Meet the Rocky Horror bunch

UMKC’s theatre department has not put on a musical in several years. On Feb. 27, this dry streak will end. Director Steven Eubank of Egads! Theatre Company will bring Richard O’Brien’s “The Rocky Horror Show” to life on Grant Hall’s main stage.

The cast is an amalgamation of lifelong Rocky aficionados and others who had no idea about what a “Time Warp” is. Each member was thrilled to reveal their individual UMKC Horror Show journey, and they simply want to tell readers “Don’t dream it, be it.”

The Virgins

 Michael Hanman

Character: Brad Majors

RHS Status: I had absolutely no relationship with Rocky Horror before I was cast. I knew about it, but I wanted to go into the audition knowing nothing specific, especially about certain characters.

Favorite song/dance: Either Dammit Janet or Super Heroes, my counterpart Merit is wonderful to perform with.

Most demanding aspect of the show: There is a lot more getting used to your own appearance and loving expressing yourself. This production has taught me to think in a new way about how we view ourselves and others.

The Eubank experience: Steven. Is. Amazing. I couldn’t think of a more energetic, talented, experienced person to direct this show. The best part is he makes you feel comfortable with yourself and what you are doing.

Why come see the show? It’s an experience—a time to go a little crazy and liberal with a few things in life.

 

Korrie Murphy

Character: Trixie/Magenta

RHS status: I was a virgin. Safe to say the innocence is now gone.

Favorite song/dance: My favorite song is probably Sword of Damocles. I just like watching Jake work out. Is that creepy? I don’t really care.

Most demanding aspect of the show: It’s very physically demanding. I have never worked out for a show before. After getting cast, Katie and I would go to the gym all the time. This show has honestly changed the way I look at myself. I am more confident and willing to try things I’ve never done before.

The Eubank experience: Steven. Wow. He is just the most upbeat person. I have never seen him not happy with life and it’s completely inspiring. He does zumba with us before rehearsals, and isn’t afraid to push us beyond his limits. And his laugh though—just a bellow that is completely contagious.

Why come see the show? It’s freaking hilarious. Also, it’s very eye opening. Go sexual exploration! Come see me and my brother have elbow sex. It’ll be a grand ol’ time.

 

The Rookies

Aaron Mitchell

Character: Frank-n-Furter

RHS status: Honestly, I didn’t have much of a relationship with Rocky Horror before this experience. I knew that it was a musical and I knew that Tim Curry played the lead role but I didn’t know much about Rocky Horror beyond that.

Favorite song/dance: My favorite song in the production is probably “Sweet Transvestite.” It’s really a fun and silly song and I have a lot of fun singing it.

Most demanding aspect of the show: Working on this production has definitely been a freeing and challenging experience. It requires a lot of memorization, a lot of comedy, which is new for me, and a lot of physicality. This character also requires complete insanity and a willingness to shed barriers and comfort zones. It has been a growing experience for me. This production has pulled me out of my shell by requiring me to abandon self-consciousness and embrace my inner Sex Goddess.

Gender-bending: It’s very interesting because Frank is this overly-sexual feminine goddess, but what makes him so captivating is the fact that he completely owns his masculine identity, as well. I don’t have to necessarily portray this overly-feminized ideal. I can connect with who he is as a man and I can portray him as masculine and as feminine as I want to, and that kind of freedom as an actor is refreshing.

The Eubank experience: Working with Steven Eubank is definitely a buckle-your-seatbelt kind of experience, and I mean that in a good way. He definitely stands out from other directors I have worked with. He is willing to try every creative idea and encourages us to do the same and that’s really great. You can tell that Rocky is a treasure to him, and now Rocky has become a treasure to us as a cast. I think that’s pretty awesome.

Why come see the show? I believe people should see this production because we are telling the classic story in really innovative and creative ways. The acting, the costumes and the comedy are all great. The show was cast perfectly and everyone on that stage is an amazing singer, dancer and comedic actor. You will honestly miss out on a great piece of theatre if you miss this show.

 

Merit Christensen

Character: Janet Weis

RHS status: My mom actually didn’t want me to see it till I was 18, but when Glee did their episode of Rocky Horror, my mom decided to let me watch the movie afterwards.

Favorite song/dance: I can’t choose. They’re all so good and different. Time Warp especially brings back memories since we performed it in musical revue my freshman year in high school.

Most demanding aspect of the show: This show is much, much more demanding than other shows, especially physically. I think this show is making me more comfortable in my own skin—me, the girl who still wears one-piece swimsuits. I think the show is all around very freeing.

The Eubank experience: Steven is wonderful. He’s boisterous, full of energy and happy, yet always gets so much done efficiently. His positive attitude has been lovely to work with, and he’s so open to possibilities. It makes me sad to think about after the show is over—I’ll miss working with him every day. Also, his laugh is the most heavenly, full sound you will ever hear.

Why come see the show? It gives people, ultimately, a freedom to be themselves, don’t worry about insecurities, have fun. Anyone of any age can enjoy the mystery and allure that is Rocky Horror. Heck, bring the kids!

 

Anne Haines

Character: Eddie/Dr. Scott

RHS status: I had seen Rocky Horror a few times, but I never had a super deep and emotional connection outside it being a really fun movie.

Favorite song/dance: Aaron rocks Sweet Transvestite, which has always been my favorite.

Gender-swapped: I don’t see my character as being impacted my gender at all. To me, Eddie and Dr. Scott are character traits, not a certain gender—wild and sexual for Eddie and intellectual and dramatic for Dr. Scott.

