June 8, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 51°F


Cult theater makes annual return with ‘Rocky Horror’

Most students would do anything to get off-campus at a decent time come Friday afternoons. But this weekend, it wouldn’t be surprising to see students line Williams Hall well past midnight.
Full of drama, music, sexual innuendoes, fishnet tights, corsets and heels, the IC Players will bring the mad world of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” back to Ithaca College.

Matt Rigby/ The Ithacan

Performed in the traditional cult style, the original “Rocky Horror” film will play on a big screen while actors perform as living shadows of the on-screen characters. Throughout the film, the audience and cast of extras — called pets — placed around the theater will shout jokes, or callbacks, at the film.

Regardless of gender, audience members will be clad in wild feminine outfits. Excited shouts will mingle with the click clack of heels as they enter a world of gender exploration. Globs of eyeliner and bright red lipstick are sure to litter the faces of everyone in the theater. The line between audience and cast will begin to blur, as everyone gets lost in a spinning whirlwind of sex, pleasure and confusion.

Freshman Heather Farr, who will play a pet, joined the cast this year after seeing a “Rocky Horror” performance in her hometown of Olmsted Falls, Ohio. She enjoyed the show’s ability to draw the audience into the performance.

“It totally breaks the fourth wall, in that there are people in your face all the time and you are shouting at the movie,” she said.

The show buzzes with different levels of connection for the audience as actors’ performances, the reactions of the pets and the action of the original film combine to create an interactive and mad world.

Traditionally performed at midnight during Halloween, “Rocky Horror” has become more than a film. The movie and its themes have developed a cult following throughout the last three decades. The show is performed year-round at theaters across the country.

First released in 1975 with mild success, the movie became popular years later when male and female fans alike began to dress to the film’s theme and shout out at the screen. An integral part of the “Rocky Horror” experience, the callbacks have become as classic and scripted as the film itself.
Senior Pat Hulse, director of the college’s “Rocky Horror” performance, said the callbacks are what make the show so entertaining and are the reason people see multiple performances.

“It’s what brings that whole party element,” Hulse said. “It has this life force that can’t be duplicated.”

Hulse returned this year to the production to direct for his second consecutive year, after three out of four performances sold out last year.

“I just fell in love with the show … all of the little bits and pieces that surround the mythology,” Hulse said.

Sophomore Isabel Kaufman saw “Rocky Horror” at the college last year and enjoyed the interactive quality of the show.

“It was a little crazy, because people were dancing on the tables and threatening to strip, but it was awesome and uniquely fun,” Kaufman said.

The story line alone draws attention from the audience. The show follows engaged couple Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, played by sophomore Peter Claus and freshman Kathryn McCumber respectively, as they enter the home of Dr. Frank N. Furter, played by sophomore Bryce Anderson. The doctor is a transvestite who has created the “perfect” male specimen. Unfulfilled by his new accomplishment, he focuses his attention on corrupting the innocent couple, and wild festivities ensue.

In addition to the oddity and complexity of the story, the actors face the challenge of synchronizing their dialogue and actions with those of the original film. But Hulse said he is not focusing on perfection from the actors in that way.

“We’re not mirroring the movie,” Hulse said. “We are expanding it.”

Further developing an attitude of expansion rather than duplication, the performers will use a large cast to fill in the gaps left by the few physical props and minimalistic set. Pets suddenly become poles, levers and windshield wipers, serving the show’s greater purpose of comedy and frivolity.
“You don’t want to take something like ‘Rocky Horror’ and make it too serious,” Hulse said. “This is more of a party than a theater show.”

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be performed at 9 p.m. and midnight tomorrow and Saturday in Williams 225. Tickets are on sale to students and the public for $5 in Campus Center and at the door.