By: Jake O. Fenniman
It is Autumn at Purchase College. The nights are getting longer, the leaves are changing colors, and with Halloween steadily approaching, The Rocky Horror Shadow Cast on campus is in the midst of their dress rehearsal.
“It's the best it's been in a while,” said director Julia Reeder. “We have big cast of a little under 30 people, a lot of Transylvanians, and the main cast is solid.”
The “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a musical film from 1975 based on a hit play, “The Rocky Horror Show.” While the film was a box office failure and panned by critics, it eventually found an audience at the Waverly Theater in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The zany musical film features dance numbers, a cross dressing Tim Curry, a solo by Meatloaf, and focuses on themes such as gender, sexuality, and embracing your deep desires.
The audience would show up dressed as the characters from the film and began to call out jokes making fun of the odd moments in the film. It quickly became a tradition that spread across the United States over a few years. A tradition that has captured the interest of many people – including Purchase College.
The Purchase Rocky Horror Shadow Cast has been a tradition since the 1980’s. They have done a performance of the musical film almost every semester. While the film plays in the background, actors dress up in costume and act out the scenes, or “shadow the cast,” while the audience calls out jokes. This fun atmosphere is what continues to bring Purchase students, new and old, to the group.
“I saw it at the club fair, and I screamed,” said Natasha Bartlei, who plays Magenta.
Most of the new participants are freshmen that knew about Rocky Horror but were unaware of Shadow Cast performances. One of the freshmen participating in the Shadow Cast, Mack Gommes, who plays Riff Raff, had her first exposure when she was 13 years old. While going to a Supernatural Convention she experienced her first Rocky Horror Shadow Cast.
“They didn’t virgin shame me because I was 13. I had a ton of fun,” said Gommes.
Reeder and Lisa Sepa have participated in the Shadow Cast for two years as performers, but now along with performing they are serving as the new directors. In previous semesters Reeder had the role of Riff Raff, and now she is playing the character of Dr. Frankenfurter, the “Sweet Transvestite” portrayed by Tim Curry in the film.
“I love Riff because he was my first character, but I'm really pushed by Frank,” said Reader. “He's very dramatic and pushes me out of my comfort zone.”
The directors are excited because of the energy and the large cast. The Transylvanians, which is the name for the ensemble, are busy performing call outs when not on stage.
Tahlia Holmgren, a freshman performing in her first Shadow Cast, was surprised at how big the community was and had a lot of fun rehearsing scenes and doing callouts.
“There’s always something to do," said Holmgren.
The group began rehearsing on Sept. 8 and has easily slipped into their roles. They quickly began to do full run throughs and had an excellent first dress rehearsal. The cast had their energy on full display while going over the “Time Warp” scene.
The production has not always been extremely smooth. Reeder talked about the difficulties of securing Southside or the Stood for their rehearsals. During the interview they were meeting in a room in the Humanities Building because Southside was being used by another group. She also remarked how Southside was always filled with sets and props from other productions that were never moved, which this made practicing difficult.
They had budget problems, but they were able to fundraise and with the money earned, they were able to replace costumes, props, and sets. Notably they were able to make a new tank for Rocky's awakening.
The Rocky Horror Shadow Cast is doing their big show on the night of Nov. 1. They will have a costume contest, party games, and the previous director is going to perform a drag show. While they are unsure about the turn out, Reeder said that she wanted to put on a winter showing before the end of the current semester.
The showing will take place at South Side, doors open at 10:30.