Glancing around UVic’s Cinecenta Theatre near midnight on Feb. 2, any sane person might have thought they’d mistakenly entered a macabre convention of cross-dressers with promising potential in the application of drag makeup. These sane people who had not been treated to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, theatre-style, were traditionally known as virgins. By the end of the night, after watching the show, they could hardly call themselves such.
Cinecenta, on that Saturday night, was the convergence point of the best-dressed transvestites in Victoria. Men and women alike donned corsets, fishnets, short skirts, wigs, and enough makeup to weigh down eyelids. Not all audience members were cross-dressed, however. “No thank you, I’m not putting on a dress,” said UVic student Henderson Clark, 22, laughing slightly.
As the show began, overly made-up lips and a title scripted in blood-drip font welcomed viewers to the cult classic. Though costumes were hidden in the dark, the audience’s enthusiasm was unhindered. Audience participation began promptly, as fishnet clad figures brought an onscreen wedding to life, showering the theatre with rice. “It’s fun to make fun of and throw things at,” said UVic student Holly Henkelman, 19.
Audience participation was far from limited to the tossing of rice. Although Cinecenta did not, some theatres sell a prop kit upon entry. According to a Rocky Horror fan site, www.rockyhorror.com, traditional props have included newspapers, waterguns, lighters, rubber gloves, noisemakers, confetti, toilet paper, toast, party hats, bells, cards, and even prunes and hot dogs. The use of each prop corresponds to a certain movie scene. The mess created is considerable enough to cause the prohibition of some items at certain theatres. However, Cinecenta management seemed to be all right with the clean up. “The only thing for us is we make sure the staff at the end of the night sweep the rice, because the rice and the water together make glue,” said Cinecenta manager Lisa Sheppard. “Years ago, we didn’t do that, and the janitors were obviously so upset.”
In comparison to other Rocky Horror showings, Cinecenta’s audience skimped on props. This could be due to the lack of prop kits for sale or the audience demographic — mostly students on a budget.
Beyond the costumes and props, another dimension of audience participation exists at Rocky Horror: callback lines. According to http://www.timewarp.org.uk, this tradition began years ago, when audience members began to yell things back at the screen. These lines vary from night to night and theatre to theatre. “Asshole!” called many voices when Brad was shown. “Where’s your neck?” asked a voice or two upon the appearance of the nearly neckless criminologist. Audience callback lines were nearly as frequent as the dialogue of the movie itself. “You have to enjoy the heckling everybody is doing, because the movie itself isn’t the best quality,” said Henkelman.
Between the costumes, the props, the callback lines and the movie itself, there was certainly a lot to focus on. Rocky Horror virgins may have trouble learning the callback lines. “They should have the words on the screen for people like me who don’t know what to say,” said UVic student Sydney Scout, 19. Some other theatres do play copies of the movie that have the most common callback lines as subtitles. When asked why Cinecenta’s version did not, program co-ordinator Michael Hoppe expressed interest in finding a copy that has the lines, should they show the film again in subsequent years.
The onscreen happenings were as shocking as the sight of the audience. As the show progressed, virgins and veterans alike were treated to a masterpiece of innocent-meets-ghoulishly risqué. Brad and Janet were subjected to, and eventually fit in with, a house full of musical transvestites.
Originally written by Richard O’Brien, starring Tim Curry, and with an appearance by Meat Loaf, the comedy-horror-musical was released in 1975. It developed a cult following as audience participation and enthusiasm grew. The movie has time-warped its way through 38 years. It holds the record for the longest-running theatrical release in film history.
Although it plays at many times of year in many theatres, it is often thought of as a Halloween film. “February seemed like an odd time to have it,” said Henkelman. “We can never get the print at Halloween because commercial theatres have it,” Hoppe said. “We’re considered non-commercial, being on a university campus. We used to show it in late September, so we might try that again.”
However, Cinecenta management is unsure whether they will show the film again. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Hoppe said. For those who enjoy Rocky Horror’s late-night screening and audience participation, Sheppard suggests catching one of Cinecenta’s screenings of The Room. “It’s famous for being the worst movie ever made, but it’s somehow entertaining,” she said. “People yell out things, and they throw plastic forks and stuff.”
Those who didn’t lose their Rocky Horror virginity at Cinecenta this month may have a few more months to wait. In addition to Cinecenta’s screenings at varied times of the year, the Roxy theatre on Quadra Street has played The Rocky Horror Picture Show around Halloween in past years.