Virgins enjoy ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ experience

After narrowly dodging a blimplike floating condom, I followed a group of men in fishnets and an assortment of women in sequined outfits to my seat. Upon sitting, a man, who a moment ago I was convinced was a woman, turned from his seat directly in front of me and offered me a condom. I thanked him. He winked and turned back towards the show.  Welcome to a viewing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Shannon Hall was a series of hundreds of interactions like this Friday night. As a crowd of wide-eyed “virgins” like myself took seats quietly, the more experienced of the crowd gaudily prepared for the spectacle. Virgins are those of us in the community that have never experienced Rocky Horror before. Some of us virgins had red “V”s adorning our faces; others were just trying to blend in. All of us had eyes about the size of dinner plates.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a unique combination of live stage performance, film and lascivious crowd participation. The movie originally came out in 1975, and since then, midnight showings where the crowd talks back at the movie and participates in some of the scenes caught on. Now, sitting in the theater, it was very clear who was part of the tradition and who wasn’t.

A man in six-inch heels, leather accents and fishnets approached the microphone to give us rules; every rule was accompanied by choruses of commentary, almost drowning out the message. Each rule was more sexual than the last, my favorite being “And for God’s sake, please, no fucking in the theater, that’s what the bathrooms are for.”

I was sweating, my eyes darting from side to side and it felt like I had entered some kind of strange fetish convention. Then, the movie started.

For all of you fellow virgins out there, I will give you this disclaimer to my review: I have been told I do well with weird. That being said, being prompted to yell “slut” or “asshole” any time the two main protagonists appeared on-screen became distracting during the movie/play/cultural experience.

As we cruised through the sing-alongs and strange critique of glam rock and sexuality, the shadow cast mirrored the actors they respectively portrayed on screen, an interesting duality that the showing is famous for.

Sex Out Loud along with WUD Film and one other sponsor put up the showing in Shannon Hall, and while the WUD folk stayed back and enjoyed the show, the Sex Out Loud crowd made sure they were heard. Dialogue to poke fun at the movie was quite funny, when it could be heard. The roar from the crowd reminded me of a movie where fruit and vegetables were being thrown onstage. It sounded like a drunken riot at a burlesque show.  

For the non-virgins, this racket fueled their fire to join in and, I am sure, added to the experience. As someone who was not familiar at all with anything except the famous “Time Warp”—and only that from Badger games and the occasional dance party—it was distracting and frankly annoying. The dialogue I was able to decipher from the rabble was funny and made me chuckle, but mostly the din from the audience directly canceled out the sound of the movie. This made it impossible to hear and certain aspects of the experience were lost on me.

I had come with a group of friends who were mostly virgins, and by the time the show was over I was the only one left in the theater, an unfortunate fact because I do believe the showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a unique and chaotic experience that ultimately should have ended positively for them.

This being said, I had a great time observing the crowd of vibrant personalities and even more vibrant costumes, and the shadow cast, the Velvet Darkness, killed it. The atmosphere was loud and energetic and seemed to be very rewarding for those with an in. Unfortunately, I think the combination of too many non-casted rowdy audience members yelling at the screen and the general size of Shannon Hall created an environment that wasn’t the most conducive for first-time viewers. Overall, I had a positive experience and enjoyed the chaos, but for most it was too much. I would recommend going to a midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to anyone because it is a great cultural experience. I just wouldn’t recommend choosing such a big venue combined with such a rowdy audience.  

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