shows, which featured live performances and free snacks, occurred at 8:30pm and 12am on Oct. 30 and 31, respectively. In order to follow COVID-19 protocols, 30 people were allowed in the theater at one time, and seats were properly distanced. The staff also handed out individually-wrapped snacks with gloves to ensure all students’ safety.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was based upon a 1973 musical production, was considered to be one of the most progressive films of the 1970s. Written to be a tribute to science fiction and horror B movies of the 1930s, it is centered around a young couple, Brad and Janet, whose visit to their former science teacher is cut short by a terrible storm and a flat tire. Seeking shelter and a telephone, the two come across a mysterious castle containing all sorts of strangely dressed people whom Brad judges to be “party guests”. Later, though, they discover the castle is run by a transvestite alien named Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist who is creating a muscle man named Rocky in his laboratory. Later, Frank N. Furter seduces both Brad and Janet separately, causing chaos to ensue.
When the movie was first released, it received bad reviews from critics for its unusual content. However, it became a well-known midnight movie in the years following and audience members began dressing as characters in the film. Eventually, audience participation became a vital part of every showing, as the production began incorporating a “shadow cast” that lip-synced along to the characters and performed along with the movie. The audience members are expected to participate as well, reacting to certain scenes by shouting at the characters, wearing newspapers over their heads, and dancing the “Time Warp”. Rocky Horror’s cult following continues to grow, and forty-five years after the first showing, it is the longest-running theatrical release in film history. It is often shown on or near Halloween at the stroke of midnight, and those who are “virgins”(those who have never seen the show before) are often made to undergo an “initiation”.
According to STARS president Calvin Ryan, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has several themes relevant to the LGBTQ+ community, including sexual liberation and “embracing one’s queerness and individuality”. While Frank N. Furter is the villain of the film, the fact that it featured him as an openly queer main character was quite progressive for its time. The midnight showings became popular among the LGBTQ+ community of the 1970s and 80s, as lines of oddly-dressed people outside theaters every Saturday night attracted much attention. The film, though outdated in some ways, is still important to LGBTQ+ individuals today. SMCM’s production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was unique in several ways, as it had to take into account COVID-19 guidelines and social distancing requirements. Because of this, seats in the Cole Cinema were taped off, replaced by balloons which featured the characters’ faces. Additionally, the showing did not feature a live cast, but still encouraged audience participation. Before the showing, Rainbow Room staff held a series of contests – from a “mask on” lip syncing battle to songs such as I Want it That Way and Uptown Funk, to a competition wherein audience members who called someone and confessed their love in front of everyone received prizes. Despite restrictions, the STARS club was able to bring The Rocky Horror Picture Show to life, COVID-style.