Dance routines in fishnet stockings aren’t unheard of at Grinnell; neither is getting together to drunkenly scream at a movie. Combining the two, however, is common only at one event.
This Friday night, a group of Grinnell students will screen and perform the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a cult classic best known for the popularity of its “callbacks” or clever lines hurled by the audience at the screen to transform the movie into an interactive performance.
“The point of Rocky is that it’s crazy, it’s ridiculous and it’s supposed to be a release,” said Alenka Figa ’12, co-director. “All the inhibitions you have just get to go out the door, and you can just … be ridiculous.”
Rocky Horror screenings had been a part of life at Grinnell for some time, but had fallen out of fashion until revived by Kelly Musselman ’11 two years ago. Friday’s show will be the only one this year, and the first without Musselman in recent memory, though the cast will certainly hold their own.
“It was important to me that Rocky look different this year,” Figa said. “I was worried that if we keep doing the same thing every year, nobody’s gonna want to come, because like, … we’re sloppy, we do ridiculous things, been there, seen that. But one of the reasons that Rocky Horror itself is great is because it’s lasted for such a long time. I don’t know if there’s cult classic that has the same longevity.”
Though most of this semester’s cast has appeared in Rocky before, several first years and Milton Garcia ’14, who plays Frank, will be starring in the show for the first time. When asked if he was nervous about performing, Garcia, an intended Theatre/Dance major, said he didn’t feel particularly anxious.
“For me, like, Frank in general is just a huge diva,” Garcia said. “… It’s definitely character acting. It’s a few notches above drag show. It’s just a totally different experience from … what you call professional theatre.”
During tech week, the cast gathered outside of its usual rehearsal location for one of the dress rehearsals. Everyone’s attention was on the screen. Cast members who weren’t on stage during a scene yelled callbacks at the screen, regardless of how many times they’d seen the movie.
Within minutes, half of the cast was shirtless, an indication of both the close-knit cast’s comfort level and dedication, and the flamboyant nature of Rocky Horror.
“Sometimes I get frustrated with the show because I want us to be very serious,” Figa said. “And I forget that the point of Rocky is to be fun. It’s one performance where you let loose, you don’t care, and a lot of it is the audience participation because they’re drunk, [and] … it works.”
Both directors agree that audience participation is vital to a good performance.
“The show requires audience participation. If they were silent and watching respectfully it would be a flop,” Challis said. “We need them to be yelling and screaming and throwing shit at us.”
Prop bags will be provided for that very purpose. This year’s bag will include bubbles, toast, newspapers, and other props to enable audience interaction throughout the film. Other props will be utilized by the cast throughout the show.
“This is the Shake Weight year,” Challis said. “The official title of this year’s show is ‘Rocky Horror Episode IV: The One With The Shake Weight.’ It’s both a Star Wars reference and a Friends reference. The point is that the Shake Weight is going to feature prominently in this year’s show. It’s silly and it’s goofy, like this year’s cast.”
The Rocky Horror Picture Show will be screened on Friday in Harris Cinema. Opening festivities will begin with a G-Tones concert at 10 p.m.
“If you should so choose, feel free to come quite drunk; there will be no security at the door,” Challis said. “Come in costume if you can think of what that might mean, if you’ve never seen the movie before you’re probably not going to know how to come in costume, but … come willing to put your inhibitions on hold for the night.”
“If you’re questioning whether you should come or not, you know, be spontaneous,” Garcia said. “‘Cause that’s what the whole show is about.”
Edit: The article previously stated incorrectly that Kelly Musselman graduated in 2010. She graduated in 2011.