In 1975, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” opened a nation-wide dialogue about gender-bending through elaborate Halloween-styled song and dance. Forty years later, this cult classic is still widely celebrated as one of the most influential movies regarding sexual orientation.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a musical about a young couple that discovers the mansion of a transvestite scientist named Frank-N-Furter, who introduces them to his newest creation, a muscular man named Rocky.
As “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” became more widely accepted, an artistic expression known as shadow casting became a popular way to view the movie. Shadow casts are especially popular on college campuses, and Fort Collins has its very own, called the Fort Collins Favorite Obsession.
Fort Collins Favorite Obsession founder and director Arianna Casey described shadow casting as a way for audiences to be more engaged with the movie.
“The movie is playing and we act it out in front of the screen,” Casey said. “We take the movie and we improve it, which makes it much more fun. We get the audience involved and everyone dances on stage.”
Cast member Liz Rumelhagen said performing in a shadow cast requires commitment to knowing the movie inside and out.
“It requires watching the movie more times than any human should ever watch one movie,” Rumelhagen said. “I am trying to exactly mirror what is happening on the screen, which is hard, because everybody is watching you.”
According to cast member Roan O’Brien, the cast’s commitment comes from their love for the movie and its message.
“The movie is simply amazing,” O’Brien said. “It is hard to put into words almost. It grabs your attention. It just gives you a chance to express yourself beyond the norms of society.”
Casey founded the Fort Collins Favorite Obsession shadow cast after her own experience performing in Denver’s shadow cast.
“It started off with just grabbing at anyone who was maybe interested,” Casey said. “I found people who were going through hard things and didn’t have an outlet or anything to communicate it to.”
Casey said “Rocky Horror Picture Show” attracts people who have experienced hardships.
“People that are more broken find ‘Rocky,'” Casey said. “The people that don’t have family, the people who are struggling though a hard time, they find ‘Rocky.’ They find something to just put their time into and they invest in the people.”
Casey said this is because “Rocky Horror Picture Show” has the ability to impact people on a personal level.
“Everything goes and anything goes,” Casey said. “It has actually helped a lot of people find their sexuality and really open up to their sexuality.”
Rumelhagen said the atmosphere surrounding “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the reason why people feel comfortable openly expressing their sexuality at shows.
“It is one of those environment where people that are straight are the minority,” Rumelhagen said. “We have the entire spectrum of gender and sexuality, which I find nice because I do identify as bisexual. It is just a nice environment where we don’t have to worry. It is very accepting in that way.”
Rumelhagen believes that this is the reason why “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has made such an impact and why it has a large following.
“It was one of the first representations of this counterculture,” Rumelhagen said. “I think that is why it was so important at the time and why it continues to be important today. It is for people who would otherwise not have a spotlight on them.”
O’Brien said “The Rock Horror Picture Show” shadow cast allows for free expression.
“This is not your average show,” O’Brien said. “This is dirty. This is perverted. You can pretty much do almost anything. Everyone is perverted in his or her own way. This is just a way to express that.”
The desire to express oneself is the reason why Casey said she runs her cast non-traditionally.
“You put something into that character, and you get something out of it,” Casey said. “Nobody is auditioning. You’re just going to be on stage and have fun.”
Casey said this approach speaks the original intent of shadow casting.
“That is how it got started,” said Casey. “The original shadow cast was just people who really loved the movie — getting up on stage and acting it out.”
This approach is also the reason why Rumelhagen said the Fort Collins Favorite Obsession shadow cast always puts on a passionate performance.
“When you have a cast running for a long time, you can get stuck in your ways,” said Rumelhagen. “Because we are newer, we are able to approach things from a very fresh standpoint. Even though we don’t necessarily have the experience, we care more.”
For those who have never seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and especially for those who have never attended a shadow cast performance, the experience can be overwhelming. Rumelhagen said that embracing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” culture is a necessity if you want to enjoy the show.
“You are not going to sit down and watch a movie,” Rumelhagen said. “That is the absolute last thing that is going to happen. People will be screaming and yelling. You’re going to run around and dance, but you’re not going to know why. There are going to be really horrible jokes that you’re going to laugh at. You’re going to be offended, but you’re going to have a really good time.”
Casey encourages attendees not to worry about their appearance as they engage in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” shadow cast traditions.
“We look very ridiculous, so you’re not going to look stupid,” said Casey. “Whenever people are throwing things, just throw it too. Get up, dance and express yourself.”
The Fort Collins Favorite Obsession shadow cast is performing “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Estes Park at the Historic Theatre. If you are interested in joining the Fort Collins Favorite Obsession shadow cast, email Casey at email@example.com.
Collegian Reporter Randi Mattox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @randimattox.