I SEE you shiver with antici — (SAY IT) — pation! This year, the Rocky Horror Show will celebrate another year in Savannah at the Bay Street Theatre.
Harking back to original themes this year, director David Poole takes inspiration from the concepts and visuals of the 1975 film.
“It looks and feels like a tribute to the film,” he says about this year’s production, his directorial debut with Rocky Horror.
Tradition may be more of a statement than any, following themes like circus, sitcom tropes, and more.
Although the themes do change every year, the cast, for the most part, doesn’t. These cast members are all mostly veterans of the show. Some, for example, Gwen Leahy playing Columbia and Trey Norris playing Frank-N-Furter have either played the same role or been in the production for several years.
Although the cast is experienced with this production, you don’t have to be. You’ll only be dubbed a Rocky Horror Virgin - “Oooooo, Rocky Horror virgins!” says Poole- and may be subject to some playful scrutiny.
As advice to newbies, or ‘virgins’, Poole states, “It’s unlike any shows you’ll ever see- there’s a lot of audience participation. The audience participates in our production by callbacks and things like that, and it’s just a wild time. It’s a wild show with a cult following, and for newbies to go see it, it’s kind of one of those things where you have to go at least once to see what it feels like. It’s just a wonderful, fun, campy, sexy, adult evening.”
Not unlike Phish and other bands with cult followings, it is completely normalized for a superfan to go to every single production of the show. Until having seen several showings, you probably won’t be considered a superfan.
“It’s one of those shows where some people come and see every single performance. It does have a loyal following, and tickets tend to sell very fast for it. It’s because it’s a tradition, you know,” Poole states.
When asked about what is allowed regarding audience interaction, Poole stated that this specific production utilizes callbacks, and callbacks only to protect the actors.
“With the production on Bay Street there is none of the throwing of items, and all of that stuff- we’ve limited that to protect the actors. No water guns or hot dog throwing or any of that!”
When considering how this show has stayed so relevant in society today, Poole says, “It’s this idea of letting loose of our inhibitions. People become other people when they go see Rocky Horror,” he laughs, “and that’s a fun idea!”
“It’s kind of one of those plays where you could show up as your favorite character in costume, and just let loose, and be wild, and nobody cares. Nobody cares whether you come in a costume that you’ve spent days and days and days on, or one you threw together 5 minutes before you walked out the door. Nobody cares, you know, and you’re just appreciated for your efforts. I think that’s why it’s remained prominent in our society,” he adds.
Poole conveys how honored he is to be the director of such a production and expresses his love for the film itself and its deeper meanings.
“To me, camp and comedy are always the best when there is tragedy. So there are these moments, especially towards the end, where it is about the tragedy of things. It’s kind of an interesting full circle.”
Most of all, Poole understands the significance of the play to Savannah specifically. He recognizes the play is ultimately about individuality and acceptance, and being a safe space for everyone.
“It’s important for Savannah to have this show because it is about diversity. It’s about diversity, it’s about acceptance of people, it’s about the subversive, it’s about the marginalized,” he says.
“It speaks on LGBTQ+ rights, which is interesting because it’s a fun-filled evening show that also has a message that speaks to all of us- being accepted, trying to fit in. It’s political, social, and contemporary at the same time. It’s all of these things thrown into one show.”