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May 13, 2017

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again…and again and again

sword of damocles

Melissa Sims

For most people “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a film to see once a year for Halloween. This is not the case for the Come Again Players of South Hadley, Mass.

Every Saturday at midnight, this troupe of everyday locals transform into the characters from the cult classic. They mimic, or “shadow,” every movement of the film, which plays behind them at the Tower Theaters.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is based on a stage play by Richard O’Brien, who co-starred in the film. The plot revolves around Brad Majors (played by Barry Bostwick), and his fiancee, Janet Weiss (a then-unknown Susan Sarandon). They seem like ordinary young people from the fictional Denton, Ohio, but on the rain-soaked night of their engagement, their car gets a flat tire. They go to the castle (yes, apparently there are castles in Ohio) of Dr. Frank-n-Furter (Tim Curry), a transvestite alien mad scientist bent on creating the perfect man. All they want is to use a phone, but instead, they get a night of chart-topping songs (“The Time Warp”), strange sexcapades and bizarre encounters with everyone ranging from a brain-damaged rock star to a closeted Nazi.

The plot can be confusing the first time out.

“I had no idea about ‘Rocky Horror,’” said University of Massachusetts freshman Adam Karp, “I heard I’d have a lot of fun and that I’d be a little freaked out. I guess it was both. I still don’t know what it’s about.” Up until recently, Karp was a “Rocky Horror” virgin – the word commonly used to describe a first time audience member of the live show.

This tradition of audience interaction began in New York City, sometime shortly after the musical film’s 1975 premiere. It started with audience members joining in for the film’s famous dance, “The Time Warp.” Soon after, people started acting out the entire film, calling out obscenities in response to different lines of dialogue and bringing related props to throw about the theater.

Now, almost 35 years later, that tradition continues in almost every major city in the United States, as well as in many cities around the world.

Almost every production has its cast of “regulars,” of people who come to the show faithfully, week after week.

Erin Fitzgerald, who plays Janet in the Come Again Players rendition of the show, recalled one of the cast’s favorite regulars, “Steve, who was 80. He was this adorable old man.” This is one of the truly incredible aspects of “Rocky” culture: the culture is accepting of everyone, from the high school misfit, to the open-minded 80-year-old.

“I feel like I fit in. I feel like I don’t fit in ‘normal’ society,” said freshman Melissa Sims, who has since joined the Come Again Players as a trainee. “When I go to ‘Rocky,’ I know I’m with the other freaks of society.”

Whether you consider yourself a freak or not, this certainly is a Halloween tradition to experience.

“Even if you’re not really the typical ‘Rocky’ fan, it’s something to experience. It’s something to say, ‘I was there. I did this,” said Sims.

Half the fun of going to “Rocky Horror” is in the pre-show. This usually consists of some kind of musical number, with the actors lip-singing along, usually with a comedic twist. Also, an emcee goes through the rules.

“Number one, just don’t be stupid,” proclaimed the emcee at the most recent show. This seems pointless, but it is important. When “Rocky Horror” first started out, people would bring lighters and squirt guns that could prove to be hazardous today.

A little further down the list is the rule that defines “Rocky Horror” culture to the utmost: be offensive. All inhibition should be thrown out the window at “Rocky Horror.” 

“Part of it is the atmosphere,” said Fitzgerald in response to why she started performing. “People are really accepting. People who are normally quiet really get to expand.”

The final – and often most entertaining aspect of the pre-show – is the de-virginizing ceremony. There is no escaping it; upon entering the theater, virgins are marked with a red lipstick “V” on their foreheads. Depending on the location, the severity of the virgin tasks can vary. The most recent virgin task involved faking an orgasm as a favorite cartoon character.

Cast director Amanda Taylor, who, among other roles also plays Columbia, said, “Some [virgins] are timid, so we keep it a bit tamer for them.”

What makes the Come Again Players unique is that they have a cause. Last year, they lost a cast member to Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that involves the clogging of important organs. Now, they donate a percent of the money made at many of their special events to Cystic Fibrosis foundations.

One such event is this coming Saturday night, Oct. 31. On Saturday, they plan to perform “Rocky Horror” at the Academy of Music in Northampton, Mass. For regular shows in South Hadley, tickets are $7.25. Tickets are $15 for general admission, and $13 for student admission.

Alissa Mesibov can be reached at amesibov@student.umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “Let’s Do The Time Warp Again…and again and again”
  1. Phyllis Kalb says:

    Alissa,
    Great write-up! You definitely have a talent for getting the information into a focused and fascinating article. Can’t wait to read your next column.

  2. Carol Turner says:

    All I’m gonna say is “Loved it” !!

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