Written by Gracie Price
As the lights dim, the audience roars in anticipation and the orchestra strikes up the iconic opening number “Science Fiction/Double Feature”. The crowd waves their arms in the air and sings “ooh wah” along with the ensemble who are dressed in dazzlingly eccentric costumes. Throughout the musical, noisemakers are blown, playing cards are thrown up in the air, and rubber gloves are snapped which creates a truly immersive, entertaining experience for both the cast and the audience alike. From the moment the performance begins, the audience has become a cast member of the kooky world. This is the Rocky Horror experience.
How did all of these wild traditions begin? Rumor has it, the first person to start the participation was a quiet schoolteacher who yelled “buy an umbrella!” at Janet as she covered her head with a newspaper during a storm. The audience shrieked in laughter at the remark and followed his example. Over time, responses and phrases were spontaneously created and stuck until they morphed into an audience “script” that most fans follow to this day.
Other traditions have emerged such as singing all the songs with the cast, getting up and doing the “Time Warp”, and bringing props to use during fitting moments of dialogue. Anticipate waving a glowstick when you hear the line “there’s a light” sung during “Over at the Frankenstein Place”. These traditions have made the show truly a one-of-a-kind experience and have grown it into the cultural phenomenon that it is today. According to Robert Fuson, the director of UA’s production of Rocky Horror, “they [the audience] have created a conversation with the art across time which has inherently changed the presentation of the art itself.”
The UA Theatre and Dance program plans to keep this tradition alive and well when Rocky Horror rocks the Marian Gallaway stage on Halloween night this fall. Fuson adds to the importance of preserving audience participation by remarking that it “has come to define the experience of the show in the contemporary context”. Audience participation will be heavily encouraged and prompted through the use of projection screens during the production. The department will also be selling participation bags at the door to give the audience another level of immersion into the show.
The cast and crew of The Rocky Horror Show look forward to welcoming you into the world of these iconic characters. Get ready to bend the rules of what live theatre can be and look forward to a night to remember!