Interview with the Director
The Rocky Horror Show: flashy, fun-packed, and suggestive
New Minowa Players will be presenting the iconic play The Rocky Horror Show at Impact Coffee on Nov. 5, 6, and 7 at 7:30 p.m., with an added performance Saturday, November 6 at 10:15 p.m. All performances will be held at the upstairs level of the coffee shop. Available tickets can be found online at https://www.newminowaplayers.org/buy-tickets. To be placed on a waiting list for sold out shows, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rocky Horror Show has a large following across the country. Aaron Kvale, who directs the local production, took time out of his busy schedule to offer his perspective on why the show is so memorable and important.
What was your first encounter with The Rocky Horror Show?
I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 2012 as a sophomore at Luther when the Pride club had a showing in the Olin lecture hall for a Halloween event.
Why did the show stick with you?
The movie remains special to me for a few reasons. First, its absurdity and references to classic B-movies make it just plain fun and a delight to return to again and again. The musical and dramatic performances of the entire cast are stellar. More importantly, on my first viewing, I could tell that the film had inspired a bizarre, but powerful sense of community among its fans. I went in expecting a movie night and got a full-on costume party instead. It was loud, it was flashy, and I could feel the love that so many people in that room had for the movie and what it meant to them. This experience came at a time when I was struggling to live my truth more openly and confidently as a queer person, and being part of a celebration of this film that enshrined the weird and the socially-non-conforming was the first time that I truly felt the existence of the LGBTQ+ community, the first time that I, as a queer person, was confident that I wasn’t alone in my experiences.
How did you decide to bring The Rocky Horror Show to Decorah? Why now?
It has been a few years since I have directed an NMP production, and my opportunity to return to directing at NMP happened to coincide with NMP’s first indoor adult performance since the start of the pandemic. I thought Rocky Horror would be a season-appropriate choice for the Creative Venture performance slot of our season, and, more importantly, a triumphant, laid-back, and fun-packed way to welcome some of our patrons back to live theatre.
Why is The Rocky Horror Show considered a cult classic?
Someone I know once described the movie as “delightfully rubbish” upon seeing it for the first time. Unlike some other movies that have reached “so-bad-it’s-good” cult status, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is almost flawlessly artistically executed, but it never takes itself very seriously and certainly isn’t concerned at any moment with narrative cohesion. Its plot can feel like a fever dream and is loose enough that different viewers might come away with a totally different understanding of what happened and why it happened. This lends both the film and the stage show an element of “junk media” status, wherein it’s possible to not have to think about anything too hard and just enjoy the absurdism and outstanding soundtrack. It is sometimes difficult to see any greater meaning. Combined with the boundary-pushing queer undertones and hyper-sexual nature of some of the characters, this prevented the film from finding mainstream commercial success. However, its subversiveness, whether intentional or not, made and continues to make it popular with people who have traditionally existed at the margins of society.
The Rocky Horror Show has a strong following, with audience members sometimes coming dressed in costume. What do you expect from audience members?
I honestly have no idea what to expect and that both scares and excites me. Beyond costumes, it’s tradition for many Rocky Horror fans to shout things at the screen, bring props, and even throw things at late-night showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I hope that audience members will remember that watching a live performance with live actors is very different from seeing a movie, but I also picked this show, hoping to provide a laid-back experience for audience members with some audience participation. We’ll be providing a call-back script for any audience members that want to participate so we can have some boundaries to keep our actors safe and the performance space clean while also encouraging that classic Rocky Horror experience for seasoned and new fans alike.
The Rocky Horror Show responds to classic horror films, most notably Frankenstein. Is it a parody or a tribute?
I think it’s a tribute by means of parody. The author, Richard O’Brien, who also played Riff-Raff on stage and in the 1975 film, has made no secret of his love for classic horror films, especially B-movies. The opening song of the show name-drops several of O’Brien’s favorites. The structure of the show itself is meant to emulate the experience of seeing a late-night double feature, with the first half leaning more into classic horror/mad science elements and the second half leaning into new themes of alien invaders. The entire thing is campy and absurd, an homage to the iconic cheesiness of classic B-movies that highlights their artistic flaws as the very thing that makes them great.
What are some of the themes in The Rocky Horror Show?
It is important to note that Richard O’Brien intended to entertain and pay homage to B-movies when writing this script and that he had no plan for the show to carry any sort of moral messaging. That being said, audience members have perceived themes of the struggle between puritanism and hedonism and the celebration of the unconventional and marginalized, among others. What themes audiences will take away from The Rocky Horror Show are dependent on the personal experiences that they bring in with them.
How do you bring a fresh approach to a musical, such as The Rocky Horror Show, in terms of staging, set, costumes, and choreography?
Our performance is being done in a space unintended for theatre at Impact Coffee. This informal and minimalist setting gives the performance more of a cabaret feel, and we hope that audience members will feel less like they are in a dark theatre and more that they are at a strange party. While costuming and choreography has been inspired by the movie, our designers have also approached their work from their own perspectives. Fans of the movie will also be surprised at how differently some of the characters are written in the stage play compared to their film counterparts and at a couple of musical numbers that were cut from the 1975 film.
What do you want audience members to know before they come to the show?
This performance is rated PG-13. There are multiple sexual references and instances of partial nudity on stage, as well as some strong language. While no minimum age rules will be enforced, the show may not be suitable for children and younger teens. Parental discretion is advised. A child-priced ticket option will not be available. Some seating options at Impact may have compromised sight lines or audio interference, and so we encourage audience members to arrive early for performances if they have concerns about seating. Drinks and coffee will be available at Impact before and during the performance. Audience members are encouraged to dress in costume if they feel called to do so, but we ask that no props be brought into the performance space.
Sponsors of The Rocky Horror Show are Decorah Bank & Trust, Family Table Restaurant, Gallery of Tops, Iroc Web Design Services, Pizza Ranch, Rockweiler Appliance & TV, Rick and Sheryl Scheffert, JoAn Stevenson and Steven Nelson, and Singing Hammers Construction.