First debuting in 1975, the film was released to an unsuspecting public. It flopped. Theater seats were constantly empty.
On a whim, theaters started screening it at midnight, hoping to appeal to a different kind of crowd. It worked.
Word of mouth reached far and wide, and RHPS was reborn. Its cult following continues to thrive to this day.
The Screenland Theatre, at 1656 Washington St. in the Crossroads Art District, put on a combination screening and live play of the classic musical for a sold-out crowd on Saturday, Jan. 15.
Actors from the troupe, Fishnets and Floorshows, appeared in full costume.
They pantomimed each scene in the film with the assistance of assorted props and help from audience members. It was two shows for the price of one and twice as much steamy, raunchy sexiness.
During the infamous “Time Warp” scene, moviegoers rose from their seats and chanted the lyrics along with Dr. Frank-N-Furter and his Transylvanian transvestite friends.
At times the crowd shouted absurd questions to the characters in the movie. The answers that followed were in the form of dialogue from those characters. For example, someone in the audience yelled out “what’s white and sells hamburgers?” Then a character said, in response, “Didn’t we pass a castle back down the road a few miles?”
One of the best audience participation gags, though, was the scene wherein two porcelain nude male statues have speakers draped in place around their necks. When this scene came, members in the audience yelled out, “those are some well-hung speakers!”
Before the show began, the crew separated the audience into those who had seen the film from those who hadn’t. The consequence for never before having witnessed the genius that is RHPS was getting a giant ‘V’ for virgin painted in lipstick on your forehead. The “virgins” were then called to the front of the theatre and asked to fake their best orgasm and sent back to their seats with their red faces and tails between their legs.
Other shenanigans took place, too, including the popping of an inflated condom between two complete strangers, without either of them using their hands. Needless to say, it involved vigorous pelvic thrusting.
However, a more serious note preceded the night’s debauchery. The performance that night was dedicated to Jason Krivjansky, who died at the age of 35. He was a long-time RHPS fan and a thespian himself.
In lieu of mourning the loss of him, the staff instead suggested to be extra slutty. He would have preferred it to be that way.
There was a kind of magic to RHPS that night. A sense of community developed in the small theatre. People were shouting, participating and enjoying themselves. Afterward, many stuck around in the lobby and chatted well into the night.
It’s relieving to know the Screenland Theatre is out there, continuing to subject the world to the lunacy of RHPS. With their help, generations to come will continue to follow this cult classic’s hilariously absurd plot and the even more absurd characters within it.