Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Doing the Time Warp again

One of my fondest college memories is thinking back to our regular outings to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show -- the theater across the street from St. Bonaventure University played it every weekend for just about the whole four years I was there. Now that Gabby is college-bound herself in less than a year, I figured it was a good time to introduce her to some of the other stuff you need to know before you head off to higher education ... namely, indispensable knowledge like what props to bring to the Rocky Horror theater, when to say your lines, and most importantly, how to do The Time Warp.

Anyone who has never seen the film in a theater filled with rabid fans -- and it is definitely not the same as seeing it at home on your TV, unless you are willing to trash your place -- might not understand, so let me give you a little background. The Rocky Horror Picture Show came out in 1975 and stars Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss, and Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors. The movie was a huge flop at first and, in all honesty, it really is a stupid flick. But that is all part of the fun, as the film evolved over the years into one of the biggest cult classics ever, and a movie that now brings the audience along for the wild ride as moviegoers have added their own lines to the script. Any time a character pauses, someone in the audience will yell out their own line that gives the actor's next phrase a whole new, and usually nasty, meaning. They also bring along some bizarre props and dress in crazy costumes to augment their own enjoyment of the movie, along with everyone else's around them.

(Gabby and I dress in our Halloween finest for a night at the theater)

The shopping list for attending the film is pretty odd: you need items like rice, newspaper, a squirt gun or reasonable facsimile, toast, toilet paper rolls, and noise makers. This year there were even raw hot dogs on the menu; I don't know who came up with that, but that's part of the fun of the film -- and it's always changing.

The movie is rated R but most of what you see in it is now readily accessible on daytime television. On the other hand, the mostly-college student crowd's lines were pretty racy for this family-friendly blog (Gabby commented afterwards, "There was a lot of profanity in there!" I did notice she was giggling at most of it, though) but I'll try to capture the essence of the experience without losing my own G rating.

The interactive fun starts almost immediately, as a wedding scene sees a couple walk out of the church into a crowd of rice-throwing friends. The audience as well starts throwing their own rice. I had rice in my shoes, down my collar, and in my ear by the time the scene was over. Shortly afterwards, there's a rain storm and Brad and Janet's car breaks down. When Janet takes out a newspaper and puts it over her head, everyone playing along does the same.

(Gabby and I won't be bothered by the storm as long as we have our newspaper rain bonnets)

And don't think those newspapers don't come in handy, especially for the bald-headed (although looking around at all of the college-aged people there, I think I was the only bald audience member since I was the oldest person there). Those squirt guns came out at the same time, and the entire theater was deluged by a raging indoor typhoon.

(I can't imagine what it was like to clean up after this night at the movies)

Once Brad and Janet find a castle to seek sanctuary, they find it full of weirdo characters like Frank-N-Furter and his servants Riff-Raff and Magenta. The hero and heroine walk in during an odd dance ritual, as the gang does what they call "The Time Warp" and the audience jumps right up to join them. And it doesn't matter if the crowd is familiar with the steps, because the technique is explained in detail during the scene for the new people.

(This movie doesn't just keep the audience on the edge of their seats, but gets them right out of them and on their feet to do the Time Warp)

Oddly, this wasn't Gabby's first Time Warp experience -- her drama club at the Camden High School recently did a performance of macabre shorts, and she and I actually danced in the aisles during the show. So we are old hats at the Time Warp moves -- made all that much more complicated thanks to the slippery slime of water and rice and who-knows-what-else under our feet.

(It's just a jump to the left and then a step to the right ... or is it a step to the left and a jump to the right ... whatever; the theater is full of drunk college students so nobody cares)

Kudos to the Hamilton Theater and Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. for keeping my Rocky Horror viewing tradition alive for me some (cough) two decades after those college days and creating new memories for my progeny. We'll be back next year, and we can't wait to see what new fun the fans have come up by then!

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