Enter The Rocky Horror-Verse

by | Oct 20, 2022 | MUSIC, PERFORMING ARTS

CRIMINOLOGIST:  I would like…if I may…to take you on a strange journey.
ROCKY HORROR AUDIENCE ANSWERING:  So strange they made a movie about it.

Hello Richmond. What are you doing the night BEFORE Halloween?
My recommendation?  Yes, And! Presents: The Rocky Horror Picture Show Cover to Cover at The Byrd Theatre Sunday, October 30. That’s a lot of words — lemme break it down for you real quick:

What (Part 1): Experience a screening of the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with the soundtrack performed live!
Who: Yes, And! Theatrical Co is a Richmond based non-profit theatre and production company on a mission to create inspired, innovative, and interactive theatrical experiences for our community.
Where: The Byrd Theatre, 2908 Cary Street RVA 23221
When: The Night before Halloween, Sunday October 30. Two Shows–8PM 11PM. It’s a Science Fiction Double Feature Y’all.

photo by @kimberlyfrost

What (Part 2):  What is The Rocky Horror Picture Show?
It’s a movie inspired by the stage musical, The Rocky Horror Show.  What is the Rocky Horror Show? It’s a musical-book and lyrics by Richard O’Brien, directed and produced by Jim Sharman in London circa 1973. People loved it, including producer Lou Adler, who purchased the US theatrical rights. So the “musical horror, sci-fi, comedy” became a “musical, horror, sci-fi, comedy, film” — that’s a lot of things.

If my little spiel isn’t enough for you and you care to learn more about the plot and characters and stuff, go here: http://www.rockyhorror.com/

Anyway: the movie came out and people thought it was shit. Roger Ebert  gave it 2 ½ stars. He said, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show would be more fun, I suspect, if it weren’t a picture show. It belongs on a stage.”

Interesting take. Ah, to critique. The problem is: Rocky Horror fans do not care.

Smash Cut To: New York City circa 1976. The Waverly Theater hosted midnight screenings, and something magical happened. The silence of the movie theater was broken, and all bashed and celebrated this campy treasure — collectively. People brought newspapers to wear over their heads, like Janet in the rain, and bellowed “Asshole!” when Brad said something lame. People sang and danced in the aisles. They dressed up as the characters, performing in pantomime, “shadow casting” the actions on the screen.

A community grew out of this experience. You could go to Rocky Horror and be whoever you wanted to be. It grew from there. Screenings in other cities popped up, and the whole world gave themselves over to absolute pleasure. Every scene had a different vibe. Some traditions held true and others grew out of each unique community, based on the artists that participated in it.

MM:  What is Cover to Cover?

Yes, And! Artistic Director Maggie Roop: Cover to Cover is an ongoing series of live tribute performances by Trunk Show, a collective supergroup of actors and musicians who cover iconic albums from beginning to end. [Trunk Show is part of Yes And! Theatrical Co. -ed] All the best albums have a story to tell. Rocky Horror fits right into the Cover to Cover tradition of iconic, beloved, and nostalgic titles that are story-driven.

MM: And where better to house such an event then Richmond’s own movie palace: The Byrd Theatre?

MR: Partnering with The Byrd allows us to combine the Cover to Cover experience with the energy and vibe of a traditional midnight showing. We want to offer a fresh and exciting way for audiences to consume Rocky Horror, while also creating opportunities for a wide cross-section of artists and performers in our community.

Like me. Last Halloween, Yes, And! performed The Rocky Horror Picture Show Cover to Cover at the Byrd for a sold out, downsized, COVID-safe audience that was coming out for their first Halloween since the pandemic. I was there and it was FANTASTIC! Sharing that experience was not only energizing but healing. It reminded me, “Oh yeah, I used to do stuff…”

Months later, when talking with Yes And!’s Executive Director, Matt Shofner, about the future of Rocky Horror, I said, “Hey, you know what would be cool? Lean in and make this a rock concert. I mean, concerts have mixed artistic mediums at play, right? Live music, and videos, and sometimes even circus performers swinging from hoops in the sky! Rob Zombie does it at his shows, why can’t we?”

And Matt said, “Yes, And!”

