RHPS showing at the Golden Horse Film Festival, Taipei, Taiwan

RHPS showing at the Golden Horse Film Festival, Taipei, Taiwan

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I first became aware that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was shown at all in Taiwan last year, when a friend forwarded me a photo featuring a shadowcast performer as Frank posing in front of the Mandarin Chinese-subtitled movie screen, belting it out to Sweet Transvestite. As it turned out, it has been shown with partial shadowcast as part of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (台北金馬影展, http://www.ghfff.org.tw/) once a year for the last seven years. My handful of fellow North American expatriate RHPS-loving friends and I were disappointed to have missed it but were excited about going this year. After months of seaching online, we finally learned the exact show date about three weeks in advance. We decided to assemble the best costumes we could in the short time before the show. In the meantime, we waited patiently for tickets to go on sale for the one and only show date on April 11, 2015. Unfortunately, all of the tickets for both the 7 PM and 10 PM showings sold out within five minutes! We ended up having to buy scalped tickets at a 250% upcharge (about $16.25 USD per ticket-- the most I've ever paid for a regular RHPS ticket, and definitely the only time I haven't been able to just buy tickets from the box office). While this situation was of course disappointing, it is clear that the show and experience are geting more popular and well-known every year. On the other hand, it also means that scalpers have caught on to its popularity and take advantage of the relatively cheap ticket price (equivalent to about $6.50 USD) to make money off of fans of the show. 

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The showing was at the Shin Kong Cineplex (新光影城) in Ximending, a Taipei neighborhood known for its movie theater district as well as LGBT culture and Japanese youth fashion. My three friends and I ended up going to the 10 PM show, figuring that in the tradition of RHPS, it was closer to midnight. The line to get in grew to be very long and crowded and there was a lot of media attention such as videographers and photographers, not to mention the many audience members and festival staff who wanted photos of the four of us in costume. Once we were let in, we collected our popcorn, which was included in the ticket price, and took our seats. The theater had about 200 seats and was completely full. The style was a modern cinema setup with two aisles and a very nice spotlight, but no elevated stage.

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Rocky Horror Cast "Types"....in Stereo

Here's a basic truth about Rocky Horror:  Every cast is different.

 

Here's another:  Every cast is the same.

 

Oh, they vary in many ways, some subtle and some not-so-subtle.  But when it comes right down to it, there are a lot of very similar (and similarly minded) people who are drawn to the contact sport of heading off to the theatre on the weekend, strapping on fancy underwear, spangly jackets and space suits and performing the Rocky Horror Picture Show in front of adoring crowds.  

 

Some of you may have noticed these "types" over the years.  When you've seen enough casts (and I've seen plenty), you can start to recognize and categorize various Rocky personalities.  Sometimes they remind you of someone you knew long ago.  Sometimes they look or sound like friends.  Sometimes they grate on you, calling to mind people you simply couldn't stand back when you did the show.  But there they are, despite the passing of years, just as their predecessors were.

 

So, briefly, I would like to review some of these RHPS stereotypes. See if you spot some people you know.  Or see if the people in your cast are a mix or amalgam of one (or several) of these personalities.  Even better: see if, just maybe, you spot yourself.

 

Here they are:

 

 

1.     The Lunatic.  Unpredictable, impulsive, energetic and tireless.  In our cast, this was a fellow named Ron.  The Lunatic can be counted on to be arrested at least once a year, usually for simply behaving inappropriately in a public venue.  Occasionally immensely irritating.  Guaranteed to come complete with a troubled past.   And, of course, generally very popular with the ladies.  Why is that, I wonder?

 

 

2.   The Nice Girl.  Pretty and sweet.  Not a likely candidate for Rocky, but drawn impulsively to join the cast.  Usually from a Good Home with Supportive Parents and a High Grade Point Average.  Our "Nice Girl" was Tracey and she was a peach.  The Nice Girl will almost always prove to be one of the best actresses in the show, but simply because it comes naturally.  (And they almost always play Janet.)

 

 

3.  The Big Guy.  Generally an Eddie, this is a huge, frightening looking but surprisingly kind-hearted cast member who is generally thought of as the most treasured person in the cast.  Super smart as well.  But big as the great outdoors.  Ours was named Donny.  Guaranteed that your Big Guy will be remembered as the kindest, most wonderful and freaking terrifying guy around.  Until you get to know him, of course.

 

4.   The Shouter (aka Motormouth):  Knows a callback to each and every line in the film and CANNOT stop yelling throughout the show.  The downside- he/she never listens to anyone else's lines and drowns people out constantly.  The upside- knows the top 50 funniest callbacks and cracks up the crowd.  If they stuck just to the top fifty and pulled back 25% of the time, they'd be the most popular person in the theatre but...they can't shut up for that long.  This I will guarantee:  EVERY cast has a Shouter.   

