The Rocky Horror Show is making a sexy, uninhibited, illustrious return to the Kenyon stage. Five years ago, Flash Mob Theater, a Kenyon student group, put on The Rocky Horror Show. Today, the group, now known as Brave Potato Productions, has chosen to bring the show back. Rocky Horror will go up Thursday, Feb. 19 through Saturday, Feb. 21 at 9 p.m. in the Black Box Theater.
Flash Mob Theater put on the original Kenyon production of Rocky Horror as a way to increase interest in student-run theater on campus. Brave Potato Board member Christine Prevas ’15 , who is also the show’s director, thought now was a great time to revisit the cult classic.
“It was sort of the first really popular and successful student theater on Kenyon’s campus in a long time,” Prevas said. “I thought it might be nice to bring it back at a time when student theater is really flourishing at Kenyon. We have a lot of groups doing a lot of different things, and I thought a call back to Brave Potato’s roots in a much different Kenyon culture and context would be a lot of fun.”
Prevas brought her own spin to the play by emphasizing its historical context. The Gay Liberation Movement, which characterized so much of the late 1960s and early 1970s, acts as a backdrop for the original movie as well as for this production. Prevas had discussions with her cast about the movement, including the Stonewall Riots, which took place on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. When the activists fought back in a police raid during the riots, they sparked a turning point in the movement. Brave Potato Board member Cheyenne Davis ’15, who plays Riff Raff in the show, commented on history’s place in Rocky Horror.
“We have been talking about it in the context of being set in an underground ’70s gay club, since everything was taboo and everyone had to sneak around,” Davis said. “We talked a lot about the Stonewall Riots in the context of the show. This came out around the same time, and they were kind of fighting for similar things, in a completely different way, but fighting for that thing in an entertainment sense makes it a little more accessible, but not comfortable. I think that’s the key also to Rocky Horror. It’s not trying to make people comfortable.”
The uncomfortable and challenging aspects of Rocky Horror were part of the draw for Prevas, and she hopes to create a learning experience through her production, beginning with the mix of time periods. Conor Tazewell ’15, who plays Frank-N-Furter, found the use of time particularly fascinating.
“It is a very challenging time period to get, just because it combines a lot of different aspects,” Tazewell said. “You get these Brad and Janet characters who seem like they are from the ’50s, and this Columbia character who seems like a flapper from the ’20s. And then everyone else is from the ’70s. So this combination of time periods that comes together in this mash of ’70s sexuality with ’50s conservatism with ’20s flappism.”
In addition to educating the audience, Prevas hopes to utilize those challenges in a way that defies expectations.
“I think people will come in expecting any number of things, and I think what we give them will be different than what they expect in a way that is both unsettling, [and] also really fascinating,” Prevas said. “I am hoping [it] will make people think about the show in a way they haven’t before.”
While the show might surprise people, it drew in many of the cast members, such as Tazewell and Davis, due to their own connection with the story.
“I saw it for the first time in high school in a theater, and fell in love with the whole crazy cult aspects of it,” Tazewell said. “Since then, it’s been one of my favorite films.
“It’s been a really important show and movie in the past, and a coming-of-age for a lot of people,” Davis said. “When you go see Rocky Horror at midnight — I always do that when I’m home, and it’s an experience. The first time I went they marked me a Rocky Horror virgin, and you do this fun little ritual. Maybe there are people on this campus who haven’t seen it before, and I think it’ll be fantastic for them to have that experience in person.”
Even some of the production members who did not grow up with the classic have an unforgettable experience under their belts, such as Production Stage Manager Madeline Hightower ’18 and James Wojtal ’18, who plays Rocky.
“I have never worked on a non-traditional piece of theater like this,” Hightower said. “It has just been a lot of fun. I remember when [Prevas] first told me about her vision I was just like, ‘Woah!’”
“It’s so much fun,” Wojtal said. “Compared to a lot of the other theater going up, it’s just so ludicrous. This is just a little lighter than everything else, and it’s just total debauchery.”
Based on the comments from cast and crew, Rocky Horror is an experience no one will want to miss.
“It’ll make you uncomfortable and make you question some things,” Davis said. “Maybe you’ll even question some things about yourself.”