Monica with the cast! Photo by @kimberlyfrost

Enter: me. Hi. I’m the Director of this year’s Rocky Horror Cover to Cover, and I love putting on a show. Life is a cabaret, right? From a very tender age I was interested in the thea-tuh. As a child I asked for the following items:

That’s everything you need to put on a show — with tech AND concessions. My mission: Honor the vibe and traditions that made Rocky Horror a cult classic, while bringing something new.

Everyone’s got a Rocky Horror story. Here’s my confession: before last year’s Cover to Cover, I had never participated in the Rocky Horror Picture Show in a theater with a group. “But Monica, that experience is a major part of the whole shebang!!” Yeah, I know. So, on my road to reimagining and directing this experience, I hit the horny streets of Richmond looking for answers.

What is Richmond’s relationship to The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Everyone I chatted up fits into one of the three following categories:

THE DIEHARD: You’ve seen it with an audience at least 50 times. You’ve dressed as both Brad and Janet, and Dr. Scott. You’ve participated in shadow casts. You can perform every ritual, and you know every single callback line (and probably the history of where it came from).

THE FAN: You’ve seen it with an audience with all the spectacle and wonder this immersive artistic experience has to offer–maybe you dressed up. Maybe not like a character from the movie but you looked hot. Maybe you’ve seen the musical. It was a musical first, remember?  In fact, the Richmond Triangle Players (RTP) just performed the musical, The Rocky Horror Show, to sold-out crowds.

THE VIRGIN: Perhaps you’ve seen the movie at home on your couch. Perhaps you haven’t seen the movie, but you’ve heard the soundtrack. What makes you a “virgin” is not having participated in the live movie theater experience.

photo by @kimberlyfrost

Enter The Rocky Horror-Verse
First, I spoke with Matt Shofner. Matt is not only the Executive Director for Yes, And!, he is also playing the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (the Tim Curry part). I first saw Matt as Hedwig in Hedwig and The Angry Inch (directed by Maggie Roop). Bianca Bryan, our Magenta, played Yitzhak in that show. It was so freaking good, I’m still talking about it. Feel free to ask me about it. I want to tell you.

MM: Matt, you are playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter… No pressure or anything.

MS: I feel pretty lucky to get to tackle another iconic character! I’ve been fortunate to step into the roles of Mercutio, Prior Walter, Hedwig, and others, so Frank-N-Furter has definitely been on my wish list. Tim Curry set the bar for this role pretty high and I’m looking forward to delivering some of those characteristics while also infusing my own brand of absolute pleasure.

MM: When did you first experience Rocky Horror?

MS: I saw Rocky Horror for the first time when I was a freshman in High School. I had already been interested in horror and psych thrillers after reading The Shining in the 7th grade. By high school, I was discovering musical theatre. It was thrilling to find something that combined both, like Rocky Horror. In the words of Janet, “My mind was expanded.”

MM: Did the movie play any role in your sexual discovery?

MS: In some ways. I knew there was more to it than I’d been taught in school. I definitely knew I was on Team Rocky. 🙃

MM: Switching wigs… talk to me about Rocky Horror from the POV of being the Executive Director of Yes, And!

MS: The Rocky Horror event is our first step into covering full film scores. Anyone who came out for our first Rocky Horror event last year can expect an even more elevated and interactive experience this year!

MM: Truth!! Thanks Matt.

So my quest goes on…

photo by @kimberlyfrost

Ain’t Nothin’ Much To See
I was texting with my college chum, J Preddie Predmore. We both graduated from the Shenandoah Conservatory and made our way as actors in Chicago, IL.

MM: You’re gay and over forty, right?

JPP: Probably.

MM: What’s your history/feelings about Rocky Horror?

JPP: I don’t really have feelings about it. I didn’t discover it until I was in college and I have never seen it in a theater.

MM: So what was a seminal movie or musical for you in your younger years?

JPP: The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. It had Dolly Parton and naked singing football players… and whores.

Standard…funny but not helpful. Thanks a lot Pred.

photo by @kimberlyfrost

The Power of The Rocky Horror Picture Show
My friend and hair genius Joni Rene’e came over late one Wednesday night to cut and tease Magenta’s wig. She’s the best. We drank pink wine and I asked her…

MM: Joni, why Rocky Horror?

JONI: I like anything adults can get excited about.

She’s right.

Enter Wayne Parker. Wayne is Riff Raff in my production and plays Rocky Horror (the character) in Richmond Triangle Players’s [which closes Saturday, Oct. 22. Unfortunately, all remaining showings are sold out. -ed].

