Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 11, 2023

Rocky Horror rocks and shocks Arellano, unsettles newbies

By NATALIE BERKMAN | September 9, 2010

At midnight last Saturday, a group of Hopkins students performed a live version of the famous cult classic, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, at the Arellano Theater in Levering.

This performance, while equipped with several new additions that would only be appropriate at Hopkins, kept the Rocky Horror tradition alive, mandating audience participation and adding in all the right interjections at all the right moments.

The hilarious costumes, catchy rock-and-roll tunes and science fiction parodies both delighted and shocked seasoned Rocky Horror veterans and freshman “virgins” alike.

As with any spectacle, it is typically a good idea for an audience member to know what he is getting himself into. Foreknowledge can potentially enrich a performance and allow for a better interpretation.

With plays or movies, it can sometimes be beneficial to know the plot in advance in order to be able to follow what could be confusing or intricate.

With Rocky Horror, that is not really necessary — the plot is easy to follow (there isn’t much of one), and knowing the music will not seriously enrich the performance.

Too much knowledge, however, is often a curse rather than a blessing. For example, try watching the Sixth Sense knowing the famous plot twist — it probably is not as exciting as a first time.

Obviously, there are pros and cons — having a surplus or a dearth of knowledge about what a viewer is about to see are both potentially problematic situations.

That being said, it is probably a safe piece of advice to have some knowledge of Rocky Horror before seeing it performed live.

While the show’s official fan site maintains that “the more surprised you are on your first time, the more fun it is,” the decadence portrayed might just be too much for what the cult followers of this film would call a “virgin,” a.k.a. someone who has never attended a live Rocky Horror performance before (seeing the movie doesn’t count). Rocky Horror virgins get red “V”s drawn on their faces and are often included as part of the performance.

Furthermore, being labeled as such at one’s first visit to such a performance is potentially embarrassing and unwanted, though some people enjoy being singled out. It could, however, turn a novice who did not foresee this type of initiation against a show that has appealed to so many since its 1975 British release date.

Conversely, there is virtually no danger of being overly informed — although seeing the Rocky Horror is different than watching any other movie due to the expected audience participation, the participation required varies from theater to theater. Although you are watching a movie, much like a live performance of a musical, Rocky Horror changes every time.

Even at Hopkins, students get dirty and decadent at midnight to carry out the famous steps of the (in)famous “time warp” again and again.

As with all Rocky Horror performances, this troupe of Hopkins students began with the “virgins” who had all been appropriately marked with a lipstick “V”.

The trials — faking animal (in addition to Sarah Palin and Billy Mays) orgasms, finding cherries in a whipped cream pie without using hands, and last but not least, licking whipped cream off one another’s chests — took a while due to the large number of virgins.

It was sufficiently awkward, and those onstage did not seem to be enjoying it to its fullest.

After pledging allegiance to the disembodied lips that introduce the movie, the performers began pantomiming the parts as the movie played overhead. While names and pictures must be excluded (who would want this to go on their resume?), let’s just say that the actors were spirited.

Each one a reasonable duplicate of the characters on screen (some cross-dressing to fit the role, and others cross-dressing because the role demanded it), they constantly ran around the theater, chasing each other or interacting with audience members.

Meanwhile, audience members that had obviously done this before added in the appropriate interjections while the movie rolled.

For those who have somehow managed to escape this cult phenomenon, here is the story: Brad Majors (the “asshole”) and Janet Weiss (the “slut”) meet a transsexual Transylvanian in his castle while looking for a phone (“but castles don’t have phones, asshole!”).

Between scenes, the neck-less criminologist narrates and describes how Brad and Janet behave in this depraved world of seemingly endless decadence.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a highly worshipped classic film, one of the only to boast such a following of active participants. Seeing it performed live can be considered an important college experience.

In any case, seeing it live is much more interesting than watching the movie on Netflix Instant Watch in the privacy of one’s dorm room as a study break.

For anyone who believes Hopkins is a boring university, that students here have no social lives, that it is “where fun goes to die,” go see the next performance on Halloween. But be warned, it is supposed to be shocking.

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