By Haley Rey, Head Copyeditor
Photos by Haley Rey, Matt Halloran, and EllenTrinity
Hear the wedding bells! Toss your rice into the air! You’ve been rightfully sacrificed to the almighty lips, and it’s time for the Rocky Horror Picture Show! ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!!
During a time like this, it’s difficult to find ways to feel normal and human. Going shopping, playing sports, popping a tire and being drawn into a castle that contains aliens and transvestite scientists—these are all great options for anyone looking to feel like the pandemic hasn’t taken everything away. While I don’t know if it actually qualifies as normal, I think the best way I’ve taken back my life during COVID-19 was attending a midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
The show was held at Melba Theater in De Soto, Missouri, on Aug. 29. I was lucky enough to be invited by McKendree’s very own Madeline Trinity, and joined by fellow Bearcats Brad Eston and Jordyn Waters. Trinity found out about the anniversary celebration from the man running it, Tristan Ratterman. Due to this fortunate connection, I was able to ask Tristan a few questions about the show. He and his cast, “Flustered Mustard,” are very proud of the show they put on.
“Normally, something like a midnight screening is pretty simple and quick for us,” Ratterman explained. “I’m in my eighth year involved with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but my cast is in their third year. We used to do bi-weekly shows. This one, however, took a bit more planning.”
So, what exactly is Rocky Horror? Well, it’s often described as a cult flick, seeing as how the audience that supports it has its own way of celebrating the existence and anniversaries of the film. This year marks 45 years since the screenplay was released, written by Richard O’Brien and Jim Sharman.
There are several calls and actions during the live show that, for the most part, only insiders are aware of. I’d love for everyone reading this article to know about what happens at a live show, but I don’t want to “pop any cherries” outside the theater! To give a taste, I’ll share this for the “virgins” in the audience (first-timers at any live show), the only rules given were as follows:
- Every time Brad Majors’ name is said, yell out “Asshole!”
- Every time Janet Weiss’ name is said, yell out “Slut!”
- For the love of God, do the Time Warp!
Just from those rules alone (a small selection of many), it’s clear that the night ahead of us was going to be interesting, to say the least.
The night began with costume preparations and some serious soundtrack appreciation. Madeline dressed as Columbia, a tap-dancing lover of Frank-N-Furter and Eddie. Jordyn dressed as Janet Weiss, the seemingly innocent fiancé of Brad Majors. Brad Eston dressed as Brad Majors, of course, the man with the plan to simply borrow a phone. I decided to scratch the itch I’ve had since my first time watching the movie, dressing up as Magenta, the sexually outgoing castle maid.
It’s important to note that many fans (casual fans, at least) of the show are not entirely sure of the plot of the show, let alone every detail. In fact, there is a decent amount of fans that didn’t even enjoy the film the first time.
“I first saw it when my mom suggested renting a musical horror flick from Blockbuster,” Ratterman said. “I thought it was weird, and absolutely hated it.”
Surely, Ratterman’s story is similar to many other fans’ experiences with Rocky Horror Picture Show. Eventually, he learned about the midnight screenings and how “people dressed up, threw toast and rice, acted out the movie, and yelled back at the screen.”
Ratterman went on to say, “Being a theatre kid, the uniqueness and absurdity of this all happening in a theatre caught my attention, and in October, I caught my first midnight screening.”
Jordyn Waters attended the screening in De Soto, and though she was definitely a first-timer at the live show, she had never even seen the movie.
“I can definitely say that I walked in and had no idea what was going on,” Waters said. “I’m not really a theatre kid, but I do love live performances. It was really weird, and I had no idea what was happening, but it was fun! I was familiar with the soundtrack, but the movie was not what I expected.”
It seems that anyone who is exposed to Rocky Horror in the right way stands a good chance of falling in love with it, whether or not they really know what they’re watching. The term “cult flick” fits well, I’d say.
Despite the show being a refreshing escape from the dread of the pandemic, Flustered Mustard took plenty into consideration when preparing the event.
“Safety was a priority for us at the show,” Ratterman said. “There’s a risk of even going out in public for gas and groceries, so for people to come out to the movies is a big thing to ask. De Soto didn’t have many safety protocols in place. So, being a theatre manager from St. Louis, we took our local safety standards and expectations and applied them to the Melba event.”
Ratterman also explained that “both of the venues rented, the Melba and the Arlington Event Center, required masks for entry. If you didn’t show up with a mask, you were handed a free one at registration. Everyone who attended had their temperatures taken at registration and on their way into Rocky Horror to assure no one had a fever.”
“Gallons of hand sanitizer were made available, every seat in the theatre was sanitized between events, and capacity was cut from 500 down to 250,” Ratterman assured. “In the end, we only let in about 200 people.”
For my group, the coronavirus didn’t ruin the experience. It ruined my makeup, of course, but hidden red lipstick is worth the avoidance of a serious virus.
The last thing I wanted to ask Tristan Ratterman about was if he had any big plans for the 50th anniversary, five years from now.
“Who knows?” Ratterman responded. “There are always ideas floating around. Maybe we’ll try the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for that year. Or, maybe we’ll attempt to break the world record for Rocky Horror attendance by screening it at the Muny. Hmm…”
Hopefully, the world of Rocky Horror is a bit clearer now. However, the only way to truly join the madness is to “stay sane inside insanity” at the late-night, double-feature picture show.