In the Opening credits of a movie you a reminded to remain quiet and respectful for the duration of the film so that other people in the theater can enjoy the show uninterrupted. However this is not the case for the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fan base. Instead audience participation are encouraged and practically mandatory. The Rocky Horror Picture show has built up a returning audience and cast members that go to watch/act out the show as they enjoy it.
The “Rocky Horror Picture Show” was a live show production that begun in London in the mid-1900s by a Small known actor and science fiction/cheesy horror movie fanatic. He wrote the production in his free time and never planned on it having such a large fan base according to rockyhorrorshow.net.
The story line of this production is the following; two newly engaged lovers (Brad and Janet) happen to get a flat tire during a terrible storm and come across a spooky mansion that belongs to Dr. Frank-N-Furter who happens to be a transvestite scientist. The couple then continue on to meet the crazy characters that live inside this mansion. This includes one of the scientist creations “Rocky” a very musical man. The Musical is known for its kinks and fetishes, as well as non-status-quo lifestyles such as transvestitism/transsexualism.
The production became more and more popular around Europe; being shown in a variety of theaters. Rockyhorrorshow.net also talked about how In fact in 1973 the production was named “Best musical in the London” by evening standards annual poll of drama critics. Therefore, In 1974 20th Century Fox secured a film deal for the Rocky Horror Picture show. The Movie would be shown in theaters all around the world. Despite its popularity in Europe the movie bombed when it was brought to America. People were just not very interested in a Grade B horror film that had portrayed characters representing the LGBTQ community. Critics called it “tasteless” and hard to follow. Most showings were closed and the few that stayed open were not getting a large audience. Instead a dedicated audience. The same people kept returning to see the show over and over again. This is how the fan base started.
To get a feel for what the movie looked like here is a youtube clip of one of the most popular numbers in the movie, “Time Warp”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg-vgGuTD8A As you can see the movie is not exactly what some people might be used to seeing in public theaters.
Over the years the theaters showing the film tried different ways of promotion on the film. One of which was to make it a midnight show rather than during the prime movie time. This idea stuck and now Midnight is the only time it is shown in theaters. The audience grew steadily but the same people seemed to be coming back every night. This dedication began to build a special relationship between the audience and the movie. The audience began to sing out loud and speak the lines with the film.
This audience participation only grew over time to where audience members were bringing props, shouting out and even preforming some of the scenes. This developed into a ritualistic routine for the fans. In fact the audience participation has become almost needed to keep the show alive.
Fans have come up with this giant list of props, call backs (something you yell at a particular prompted time during the show) and many other interactive activities that go along with attending one of the shows. Different theaters have a few different rules and traditions but they all generally have the same ideas. For an example according to rockyhorrorfan.com toast is a common item thrown into the air during the show. That website also has a variety of other objects that are used during the show. All of this audience participation had developed over time and really kept the audience coming back each night. This unique participation is how the show gained such a cult following.
Fans became so tied to preforming for fun that the started dressing up as their favorite character (either authentically or goofy). A Lip-sync production began to take place in front of the screen during the movie. While the group performs under the screen the audience is encouraged to shout “callbacks” at the screen and throw various props when prompted. It became common that a live group of people would perform the show. Raising the films attendance, it was encouraged and is now known as “Shadowcasting”. Over the years the people that participated in shadowcasting grew more and more elaborate with their costumes and more eccentric with their performances. Eventually these group turned into organized teams of cast members that had practices and costumes just like any other production. They would perform at the Midnight showings of the film, most commonly in larger cities all around the globe. Here is a clip of a group of Shadowcasters at a midnight showing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyCX3DY78D8
Laurel Grambling a 22 year old women born in Brookfield Wisconsin is one who considers herself a part of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fan base. She started as a dedicated audience member and was thrown into the production as a shadowcaster for someone who hadn’t shown up. After, she was asked to become a permanent member of the cast. Standing at approximately 5’5 and a slender body type with enough muscle to pass on as athlete. This hobby of acting as transsexual/transvestite cast members and singing and dancing in lingerie that she participates in many not seem so visible from her outside appearance. However, she has made it clear to express herself in ways that give away her passion for the quirky, raunchy show. With several chest tattoos, and asymmetrical, half shaven, multi-colored hair style, and several facial piercings it becomes more apparent that a show like this might be her fix. Originally growing up in a very rich and conservative home she has found herself in something that has made her happy and able to understand herself.
Laurel has always been a fan of the show and even auditioned for a part in the show but wasn’t expecting to be thrown into the production that night. She admitted to being nervous and self-conscious at first but she fell in love with. It happened when she went to a show as a dedicated audience member, all dressed up as her favorite character. After the show she went to talk to the cast and one of the members of the preforming group “Transvestite Soup” told her to come audition. The night of Laurels audition there was a show after and a cast member had not shown up and therefore they encouraged her to jump in. Going in she felt unprepared and nervous but she soon realized that in this community no one would judge her but in fact embraced her. She fell in love and now has been a part of transvestite soup and its production of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” for a year now.
This quirky yet unique interest does have an impact on her life and others that participate in many ways. Nevertheless, this doesn’t become the main characteristic of their life if they don’t want it to. Sure, Laurel has a very distinctive look to her style but she works with plenty of other actors and actresses that may appear more straight edge during the day. It’s just at midnight during show time where they let their freak flag fly. Her group practices twice a month but she is usually unable to make the practices because of her work conflict. This is not a problem with the members though, they are understanding of everyone’s lives and obligations. Laurel stresses that no matter how into the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” you are whether you’ve gone to be an audience member once or twice or if you are a very dedicated audience member, to if you are a cast member the community is uplifting and welcoming!
Laurel states that the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a “once a month ego boost” for her. By this she means that every single person is so supportive and is able to tell each other just how well they performed. Along with that she considers her Shadowcasting group to be like a little family among a larger one of the entire fan group. The show does bring around a certain kind of person, everyone is open-minded. It turns out that dancing in nothing more than a corset, garter belt, and panties does that to you. She used to be more on the timid side and was horrified by the thought of wearing any revealing clothes. She feels more confident in her own skin than ever before which is why she and so many others are a part of this group and continues to act and participate.
Laurel does admit that being a part of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” does have the obvious pros of many close and open minded relationships but also a few cons. The negative is that, earlier referenced, Laurel come from a rather socially conservative Milwaukee suburb. Her family does not support the involvement with Rocky Horror at all. They’re suspicious of both her, her troupe and audience, and they believe them all to be depraved perverts; this being a common belief among those not a part of the community. One often see’s others dressing up in the opposite sex or just in fancy lingerie and feels uncomfortable. Most people don’t like seeing things outside their comfort level and therefore consider something to be with it. Giving Rocky Horror fans a negative connotation. This has obviously caused much tension between her family and herself since she so strongly believes that the show has improved her life by leaps and bounds.
Although Laurel does struggle with balancing one of her favorite passions and her overly conservative family she is more than happy to be a shadowcaster for the Rocky Horror Picture Show with her group Transvestite soup. Lastly Laurel makes it clear to know that the show is definitely an experience that everyone should have at least once in their life. The internet makes it easy to find a show nearest to you. “Rocky Horror people are nice” Laurel states “I mean, we don’t bite… unless you want us to.”