ROCK SPRINGS -- It's more than just a jump to the left.
Just because you know the moves, it doesn’t mean the dance will go smoothly. Unexpected complications reveal a lot about inner character and confidence. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” illustrates this lesson on and off the stage.
The cast of the Actors’ Mission musical spent the start of rehearsal Wednesday making changes to the staging compensate for a fall an actress suffered on Tuesday night. They worked to find a new balance for scenes and action on the stage of the Broadway Theater. With the show opening Friday, they had plenty of incentive to keep on their toes … and in one case, crutches.
“Toward the end of rehearsal, our Columbia (Chelsea Price) went to stand up in her heels for the last number and slipped on the stage! Resulted in her ankle breaking in two places,” director Kenneth Starling said. “She'll actually need surgery next week to fix it, but she's soldiering through. We went ahead and reworked all scenes with her, and it actually wasn't that hard. We're fully embracing it as part of her character, finding the humor and humility in the situation - and it really works!”
“Break a leg” jokes came steadily and with a greater weight, as did comments about “show must go on.” The cast and crew are dedicated to bringing the story of discovering one’s inner identity to the community and raising money to help the Actors’ Mission build a theater in downtown Rock Springs.
I REALLY LOVE THAT ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tells the musical story of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, whose nicknames will soon become reflexive to the audience. A narrator helps explain how the couple decides to celebrate their new engagement with their mentor, Dr. Scott. Their rendezvous is delayed when they become lost and unexpected guests of Frank N' Furter and his staff, Riff-Raff, Magenta and Columbia.
The innocent pair bear witness to Frank’s dalliances with Eddie and a newly create Rocky. The science fiction aspects further emerge as laser-wielding aliens make themselves known.
Their night of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll has a transformative effect on those around Frank, who proudly proclaims he’s a “sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania. Roles are frequently swapped and reversed as personal lessons are learned and callbacks are repeated.
Kenneth, who also wears the red heels Dr. Frank N' Furter, said this fundraiser show is intended to bring in a younger and hopefully more diverse crowd.
“It’s got a great message for people here in Rock Springs,” they said before adding there aren’t “many opportunities to see queer folks strutting their stuff.”
Kenneth is nonbinary and answers to any pronoun but suggested they/them to prompt discussions. They has a lot of experience with the show having previously worked with five productions in four states.
“I have a history with it,” they said. “It speaks to my soul.”
They first saw the movie version of the musical when he was age 8, Kenneth directed and played Frank at age 16; and the show later became them’s first professional stage credit.
He and his partner, Devin Manfull, who also plays Brad Majors and serves as the assistant director stage manager, moved to the community in the past year. Kenneth said the presence of the Actors’ Mission made a big difference in the pair deciding to move here.
Kenneth joined the theater group’s board in February, and he was quick to pitch a production plan, casting, aesthetic, design and fundraiser potential. They also work as the show’s designer and choreographer.
Kenneth said the board was quick to get on board and it took a little longer to get approval to use the Broadway Theater.
Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency Manager Chad Banks said the Broadway Theater board and staff have been reluctant to show the movie because of the mess that can be created by moviegoers.
“When we were approached by Actors’ Mission (AM) about the production, our board had some very thoughtful discussions about the production and Actors’ Mission reputation for quality performances in our community. The board felt, with the reassurances from AM, that this would be a unique opportunity and the theater wouldn't be damaged in the process so gave approval for the production.”
For those who haven’t seen “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or joined in on a live, loud screening, Kenneth said, “There’s a point where Frank N' Furter says, ‘Don’t dream it; be it,’ and that’s the the primary metaphor of the show.”
They said no matter who you are or what you look like, “You’re sexy, and you can be. Just embrace it.”
“Just come with an open mind. You might find out something about yourself that you didn’t know beforehand.”
SAY IT! SAY IT!
For those who have RHPS experience, the director said be ready to have fun but understand that this isn’t the movie. Kenneth said the show thrives on an active, involved audience. There will be plants in the crowd to help encourage participation and set the ambiance and ushers will be available to make sure there’s a good environment for the show. They noted that a live staging of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is different from people shouting at a projection screen, and instead of going 100% to tone it down to something like 80%.
“You have to respect it because there is a culture behind it. There is a phenomenon,” they said.
Kenneth said the goal is to help viewers take their individuality and elevate within their reality and find their sexual confidence behind it.
I'VE SEEN BLUE SKIES
There are also moments of revealing honesty. Near the end of the show, Frank takes a spot on the edge of the stage to sing, “I’m Going Home.” His wild and sometimes violent streak has greatly impacted those in his orbit and his time is short.
“In that moment, I believe Frank knows it's the end of the line,” Kenneth said. “Most sociopaths are hyper aware of who they are and what they're doing. In this song, he's giving out a final, heartfelt plea to fool everyone one last time (at least, as heartfelt as a sociopathic alien can be … ). But he's hurt Riff Raff and Magenta far too much, and they don't fall for his games anymore. It results in this number being his swan song.”
If people reflect the moods of the actors on stage, they’ll laugh, cry and learn something about themselves.
“Be ready to have fun, everyone! We are here to thrill you, chill you, and fulfill you! But remember, this isn't the movie - and we hope you'll walk away from out production with an even fonder memory (and deeper understanding) of the masterpiece that is Rocky Horror!” Kenneth said.