'Rocky Horror' comes to U.Va.

Voyeuristic Intentions brings an unusual screening to Newcomb Theater



Newcomb Theater was host to a very different type of movie screening Friday evening. A man and a woman — both wearing corsets, fishnets and heels — greeted people outside of the building.

Those new to the production each drew a giant “V” on their foreheads in red lipstick — marking them as “virgins”. Outside of the theater, people milled about in an electric mix of costumes, wigs and make-up. This was “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” experience.

The sole purpose of the student group Voyeuristic Intentions is to put on a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show each semester, complete with a shadow cast of actors that mimic what’s happening on screen. This semester, second-year college student Kelly Strauch and third-year college student Lucas Beane directed the show.

“Rocky Horror” is a cult classic film, first released in 1975. Largely ignored upon its initial release, the film’s mix of comedy, science fiction, musical theater and outright strangeness eventually spawned a massive cult following.

“Rocky is interesting because it plays to people’s desire to be part of a larger tradition or group, but also to their desire to transgress and move away from the norm,” Strauch said. “[People] come to Rocky because it is a well-established [tradition] while still being unordinary.”

A typical “Rocky Horror” showing opens with the “virgin games,” as those who have never been to a showing before are invited to participate in a variety of mildly embarrassing games in front of the audience.

Then the movie begins. Actors in replica costumes act in front of the screen, sometimes adding their own quips or jokes. Meanwhile, the audience shouts at the screen with a plethora of “callbacks,” or humorous responses to the film’s lines. Some callbacks are traditional, while others are more suited to the individual performance. A couple of first-year jokes were cracked at Friday’s screening.

“The bureaucracy is probably the most intense part [of showing the film] because we have to make sure we’re adhering to University policies while still permitting our guests and actors what they came for,” Beane said.

Between booking rooms and securing the rights for the film, directing the show was the easy part.

“The rehearsal process is a piece of cake next to the administrative stuff,” Strauch said. “We tell the actors where to enter from and where to stand, but most of them have seen the movie so [many times] or been in the shadow cast before, that they already know.”

Though well-intentioned in its humor, the movie presents several opportunities for potential controversy. Certain elements of the film and screening experience may be off-putting to some viewers, but Strauch and Beane worked hard to alleviate any potential difficulties.

“During the actual show, we make sure not to interact with the audience in any way that could potentially make them uncomfortable, and if they’re uncomfortable for some reason, we openly tell them they’re permitted to leave at any time without any fear of judgment,” Beane said. “We know this isn’t for everyone.”

Despite the unorthodoxy, a “Rocky Horror” screening is certainly something everyone should experience at least once.

“Rocky stays with you long after the performance,” Strauch said. “I haven’t quite been able to get the red out of my hair since I played Columbia last semester. Being in the show is so much fun, and sometimes strangers come up to you and tell you that they saw the show and liked you in it. That’s a great feeling.”

Published April 7, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau

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