RADFORD — By the end, there were flakes from toast that had been flung across the theater, wet spots on the carpet from squirt guns, and grains of rice in just about every nook and cranny.
In a word: success.
“Yeah, the cleaning part of it, it’s more work,” said Josh Riggs, owner of the Radford Theatre, which just hosted the Blacksburg shadow cast Tolls of Madness for two midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“But honestly, it’s worth it.”
“Nothing like this has happened in Radford since the ‘80s, and we wanted to bring something like this downtown,” Riggs said. “As you can see, we had a great turnout.”
A near sellout crowd stretched down the block waiting to get in Oct. 26, with many enthused theatergoers wearing little more than lingerie and fishnets. The interactive midnight screenings have given the campy, science-fiction horror film the longest running theatrical release in history, with cult followers flocking to theaters for the screenings since shortly after the film was released in 1975. The movie may not change, but the performances do.
“Shocking things are said,” said Robert Sebeck, production advisor and member of the cast for its entire 21 years, of the crude, snarky callbacks shouted out during the film. “My favorite part is just hearing the sounds from the audience, the ‘ooohss’.”
Before the movie begins, those seeing a screening for the first time are asked to write red V’s on their faces to signify that they are virgins. Some are pulled up on stage and humiliated. There is an underwear run mid-show, when audience members can strip down to their skivvies and run around the theater. When the cast silently acts out the movie on stage while the film is shown, no punches are pulled with the risqué material.
It’s a bawdry, tawdry affair, and a lot of fun, but some find a message in the libertine theme too.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show is about sex positivity and body positivity,” said Kenna Day, 22, a graduate student at Virginia Tech who plays Dr. Frank N. Furter, a licentious, transvestite alien from Transexual, Transylvania. “When you come out to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, no one expects you to be one thing or another. You can be as weird as you want and they will just love you more for it.”
That doesn’t mean the show is for everyone, though. Day recalled inviting some friends from class for her first performance as Frank, then later seeing a picture of them in the audience.
“All their mouths were agape,” she said. “It’s like a spiritual awakening the first time you see the show.”
In case you missed it
The cast will perform the show twice more Nov. 1-2 at the Squires Student Center on the campus of Virginia Tech at 10 p.m. Tickets are $3 with a Virginia Tech student ID, and $6 for the public.