This weekend marks the debut of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show at USF. Audience participation is discouraged, except for the
11 p.m. shows on Oct. 6 and Oct. 12. Even on these dates it will be limited, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
“For most of the shows, audiences will be expected to simply watch and listen and to ignore The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s audience participation phenomenon,” the Times reports.
The Rocky Horror Show, clearly, is different from its silver screen counterpart, but not by much. I have never seen the show staged, but I have read it and listened to the 2001 Broadway soundtrack multiple times. It’s essentially the same show, with minor differences. There is much room for theatrical interpretation, and I’m eager to see what the USF Theatre Department does with it.
But I don’t think USF will be able to contain the fans – nor should they. Anyone who watches Rocky Horror can’t just sit through it, quiet and still, as if it were Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. I agree with certain items being banned – these items including toast, water guns, hotdogs and rice – for hygienic reasons. Yet diehard Rocky Horror fans who’ve
visited their local theatres at midnight for screenings will find it hard to keep themselves from screaming that the criminologist has no neck, singing along, jumping to the left and stepping to the right. And they shouldn’t have to. Rocky Horror, on the stage or on the screen, is not just a show: it’s an experience. The Rocky Horror experience shouldn’t be limited.
If this were any other play, I’d understand. But it’s not. Its success in the U.S. came from the underground movement and it remains a cult classic today. The interaction that the audience has with the show is essential to the show itself. No other show has had such an amazing and special relationship with its audience. Some theater troupes have tried to condition Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! in the same way, but it has not been as successful. It’s a wonderful movie, but it lacks the addictive campy qualities present in Rocky Horror.
This relationship that Rocky Horror has with its audience shouldn’t be compromised for traditional theatrical courtesy. It’s not Romeo, Juliet and Friar Lawrence up there reciting embedded sonnets – it’s Brad, Janet and Dr.
Frank-N-Furter prancing in fishnets and high heels, rose-tinting the audience’s world. Rocky Horror isn’t a traditional show, so it shouldn’t get the traditional respect that other shows get – it should get its own wonderful, perverse form of reverence.
That reverence comes in the form of audience participation. By limiting the audience, therefore, the show is limited, and thus the actors are limited. The actors shouldn’t be insulted that the audience is screaming obscenities during Brad and Janet’s entrances and exits, they should be proud that their work is being emulated to the degree of the movie version, which earned the play its cult following. This participation is Rocky Horror’s version of sidesplitting laughter, clapping and standing ovations. With a show as
unconventional as Rocky Horror, one can’t expect conventional forms of praise. Everyone – audience and actors alike – should experience the show with the vibrancy and juicy tackiness that has emanated from it all these years.
Regardless, I am excited to see USF’s rendition of such a well-known and worshipped show. The lack of audience participation is only a hindrance and not a complete blow to the production. I expect great things, and I can’t wait to stay sane amid the insanity.
Amy Mariani is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.