The Eubank experience: Steven is so much fun. He commands respect and has a clear vision, but he is respectful and nice. He’s very encouraging, which is a great environment to be in. Also, his laugh is so distinctive and warms my heart.

Why come see the show? It celebrates misfits and weirdos. It’s all about accepting who you are and letting your freak flag fly.

 

Margaret Shelby

Character: Narrator

RHS status: I had only seen the film. I’d seen it in the 1980s—with the squirt guns and dressed up audiences.

Favorite song/dance: It’s hard to beat Sweet Transvestite.

Gender-swapped: The narrator is traditionally a male, but I get to be a female in this one. It’s very interesting.

The Eubank experience: Where does he get the energy?! He’s great. I hope to work with him again.

Why come see the show? So UMKC knows it can be risqué. Also, it’ll be fun. It’s a very good example of 70s counter culture, and looking at it as a satyr play is cool.

 

The Disciples

Jake Swaney

Character: Rocky

RHS status: Every year after a show in high school during the cast party, it was a tradition to watch Rocky Horror, but it wasn’t until later that it really began to connect.

Favorite song/dance: My favorite song in the show has to be “I’m Going Home.” It is a point in the show where it is the most serious—there is no comedy to hide behind. It’s where we all let our guards down.

Most demanding aspect of the show: This rehearsal process has been completely different than anything I’ve been a part of. This show has been the most demanding physically and emotionally. It requires you to use every source of energy and takes every emotion out of your body. I feel I am way more open and wild than I was before.

The Eubank experience: Steven Eubank is the most interesting director I have worked with. He loves to hear our feedback and wants to incorporate our ideas into the show just as much as we do. He loves the collaboration and is always in the best mood possible for rehearsal. He challenges us to put everything out there.

Why come see the show? This show allows everyone to be accepted no matter what. It is an anthem for anybody who feels like they don’t fit in. Plus, it’s going to be amazeballs.

 

Lindsay Nelson

Character: Riff Raff

RHS status: The Rocky Horror Show has been one of my top three favorite musicals of all time since the very first time I saw the film almost seven years ago. Tim Curry is a god.

Favorite song/dance: Every song is my favorite song. “Time Warp” is definitely at the top because I have the lead solo (shameless bias), but the dance is exhausting in every way. And then there’s Sweet Transvestite, which is the sexiest song in my opinion—if anyone could attempt to show-up Tim Curry, it’d be Aaron Mitchell.

Gender-swapped: To be completely honest, Hamlet is at the top of my list of dream roles. I have always wanted to be cast in a traditionally male role because why not? In my callback for Riff Raff, Steven suddenly turned and asked, “Are you okay with playing him?” To which I replied “Uhm, hell yes!” And he may be my favorite role to date.

The Eubank experience: Steven Eubank is one of the most amazing theatrical minds I have had the pleasure of working with. He is so wonderfully thrilled to be doing what he is doing every minute of the day. He is encouraging, challenging, creative, spontaneous and unceasingly clever. His laugh should be bottled and sold because its joy could spread world peace. Not to mention the fact that he could probably dance circles around Beyoncé.

Why come see the show? This production is a grand concoction of gender bending and glam-rock folded into homage to sci-fi, B-horror films. It is a testament to embracing who you are—on every level. Be weird for the sake of being weird and rock out till you pass out because it’s Rocky Horror and Richard O’Brien would be disappointed if you didn’t.

 

Steven Eubank

Character: Director/ Mastermind

RHS status: Officially, this is the sixth time I’ve directed Rocky Horror in Kansas City. I directed an independent production in the theatre at Penn Valley Community College in 2000, two productions on the stage at Late Night Theatre in 2003 (which went on to perform at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS in 2004) and 2006, and two productions at Off Center Theatre in Crown Center in 2008 and 2013. I also choreographed a production at Johnson County Community College.

UMKC debut: I was stoked when Tom Mardikes contacted me to direct this production for UMKC last year – of course I wanted to lead it.  (Apparently, Scott Stackhouse remembered my work from the JCCC production and recommended me as the “go to” RHS guy in Kansas City.  I was very flattered.)  I’ve wanted to establish a relationship with the UMKC theatre undergraduates for years, and one of my hopes is that this collaboration will lead to potential future co-productions with Egads! (which is my theatre company) and UMKC Theatre.

New horizons: The biggest difference in approaching RHS this time is the unusual circumstance that six of our principle actors are female and three are male—a direct ratio flip from typical productions of Rocky Horror.  The other major differences are in the design elements – the set design by Sarah White is fresh and strange with walls made out of painter’s plastic, and the costumes by Sarah Oliver have a slight Japanese kink (or fetish culture) twist.  The staging of the show and many of our character interpretations have been uniquely informed by these dynamic choices.  The jokes and individual moments are also “autographed” by this particular cast.

Why come see the show? In general, the Rocky Horror Show LIVE experience is unlike any other theatre experience.  The audience is a major character/player in the production with their clever heckles (or shout-out lines) and the use of props kits.  Love it or hate it, RHS should be experienced at least once by anyone who appreciates live entertainment and good old-fashioned rock-n-roll.  And for folks who are only used to The Rocky Horror Picture Show movie theatre experience, this production brings a stunning energy to a cult phenomenon with our live actors and musicians.  This is a particularly exuberant production because of the passion and talents of our undergraduate ensemble.  In addition to the nine principle actors, we also have three incredible back-up vocalists who are a part of our live band.  And UTA (University Theatre Association) has really jumped onboard as a rehearsed and organized group of audience participants.

Lindsay Lillig is the Managing Editor, email her at ljlillig@unews.com

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