MM: Hi Wayne. How did Rocky Horror shape you?

WP: It was a queer awakening for me. Not a gay awakening, not a sexual awakening, a queer awakening that made me think about things that didn’t even relate to Rocky Horror. It made me question everything — in a good way.

MM: Have you seen it in a theater, or participated?

WP: The first and only time I’ve seen it in an actual theater was when I went to Yes And!’s production last Halloween.

MM: Really? That’s awesome!

WP: Yeah, and I was like, “I want to do that.”

MM: And the universe said, “BAM! You want a Science Fiction Double Feature Wayne? I’ll give you a Science Fiction Double Feature!”

And so, for Wayne, there was no going back.

photo by @kimberlyfrost

A Place for the ‘Othered’
Next, I hit up  Chelsea Burke. Chelsea is the Director of the Richmond Triangle Players’ current production of The Rocky Horror Show. She may be a genius.

CB: One of my favorite things about Rocky Horror is that it’s in on the gag. It knows what it’s doing the whole time. It knows the genre that it’s sending up. It knows the camp. It knows when it’s pushing its boundaries and that relationship to the audience.

MM: So, what’s your Rocky Horror history?

CB: I went to a big high school (around 2000 students) and there were only six students in the Gay/Straight Alliance. I was like “I’m an ally and I’m straight” …little did I know. A group of us went to a midnight showing. I was sixteen and it was a shock to the system, of adrenaline and joy. Then we went to Denny’s, and I was like, “This is my entire life now.” It was one of those moments of exposure to something you didn’t know you needed. From then on, four to six times a year, we would go. I would take new people too. People that were “different” or “othered.”

MM: What’s your favorite song?

CB: Oh my god, I can’t.

MM: Okay, how about this: when you think of the Rocky Horror, what song speaks to your soul?

CB: The explosion of energy, passion and actual volume of the “Time Warp.” It is not my favorite song in the show, but it just hits in a way that I can’t ignore. I’m on my feet. Art is about eliciting responses and emotional stirring, then sitting with yourself and others and processing how it fits into your life. The “Time Warp” is not the deepest or most emotional of those responses, but it hits differently and is so tied to the experience — it is a communal ritual at this point, and it’s undeniable.

She’s right. It is a communal ritual. So it’s time for me to talk to someone that was there.

photo by @kimberlyfrost

Old School
Enter Larry Floyd. Larry Floyd is Richmond’s sweetheart. He also regularly participated in Rocky Horror. 

MM: Larry — tell me, when and where? First time?

LF:  I believe the first time I was at the Biograph, on Grace Street. That was 1994-1995.

MM: So what did Rocky Horror at the Biograph Theatre look like in 1994?

LF: [laughs] Debaucherous. It was kind of a free-for-all. Everyone was having a blast. I was in the cast for a long time and ended up playing most of the characters. I never quite had the figure for Rocky, but I tried out all the rest of them. I started out as Eddie, of course.

MM: What was one of your favorite roles to play?

LF: Eddie was fun, but it always shocked people when I’d show up in drag. I liked doing the female characters [like] Magenta.

MM: Other memories?

LF: Yeah, I had a habit of getting naked and running across the seats.

MM: You say that like it’s a bad thing. What do you think it is about Rocky Horror that brings this out of people? Getting the ‘okay’ to misbehave?

LF: I think it’s a breakdown of the rules. It allows you to explore your own character, see what’s you, and pretend to be someone else. People can let loose of the norm, you know? Inhibitions are out the window.

MM: It’s weird that we attach all of those things to Rocky Horror, but we don’t attach them to other things.

LF: The call and response was a big part of it, and making fun of it. Rocky Horror really helped me to not take myself so seriously.

MM: What a gift.

LF: I agree. It gave you license to be ridiculous and loud and sort things out. We sang a lot of dumb songs.

My friend, drummer extraordinaire Ryan Parrish, saw Rocky Horror with Larry in Richmond back in the day. He shared one of those songs with me:

Scrotum Scrotum S-c-r-o-t-u-m.
You can hold it in your hand, Mrs. Murphy.
It’s got hair on its neck like a turkey.
Scrotum, Scrotum, S-c-r-o-t-u-m.

MM: The experience you had sounds amazing but can’t really exist in the same way today. My goal is to create an experience where everyone can share in all of the things that you loved and experienced about Rocky Horror in a new way — at the Byrd, with a band — and incorporate new rituals into it, like bringing back the “Scrotum” song.

