A dark and stormy night. An alien transvestite named Dr. Frank N. Furter. Dancing Transylvanians. Sound like an intriguing way to spend a Friday night? That’s what happens in the famous cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which is playing Friday at the Michael D. Palm Theatre at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. VIP tables are $150 for four. The show is for those 18 and over. For more information, visit telluridetheatre.org.
Telluride Theatre will present the screening and live shadow cast performance of the quirky pulp sci-fi parody, so while the big screen plays the original 1975 film, the actors will re-enact the movie in front of the screen.
The audience is anything but passive during such screenings, hurling everything from rice to playing cards to profanities. Goody bags will be available for purchase at the show to ensure audience members are well equipped with all the necessary items for the interactive mischief making. Audience members are also encouraged to wear costumes and bring props.
When asked his favorite aspect of acting in the show, four-time “Rocky Horror” veteran Turner Kilgore responded without hesitation, “It’s the audience. Everyone’s yelling profanities at the stage and throwing things. It’s a huge party.”
It all started in 1975, when actor Richard O’Brien and director Jim Sharman created the film adaptation of O’Brien’s musical, with a cast starring then-unknowns Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry. Though the film initially bombed at the box office, it stayed alive and slowly gained traction as a cult favorite, as Greenwich Village movie theaters began to play it for midnight showings. Fans began to show up with costumes, props and in drag. Before long, a tradition of raucous audience interaction emerged that continues to this day.
“It’s a worldwide phenomenon,” Telluride Theatre Artistic Director Sasha Sullivan explained. “Over the years, people started to dress up as characters, shout at the screen. It’s become this audience participation party that’s been honed over years and years.”
The story opens with a young couple, Brad and Janet, stranded during a dark and stormy night after their car gets a flat tire. They seek refuge in a nearby castle, which happens to be the residence of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist who also happens to be an extraterrestrial transvestite. As the couple gets drawn into his magnetically seductive orbit, their innocence wanes as the scientist’s motley entourage sing and dance their way to revealing Dr. Furter’s latest creation.
The over-the-top plot was intended to be a saucy spoof of the B horror and science fiction films of the early Hollywood era. Though the story did not align with mainstream 1970s values, the image of Curry proudly strutting his stuff in sparkly women’s lingerie and pearls hit home for many others. Both in England, where the original musical debuted, and in the U.S., where the film premiered, huge social changes were drastically altering the fabric of social mores, including the expression of sexuality and gender identity.
“It’s a celebration of the freaks and the geeks, the gay kids, the kids that are a little bit different,” Sullivan said, reminiscing on her childhood love of the movie. “That’s how I felt when I was growing up, you know, ‘I’m a little bit different than normal people,’ and for me the movie really is a way people can get together and be fun and funky and celebrate other ways of loving, other ways of being.”
Embracing the weird has helped keep “Rocky Horror” alive and flourishing to this day, 44 years later. The film’s unabashed portrayal of the leading actor in fabulous drag and the kinky mélange of masculinity and femininity boldly pushed the forbidden fruits of polymorphous sexuality out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
Dan Enright, a first-time “Rocky Horror” performer, appreciated the inclusivity of the show and loved the “infectious energy of the whole cast.”
“‘Rocky Horror’ has a long history of being welcoming and open to all types of people, and I’m really happy our little community hosts it,” he said. “Everyone should come. It’s a wildly fun night unlike any other.”