By Margo Greenman
Provocative, risqué, musical and unusual are just a few of the words you could use to describe the 1975 cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Portraying the weird, obscure and totally bizarre, The Rocky Horror Picture Show tells the story of a newly engaged couple, Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, who seek help at a nearby castle after getting a flat tire one dark and stormy evening. Now they find that they are guests at an Annual Transylvanian Convention hosted by Dr. Frank N. Furter. The evening is followed by a whirlwind of oddities, including the creation of Rocky in Dr. Frank N. Furter’s lab, seduction, murder, aliens, sequins, a whole lot of singing, and more.
A strange but captivating plot, the film gained popularity about a year after its release during screenings at the Waverly Theater in New York where audience members would act along during screenings of the movie. The tradition of audience members dressing up and acting along on stage while others sang (or shouted) at the screen from their seats gained nationwide popularity in the years that followed. And now, nearly 40 years later, many theaters across the country continue to partake in the garishly entertaining tradition.
Locally, one of the most active theaters inviting audience members to act along during late night screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is Tacoma’s Blue Mouse Theatre. The theater, which opened in 1923, has thrived thanks to the support of the local community who enjoy the theater for its unique offerings, one of which being The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Twice a month, after the rest of the Proctor neighborhood has turned out the lights for the evening, the Blue Mouse Theatre’s seats fill with outlandishly dressed teens and adults ready to sing their hearts out. In addition to dressing up and acting or singing along, the film is made even more interactive with props like rice and toast (sold at the concession stand) for guests to throw on queue from their seats during the movie. And, even if you’re not acting along on stage with the Blue Mousketeers during the film, “virgins” (anyone who’s never seen the movie, or hasn’t seen the movie in the past six months) have their chance to “perform” on stage while participating in a variety of Rocky Horror-esque activities and challenges during the pre-show.
Perhaps you’ll be blindfolded and asked to drink from the mystery cup, or maybe you’ll go head-to-head in a semi-sensual cookie eating competition for your chance at a gift certificate or other prize. The pre-show, which starts promptly 30 minutes before the movie at 11:30 p.m., helps Rocky Horror Picture Show virgins warm-up and get in the mood for the crowd participation that takes place throughout the film.
After recently de-virginized guests return to their seats, the lights dim the film begins. The opening scene, which features painted red and floating lips on screen singing “Science Fiction, Double Feature,” is sang in unison by a performing cast member on stage and enthusiastic chanting from the audience. The actors, which include Producer Crystal Fornes as Columbia, are a mish-mash of returning Blue Mousketeers players and first-time performers. Fornes, who has been involved as an actor and producer of the show for more than 10 years, says they’re always looking for new cast members to join the fun.
With productions on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, The Rocky Horror Picture Show doesn’t just bring in a crowd of Tacoma locals, but people from across the region. Robert Foster, a resident of Whidbey Island, plays the role of Brad Majors and says the late night trip to Tacoma is worth it. Both Foster and Fornes play in other productions of the show in Seattle and other cities across the state, but both agree that there’s something special about doing it at the Blue Mouse Theatre.
Interested in experiencing the show for yourself? Come in your street clothes or go all out in your Rocky Horror best for a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The show, which takes place twice per month at the Blue Mouse Theatre, is including extra productions during the month of October, with a show every Saturday through Halloween. The show starts promptly at midnight, with the pre-show starting at 11:30 p.m. Admission is $5.