The Rocky Horror Picture Show is tradition of alternative culture that needs no introduction. Bursting onto nighttime cult culture in 1976, somehow this glitter-crazed, dance-heavy B-movie satire has latched onto the hearts of millions. The gist is this--a happy couple stumble upon a mansion in the middle of the night, seeking shelter from the storm. Inside, they meet a group of violent, lusty, and fabulous aliens from the planet Transylvania. This selfsame show gathered fame not because of its impeccable storyline but instead as a late night performance extravaganza in which the actors on stage follow along with the monumental movie, urging the audience to get into the action. It is now a quintessential part of Sarah Lawrence Tradition.
Of course, Rocky Horror does not just bust out of the projector screen -- a group of dedicated students work hard every year to give the student body some Transylvanian fun. Alisa Ortiz (’16) is this year’s director, and after working with the production for three years she is certainly ready to carry on the tradition.
“I'll say that being a part of Rocky, to me, means being part of a movement that truly encapsulates what it is to be a freak and to be proud of it," Ortiz said, "The movie is shitty--the writing is terrible, the costumes are falling apart, the acting is laughable, and yet there it is. Someone made that fucking movie. With all the sex and weirdness. And I think that people saw an opportunity to take something that could have shamed the entire LGBTQ* community and turn it into something that makes us all great." She continued, "So when we put on the show at SLC, it's like we're honoring that tradition of making difference and sexual strangeness and just plain oddity a fun and celebrated thing.”
In this way, it is clear that Rocky Horror is not only a social event, but it reflects a part of the SLC community that makes it special. Campus wide, traditions like Sleaze Week have celebrated the promotion of sexual awareness and positivity. Unlike many colleges and universities in the United States, Sarah Lawrence tries to find a place for every voice and identity. With a high ratio of both LGBTQ* students as well as liberally-oriented students, the celebration of The Rocky Horror Picture Show hits home.
Ortiz agrees, elaborating: “There's a lot of division within the LGBTQ* community." She also said, "Rocky is a unifying factor. For all that it is a terribly done piece of cinema, it is also a really stable common ground. No one in Rocky has their sexuality described as particularly anything. Frank, Magenta and Riff Raff all come from a planet called Transexual, but none of them look alike or behave in similar ways. They're all different and their sexual adventures and crazy alien encounters are what make the movie one of the only examples of cinema where a character is not defined by their sexuality or gender, they simply are who they are."
With Ortiz leading the crew in the whirlwind experiences of learning the lines, the dances, and transforming normal Sarah Lawrence actors into the crazy characters that make up Dr. Frank n’ Furter’s world, one must imagine that rehearsal is quite the experience. Rocky, the monster himself, is played by student Liz Erwin ’17. Giving us the inside look on what it means to be a part of the Rocky Horror experience, she has nothing but positive things to say: “Being a cast member is unreal. That people are willing to habitually venture out at midnight to watch a film with hardly any plot and a whole lotta glitter is what makes Rocky so amazing. It’s a collective effort between the cast and the audience. Before you see it, you have no idea how much a bunch of ‘Transsexuals from Transylvania’ running around in heels can mean to you. But after your first viewing, Rocky and everyone involved in it feel like family.”
What can one expect from the Fall 2014 production of Rocky Horror? Ortiz withheld all of her surprises for the day of the show, but promised the audience a classic Rocky Horror experience. “I don't like to stray from tradition, but I can proudly say that we have some new original callbacks, there will be swing and tap dancing, there will be musical interludes and plenty of childhood ruining moments.”
Continuing on the importance of Rocky Horror to the SLC community, Ortiz added, "In a place like SLC where we have so many queer people and so many divided and often lonely voices trying to feel like a part of something larger, Rocky serves to unite us and remind us that at heart, we all want the same thing--to live proudly as our true selves and not have to give a fuck about what any other earthlings think about it.”
by Caely McHale '17