I lost my virginity Sunday night. Oh, it was the typical lose-your-virginity story: there was humiliation, alcohol, a sworn oath of commitment, performance anxiety and a blood-red smear. And there was a loud popping noise. Also, I did it with eight other people in front of a cheering crowd.
No, I'm not talking about something as pedestrian as heterosexual intercourse (that story involves a Sears junior sleeping bag and three pilfered cans of Miller Lite). I'm talking about the Montana Actors' Theatre's (MAT) recent workshop for Rocky Horror Show virgins. The workshop held at the Crystal Theatre included a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in order to teach us newbies the proper behavior expected of Rocky Horror audiences in preparation for MAT's live musical this weekend at the Wilma Theatre. The play—if you don't know—is a song-and-dance filled, gender-bending romp featuring a cross-dressing hunchback, a pair of innocent lovers lost in the forest (literally and sexually), a zombie delivery boy, and a "Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania." The 1975 film version drops a couple of songs, and has special visual effects that are so cheesy they make Monty Python animation look like Avatar.
My introduction to the Rocky Horror Show cult started when I was dragged out of the audience at the workshop, branded as a virgin, and forced to undergo the silly and embarrassing "devirgination" ritual, along with everyone else who was seeing the movie for the first time. Scantily clad members of MAT lined us up, slashed a red lipstick 'V' on our foreheads and made us clutch our junk while we recited the "Rocky Horror Pledge" ("I pledge allegiance to the lips..."). Then, with a finger pop from our mouths and a swat on the ass from Phantom Camille Perry, our cherries were declared busted.
Having seen neither play nor movie, I was the perfect cipher, and the object of lots of attention from the Rocky girls. Sexuality is the overarching theme of Rocky Horror, and these MAT women went all out, from their sleek and sexy lingerie and stockings to their stage-ready makeup and provocative posturing. The operative word was cleavage, and there were miles of it. One actress' generous breasts threatened to overflow the top of her bustier, and another girl lamented that her push-up bra wasn't pushing hard enough. They were all self-confident veterans of the Rocky Horror style, acting delightfully bawdy and downright raunchy all night. For this old married fart, who can be sexually satisfied by squeezing into a parking space, it was a little intimidating. And I loved every minute of it.
"We wanted to have a teaser," says Mikyla Rae Veis, marketing director for MAT. The live performance, she tells me, is way better than the movie. "The audience participation element is heightened; they're like another character. You can't hold back if you want to be in the audience."
The play is more of a two-way street, and actors respond to the audience, she says. The unpredictability of a live performance is part of the excitement. But it is most definitely not for kids. Or for the narrow-minded. "It's very sexually driven, so you have to be comfortable with yourself to go," she says.
After I'd been properly devirginized, I took my seat and opened my goodie bag. Lacking any sort of Rocky Horror reference points, I was mystified by the contents: uncooked rice, a noisemaker, loose playing cards, a length of toilet paper, a section of newspaper and a water pistol. We also got a cheat sheet listing the props and their significance to the movie. Another sheet gave us the lines to yell ("call backs") at certain points. These were things like yelling "Asshole!" whenever Brad's name is mentioned, or yelling "Slut!" at the mention of Janet.
As with any cult movie, the more times you've seen it, the more lines you know by heart—just ask any unfortunate soul who's ever watched Animal House with me. At this particular screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, local theater maven/actress/musician Rebecca Sporman kept up a near-constant barrage of crisply timed salvos from the projection booth. Her X-rated, disembodied lines frequently had the audience cracking up, while the gathered Phantoms sat on the steps near the screen up front, adding their own blowjob/masturbation/orgasm/ elbow-sex jokes throughout the movie.
Last year's MAT production in Missoula—a make-or-break triumph—was fellow-attendee Sara Vilhuber's first Rocky Horror Show, and she was hooked.
"We liked it so much we went back the next night," she says.
Just before the movie started, someone handed me a pint of Bayern and Vilhuber began to explain the intricacies of the audience participation. I'd filled my water pistol at the men's room sink, and was ready to squirt when Brad and Janet exited their broken-down car into the rainstorm. I neglected to cover my head with newspaper (note to self: next time use a pen with waterproof ink), but managed to wet down half the audience without spilling my beer. Vilhuber was proud.
They had us all stand up to do the "Time Warp," and as I jumped to the left then stepped to the right, I imagined a thousand tarted-up, fishnet-wearing Rocky freaks pelvic thrusting in the Wilma, slurping down cocktails, throwing toast and raining down rice on each other. It's going to be surreal. And it will rock—the production features a live band, with musicians from Reverend Slanky and other popular local outfits cranking out that great Rocky Horror soundtrack.
Finally, the king and/or queen of all midnight movies ended. We applauded and gathered our coats, brushing off the rice. I felt only slightly violated. Before we left, leggy blonde Phantom Hannah Paton reminded us to get tickets for the upcoming performances, adding, "Come to the midnight shows if you want to see boobies!"
Hey, why not. It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, after all.
MAT's Rocky Horror Show runs at the Wilma Theatre Friday, Oct. 22, and Sat., Oct. 23, at 8 PM and 11:59 PM nightly. $15–$35.