Rocky Horror Shows Revived with Love, Laughter, Latex

The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been tradition at Oberlin for nearly as long as audiences have participated in bringing the film to life. The production, which is more of an event than a show, is perfect for Oberlin, a community not afraid to go all the way and participate in song, dance, dress-up, and the general pandemonium that ensues at midnight showings of the cult classic across the globe. 

Prior to the pandemic, the Apollo Theatre brought in a Cleveland-based troupe called Simply His Servants, who have been performing Rocky for over 30 years. They return tonight for a show that will start at 10:30 p.m.; entry is $10. On Saturday, Dec. 3, Hales Gym will host a free performance of Rocky Horror at 11:30 p.m. put on by Oberlin students. Both performances will be a shadow cast for the film, meaning the film will play as actors act out the scenes. 

For directors and College third-years Julia Maskin and Sadie Wilson-Voss, who play Magenta and Dr. Scott respectively, their production of Rocky Horror is a labor of love, not only for the show itself but also for the Oberlin community.

“I think it will truly be a showcase of students’ talent,” Wilson-Voss said. “It’s going to be a lot more rowdy than what traditional shows have been like because there’s going to be so much more connection between students and the cast, so we hope as many students as possible get involved and see what it’s like for them.”

Maskin and Wilson-Voss had no trouble getting student engagement even in the early planning stages. The student show was initially conceived as a DIY production in which Maskin was set to control lighting and sound while also being part of the cast. Since then, the show has blossomed into a collaboration of passionate individuals ready to put on a display of “gorgeous, unbridled, raw passion and sex,” according to Wilson-Voss. 

“We love the movie, the show, and it’s also just so fun,” Maskin said. “We were also aware that it used to be kind of an old tradition that was lost … almost entirely due to COVID, so it felt like a perfect way to create something that would be fun and exciting and silly on campus.”

Although Maskin and Wilson-Voss’s expectations were initially modest, their idea developed into something larger.

“We started making posters and got really excited about [them] and printed like a million posters,” Maskin said. “Then from there, we were like ‘Okay, now what?’”

After putting up the posters, the co-directors were met with an immense amount of interest from students, prompting them to hold auditions.

“We had a certain cast member who had auditioned, [and] we put him in a gimp mask and a leash and dog collar and had him sitting outside of auditions,” Maskin said. “We put a lot of our thought into the aesthetics of the auditions and what would make us laugh and hopefully get more to laugh. A lot of the earliest planning was going around that, and then once that was done it was like ‘Okay great, next’ and ‘Now, the show.’ It definitely built momentum.”

During rehearsals, the cast of about 12 watches the film, then goes over specific scenes, acting them out repeatedly.

“We were very upfront with people at the beginning [that] we’ve never directed a show, let alone a movie [with a] shadow cast,” Maskin said. “We didn’t really know how that was going to work, and so we’ve been working it through with actors [and] seeing what kinds of rehearsals are working more than others.”

Rocky Horror isn’t only for its cast, though. Much of its national recognition is a direct result of the audience’s involvement with the live performance and the screen, with traditions ranging from an array of calls and responses to props like rice, toast, newspapers, and rubber gloves. 

“People should expect a very silly, fun, but also put-together production, [and] I think we have been able to strike that balance,” Maskin said. “There’s a moment in the ending sequence that has been quite literally breathtaking for me to watch. Get ready to be drenched, in every sense of the word.”

Maskin and Wilson-Voss plan to work with the Oberlin Doula Collective or another organization to arrange a fundraiser with a suggested donation to abortion funds.

“We plan on [the show] being pretty risqué,” Wilson-Voss said. “Whatever there might be in a typical Rocky show, we plan on taking that and [going] above and beyond, so we hope that we have enough to offer that will inspire people to want to come. In every scene, we’re thinking about how to make it overtly funny and slap-sticky.”