 

5.  The Natural Leader (usually the Cast Leader):  Organized, semi-inspirational, obsessively anal about cast finances, props, costumes and attendance and can usually be counted on to put together all the special events during the year (switch nights and the like). Our Leader was named Russ.  We loved him to pieces.

 

 

6.  The Diva.   Sharp tongued and moody, this Columbia-type is unwilling to put up with much bullshit and abhors criticism of herself.  Not to be crossed.  Also terrifically good in the show and knows it.  Usually a knockout and completely untouchable.  Ours was named Sunday.  GrrrrrrOWL.

 

 

7.  The Closeted Boy.  Just thisclose to coming out of the closet, this young gay man got into Rocky to see if it was a safe place to reveal his sexual preference.  He will soon discover that it is and then...look out.

 

These are just a few.  I'm sure you can think of many more.  Throw 'em in the comments, if you like.

 

Yours in Rocky fraternity-

 

Kevin "Jack" Theis

 

(Full disclosure:  I wrote about this sort of thing with my writing partner, Ron Fox, and published it in the book "Confessions of a Transylvanian."  If you haven't heard of it, check it out at www.RockyConfessions.com)

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Costuming for Beginners

Costuming for Beginners

My first Columbia costume was not what you would call screen accurate.  I didn’t even know the phrase “screen accurate”. But I thought it was great.  I made black cotton shorts and attached a variety of colorful stripes –including metallic ric-rac. And because it was the 80s, my mother had a striped sequin tube top that I begged her to give me (to be cut up and defiled), and I made my first tail coat out of liquid lame – it didn’t have a single sequin on it.  I can’t remember my hat, but I think it was one of those glitter numbers from the party store.  In all, it was a pretty great first costume.  Over the years as I became more involved I upgraded the pieces. b2ap3_thumbnail_belair_columbia_2.jpg

Working on my costume became my hobby. And my hobby eventually supplemented my income.  But that’s not what I’m writing about. It’s that we all begin somewhere. Maybe you’re on a cast that provides a lot of costumes already. Maybe you have to acquire your own costume before you can even audition. Either way, costuming is usually integral to performing with a shadow cast and you don’t have to break the bank to get started.

If you’re on a cast that provides a lot already, I would still recommend acquiring your own pieces. Maybe you’re not sure which character you’ll be performing most, but once you sink your teeth into a role it’s worth acquiring own costume. Not only will it fit you better, and be better cared for, but it will let you stand apart as an individual performer.

If you have to acquire a costume upfront to perform then my best advice is to start from the beginning of the film and work your way to the end. You can always upgrade later. And chances are you will. You’ll find yourself saying “next time I’m going to add ____.”

How much should you spend in the beginning? Like any other hobby or activity, you’re not going to get very far without spending at least something. Thrift stores and eBay are the best places to start. While you might not find something “perfect” on a tight budget, you can almost always find something to fix up – and this is where it gets fun!  There are several websites devoted exclusively to Rocky Horror costumes.

Once you have a complete set of costumes for your character you’ll probably begin upgrading. You’ll find a khaki jacket with a better shaped collar, or the perfect white sweater with the raglan sleeves. You may even make your own space suit or buy things custom-made.

Why should you care? Personally, I would feel guilty knowing all those people paid good money to see a show if I just got on stage in my street clothes. I’m not preaching screen accuracy here, but some effort! At the very least I’d aim to be on par with the rest of the cast you perform with. You should be part of the reason people want to see a shadow cast and not sit at home watching the film rerun on LOGO.b2ap3_thumbnail_584.jpg

And what of this “screen accuracy” I speak of? This is individual to every cast – and I’ve seen a lot of casts! Some casts have rules and people in charge of approving costumes to maintain a level of consistency. Other casts may encourage more personalization of the characters – letting the performer’s interpretation of the character dictate their costume and make-up choices. But they both take effort to be pulled off well. You could even take an organic approach –start with accuracy as a base and as your performance develops over time you can adapt your costume accordingly. There is no right or wrong way to build a costume – but there may be expectations or limits on what your cast allows.

Then you have people like me who sell Rocky Horror costumes. But what may surprise you is that I don’t actually endorse buying everything custom made – especially if you’re just getting started. If you do have the resources to buy custom work then be strategic in your purchases. A custom floorshow corset is great, but a sequin tail coat will make a bigger statement (remember, start from the beginning). If you find yourself still dancing in fishnets long after the butterflies of getting on stage have flown, then that’s the time to consider a bigger investment.

It’s all about having fun – and even if costuming isn’t your thing, it’s still going to have a huge effect on your characterization on stage. Huge.  Basically what I’m saying is:  If you want to own the part, you’re going to have to own the costume. 

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