“Rocky” Actors Share Their Thoughts on the UMF’s “Freeing” Production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
By Nathan McIvor, Vice-President
Recently the annual shadow-cast production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” premiered in Lincoln Auditorium, exploring themes of sexuality while advocating for a safe space built on consent. The 1975 film was projected on screen while student actors lip-synched and pantomimed scenes with a small army of backup dancers.
Keeping with tradition, Rocky “virgins” seeing the show for the first time that night had lipstick “V”s written on their faces, though their welcome did not end there. Director Nathaniel Red and Choreographer Charity LaFrance invited the “virgins” onstage to have their cherries popped, the cherries being red balloons placed between their legs.
Red noted that “the show is a bit of a culture shock for people who see it for the first time. I think it’s really important for people to see it.” He finds that the sense of shock can clear a path for healthy self-expression. “‘Rocky’ is a wonderful show that lets people be free. It’s great that UMF has this,” said Red, who had worked as a co-director and assistant director of “Rocky” in previous years.
Caitlin Hession, who plays the character Columbia in the show, echoed Red’s views of the show. “It’s freeing to see ‘Rocky.’ American culture is very constricted. Performing in this show, you can wear as much or as little as you want and no one will judge you for it,” Hession said.
Hession explained that “consent is really important in rehearsal and even in auditions” due to the show’s risqué nature, actors must also confirm whether or not they are comfortable dressing in certain outfits or acting in particular ways at every step of the process.
This year marked Hession’s first time playing main character, Columbia, which she enjoyed as “[She had] a chance to breathe as my character is not always on stage.” In the previous two shows, she was a dancer. She will graduate from UMF this spring.
Other actors are performing in “Rocky” for the first time this year. McKayla Mirois, a junior playing Janet, is “really excited, as the show has pushed me out of my comfort zone in a good way. My part is unique. She’s one of the more toned-down characters. She’s often scared or sexually confused. All the other characters are really into it.”
Working behind the scenes, the show’s technical Assistant Director Vanessa Brown dealt with stage lighting and monitoring individual scenes. “‘Rocky’ is one of those shows that everyone comes to see and support their fellow students,” Brown said. “[It’s] excit[ing] to be working on the show because everything’s different each year.”
The play “The Rocky Horror Show” premiered in London in 1973. A playful blend of tropes from horror and science-fiction genres, the musical embraces gender fluidity and the playful blurring of sexual norms as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the primary antagonist, seduces both Janet and her fiance, Brad. A film adaptation retitled “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and a massive cult following followed.
Brown also commented on this production’s charitable cause. “All profits go to SAPARS [Sexual Assault Prevention & Assault Services] and we also do a raffle to raise more money.”