LF: [laughing] A lot of that stuff wouldn’t fly anymore.

MM: Well, I want to fly! My theme is “Confusing Boner.”

LF: Yeah. That’s what Rocky Horror is.

MM: Who makes you the horniest?

LF: I would definitely say Columbia.

MM: Thank you Larry. You’re the best.

photo by @kimberlyfrost

Cheers Queers
Next up: Kasey Britt. They play Magenta in RTP’s production of Rocky Horror.

MM:  What is your Rocky Horror story, Kasey Britt?

KB: I was eight or nine years old when my dad showed it to me. He had been to all the midnight screenings. He was not a queer man, and yet for some reason he said, “My children need to have this,” and I was absolutely shook. It was the first instance I had ever seen a differently gendered person in a movie. In college I was in a shadow cast as Frank. That was the first time I was exposed to the actual midnight showing and the whole affair.

MM: Your pronouns are They/Them, correct?

KB: Yes but when I played Frank, I was a solid She/Her with some very clear tendencies at that point. I wanted to use They/Them pronouns, but…

MM: Ah, youth…

KB: With Rocky Horror, it’s all about the performance, which felt little to do with gender and everything to do with how they dressed and presented. That was very powerful to me, as a queer person.

photo by @kimberlyfrost

My Rocky History
Rocky Horror is so many different things to so many. The experience provided community as well as an outlet for creativity and self examination. It was a queer awakening for some, and always allowed one to be who they wanted to be — if only for that hour and a half. True, I cannot share in their experience. Because for me, it was all about the music. When did that begin? Only one man had the answer–the human that’s known me since Day 1: my brother, Lee Kallman.

MM: Lee, you brought Rocky Horror into our household. When and where?

LK: One of the theaters in the West End, maybe West Tower, had screenings on Saturdays at midnight. I must have been in high school.

MM: So, then you got the CD?

LK: I don’t remember. I guess so.

MM: Any other memories from literally 30 years ago?

LK: Not that I can think of.

MM: Informative. Thanks Lee Lee.

So, I got the CD and listened to it over and over again. I knew every word, every beat, every cue, every modulation! (I love modulating.) Don’t know when, don’t know how, but I got the VHS tape. I watched it until it became background noise. My favorite song? “Floor Show.” Is that cheating? Probably. “The Floor Show” has it all — it’s like an opera.

When many Richmonders were discovering things about themselves in movie theaters watching Rocky Horror, I was literally across the street from that theater, finding my community in music, going to punk rock shows in downtown RVA.

That’s right! Street Cred! I grew up in Richmond in the 90’s, damn it. I saw GWAR at the Flood Zone, Four Walls Falling at The Metro and Dusty Nutroll at Twisters with my friends. In many circles, we had been “othered” too. So, although I did not do the Time Warp again, I found my little corner of the sky in RVA. It’s all about finding your people, right?

photo by @kimberlyfrost

The most exciting new thing I’m bringing to the Rocky Horror Picture Show is the element of live music and performers. A wise Bard once said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If music be the food of love, then something something.”

Hope you’ll join us at the Byrd Theatre, Sunday, October 30. Then you too can be the coolest kid on the block, talking all about how YOU were there and a part of the horniest new tradition in Richmond. Get your tickets here!

Big Thanks to our Rocky Horror Picture Show Cover to Cover sponsors! The Byrd Theatre, RVA Mag, Black Heath Meadery and Bingo Beer Co.
You can keep up with Yes, And! on Instagram and TikTok by following @yesandrva or checking in at yesandrva.com!

PS: In 2005, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” And it is the longest-running theatrical release in film history, so… piss off, Roger Ebert.

All photos by Kimberly Frost @kimberlyfrost

Monica Moehring

Monica Moehring

Hi. I’m Monica Moehring and I love music. I love movies. I love scary things. I love making movies and art and theatre about scary things and funny things and sad things. I work with other Richmond artists and filmmakers that share the mission of creating art that delivers less bore, more gore--gore being a metaphor for substance and sometimes not being a metaphor because we do like to get gorey. After graduating from the Shenandoah Conservatory, I spent time in Chicago as both actor and playwright. As one does, I found my way back to Richmond and took up with a group of independent filmmakers, Aisthesis Productions. I am a left-handed Sagittarius.

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