There’s a light over at the Gesa Power House Theatre and if you follow it, you are sure to find the Frankenstein place, sweet transvestites and time warps galore in Hypoxik Productions’ performance of one of the most famous science fiction double features of all time.
“The Rocky Horror Show,” written by Richard O’Brien, is a stage musical in which the newly engaged couple of Brad and Janet stumble upon the castle of the enigmatic Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who is in the process of unveiling his creation, the muscle-bound Rocky Horror. It was famously adapted into “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in 1975, a film that has become the subject of event screenings featuring costumes, audience participation, and a “shadow cast” miming the film’s events in front of the screen.
The new production’s director, Tyson Kaup, has fond memories of working on prior performances of the show. Looking to start a company in his hometown of Walla Walla, Kaup quickly thought of “Rocky Horror” for the debut production.
“I wanted to push boundaries and I felt like this would be a good place to start. I’m hoping to find and earn the trust of a new audience. It might be an audience that doesn’t really like traditional theater all that much and I’m totally down with that, because neither do I,” Kaup said.
The Hypoxik production of “Rocky Horror” has caught the attention of some students at Whitman, where screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is an annual occurrence. Annie Roge, co-director of the 2016 and 2017 Whitman screenings, expressed excitement for the stage version.
“I think it’s awesome that Walla Walla is launching its own performance of it, featuring exclusively locals, because it’s a great show to perform in lots of different environments and venues and it’ll be really cool to see what they do with it that’s different than Whitman’s performance,” Roge said.
Regarding the difference between the stage performance and a typical “Picture Show” screening, “screenings are fun because of the audience more than the movie. The audience becomes both performer and observer,” Kaup said. “The live show is even more fun because if you shout out to the actors, there’s a chance they might just shout back.”
There will be four performances of “Rocky Horror” at the Power House theatre–two on Sept. 9 and two on Sept. 10. The second performance on Sept. 9 will have some special features of its own – that performance is “RAWW Night,” and will feature narration from the founder of the Rainbow Alliance of Walla Walla (RAWW), James Michael-Vaughan.
In the wake of the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub in June, Michael-Vaughan created RAWW with the idea that it would not only be a safe space for the LGBTQ community, but also “a place where we can do something good, as queer people, for the community as well,” Michael-Vaughan said.
The organization’s goal is “partying with a purpose,” Michael-Vaughan said, with the goal of raising money for various causes, including supporting victims of shootings and domestic abuse, the homeless, and abused animals. “We basically try to make as much money as we can doing drag shows and live music to send money out to people who need it,” Michael-Vaughan added.
Like Kaup, Michael-Vaughan has a soft spot for “Rocky Horror,” having fond memories of doing the “Time Warp” with friends before parties, and being inspired by Frank-N-Furter’s quote, “Don’t dream it, be it” in living as a drag queen. “It’s actually quite an encouraging show for me, and I’m so happy to be a part of it,” Michael-Vaughan said.
Encountering Kaup by chance at what Kaup called an “epic night of karaoke,” Michael-Vaughan discussed the group and its activities with him, which inspired the “RAWW Night” collaboration. “In thinking about what happened in Orlando, I couldn’t stop feeling like there is a difference between living in a free society, and actually feeling free. Attacks like Orlando threaten to make us feel less free to express ourselves. I think the themes of Rocky [Horror] fight that head on. It celebrates individuality and personal freedom. It seemed like a natural fit and a great idea,” Kaup said.
Tickets to “The Rocky Horror Show” can be purchased at the Gesa Power House Theatre website. The 10:00 p.m. performance on Sept. 9 features Michael-Vaughan and 5 percent of the proceeds will be donated toward the Orlando cause. RAWW and Michael-Vaughan can be contacted via Facebook, and information on other upcoming RAWW events can be found there as well.