It’s 8:45 p.m. on a Thursday, and the lobby of the Atlas Theatre is covered in thin wooden sticks. A lively group of Cheyenne Little Theatre Players actors are being directed to maneuver around said sticks while rehearsing a show about a transvestite scientist.
These precious items are part of director Victoria Cline’s homework for a theater class at Colorado State University, but right now they’re acting as stage markers because the Atlas is occupied by “Beauty and the Beast” actors, and the Mary Godfrey Playhouse is being used for “The Sunshine Boys” rehearsal.
“Rocky Horror Picture Show” has always been the smallest of CLTP’s shows, but Cline, the director for three consecutive years, said its importance lies in its role as the theater’s annual fundraiser. The small, but mighty show has experienced significant audience growth in the past couple years, she added, so this season the cast will perform two additional shows for the first time in CLTP “Rocky Horror” history.
“People just flock,” Cline said. “You think ‘Cheyenne, cowboy country?’ Yes, these people come dressed in their fishnets and their corsets, and I love it. Bring out the weird! It’s not something you expect, and that’s part of the reason we added two more shows.”
The production (which is a shadow cast performance, meaning the film plays on a large screen behind the actors as they dance and lip-sync along) holds a special spot in Cline’s heart because it’s the first CLTP show she performed in after moving to Cheyenne in 2016. She played Magenta that year, a role that changed not only her future in the performing arts, but her level of self- confidence.
“I’ve never really been an actor. I’ve always been more crafty,” she said. “But I just gave up on all my self-consciousness as Magenta … it’s a really cool way to open up.”
She also helped with some costumes and props for that production, and the CLTP team was so impressed, they asked her to be prop master for the theater’s staging of “Into the Woods.” Her resulting work was of such high quality, the team asked her to take on another new role: directing.
In 2017, Cline’s life changed when she became director of “Rocky Horror.” She loves how close the cast gets every year because of the touchy-feely, flamboyant nature of the show, she said, and she loves watching the actors embrace the freedom that comes with being completely vulnerable.
But she’s gained more than just close friends as director. After her experience with “Rocky Horror” and working behind the scenes on other CLTP productions, Cline was inspired to go back to college to study theater tech and design.
“The Little Theatre gave me my start,” Cline said. “I’ve always been an artist and a musician, and didn’t know how to make that a (larger) thing, so when the technical director offered me a position for ‘Into the Woods,’ that opened my eyes.”
Now, Cline’s dream is to open a prop shop that can offer grants and scholarships so small community theaters like CLTP can get the products they need at a fraction of the cost.
After this year, Cline is taking a big step to focus on that dream: she’ll step down as director of “Rocky Horror” and hand the responsibility off to assistant director Hailey Beaty.
As a CSU student living in Fort Collins, Colorado, it’s hard to commute to Cheyenne for rehearsals, Cline said. But she plans to stay involved in small ways, like making the occasional prop for CLTP shows.
Small ways, that is, until she’s able to reach her goal and provide the theater with low-cost sets and props.
For now, though, Cline is focusing on the present. And she’s thankful to be part of a show that has remained relevant ever since the 1975 film adaptation blew up.
“When it came out, it was such a big deal – it talked about sexuality, gender, etc., and brought a lot of things into the spotlight,” she said. “It’s such an odd show and a beautiful little theater piece. ... It just caters to everybody, especially now with the way that gender association is and sexuality and how all that’s coming to a head.”
One of her favorite parts of being involved in such a progressive show is interacting with the audience. Cline is consistently surprised by the variety of ages the production attracts, she said, and because the group doesn’t have separate ushers, it’s the cast who gets to interact with the wide array of patrons before every show.
Cline said she wants those who’ve never seen “Rocky Horror” before to know it’s an experience unlike any other film or play they’ve ever seen. But don’t worry about some of the more intimidating traditions for first-timers – they only pick 10 “virgins” to bring onstage and draw a lipstick “V” on their forehead.
“It’s an interaction with a weird cast watching a weird movie that makes no sense, and it’s just fun,” Cline said. “Stupid fun!”