I was walking through Textor Hall during an accepted students day the spring before my first year at Ithaca College when I saw the flyer. It was printed in black ink on 8 x 11 inch printer paper and would have been virtually invisible to passers-by who weren’t acquainted with the image of Tim Curry in drag lounging seductively on a giant pair of lips. But I was all too familiar with the emblem of the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
When I came to IC, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, but I knew I was going to be part of Rocky Horror. I’d been going to my hometown college’s productions since I was 15, and I was addicted to the absurd energy that powered each of the actors. I auditioned for IC’s production, and happily found that they didn’t even make cuts for the show. Already, it was different from any theatrical production I’d ever been part of. Instead of immediately getting down to business on day one of rehearsal, our directors—one for the main cast of characters, one for the rest of the ensemble members, or “Pets” as we fondly refer to them—sat us down and talked to us about our bodies. By this point, I’d sat through enough awkward health class discussions about the human body to last me a lifetime, but this was unlike anything I’d ever seen. We sat in a circle and talked about what we loved about ourselves, what we didn’t love so much, and the amazing miracle it is to be alive in a working body. I left that first rehearsal conscious of the air in my lungs and grateful for the blood in my veins.
In-depth discussions like these were not relegated to the first few rehearsals. Whenever we met, we would dedicate at least a half hour to group discussion of issues surrounding mental, physical, and emotional health. With each discussion, the cast became more comfortable with sharing personal information. In the two short months we had to put on the show, I grew closer to my cast than I had to some people I’d gone to high school with for four years, and many of the people I met during that first show are still some of my closest friends, three years later.
I’ve participated in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
for the past four years, and this past fall, I had the honor of directing the ensemble members alongside friend and fellow Rocky
enthusiast, Angie Barry ’15. This fall was also the first time Rocky
was produced through Macabre Theatre Ensemble
, a group of students dedicated to the dramatically obtuse. I’d never directed a thing in my life, and Angie didn’t have much more experience than I did, but we knew the show inside and out and had years of exemplary directors to draw inspiration from. That didn’t mean I wasn’t absolutely terrified; I had 35 people to keep track of, and if any of them had a question, I was the one they would come to looking for answers, which means I had to have answers. (That’s a really scary responsibility.) But my cast was brilliant, patient, and hard working and tolerated my frantic style of direction with the patience of a preschool teacher.
The show went up on Halloween weekend as it does every fall. Some audience members dressed up in Rocky-inspired attire, and many who didn’t still kept the spirit of the holiday strong by wearing their Halloween costumes. It went off without a hitch. As I stood among my ensemble during the final show of the long weekend—because there was no way I was going to miss out on performing my final year even if I was directing—I had to continually remind myself to breathe deeply and concentrate on the show to not burst into tears. The Pet standing next to me saw my struggle.
“Are you okay?” she shouted over the cacophony as she laid a hand on my shoulder.
“I’m fine, I’m just so proud. Everyone is doing so well. It’s great. I can’t even talk about it or else I’m just going to turn into a waterfall right here.”
I managed to hold myself together for the duration of the show, but as soon as it was over and all the hugs were had, I ran to the nearest bathroom, shut myself in a stall, and cried. After four years and roughly 250 viewings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it was all over.
Even though I won’t be jumping to the left or stepping to the right anymore, the party is far from over. The 2014 show marked the 25th anniversary of Rocky’s life at Ithaca College, and with Catherine Proulx ’17 and Patrick Taylor ’17 as the new heads of Macabre Theatre Ensemble for the next few years, there’s no doubt in my mind that IC will be doing The Time Warp for another 25 years at least.