The Tufts LGBT Center peer leader program Team Q, in collaboration with Tufts Film Series, organized the second Halloween production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show to a full house in Barnum Hall on Friday.
According to Shakura Cox, one of the Team Q peer leaders and organizers of the show, the event opened with a costume contest, then had a traditional Rocky Horror production where actors from a shadow cast portrayed the plot of the film on stage in front of the projected movie. The LGBT Center distributed paper bags full of props to the audience so that students could participate in Rocky Horror traditions, such as throwing various items at the actors and yelling phrases at the movie screen.
“You throw a bunch of things at people, you put newspapers over your head when the [scene] is them running around in the rain, you throw cards at the stage, you yell at the screen, and its just a really big cult following, and it’s a big part of specifically queer theater,” Cox, a senior, said. “But it’s also something that so many simply enjoy because it’s really a fun, crazy experience.”
According to Director of the LGBT Center Nino Testa, the Rocky Horror Picture Show had its first showing at Tufts last year around Halloween. It has historically been promoted for its cultural importance among the queer youth community, he said.
“I just initially [pitched] this [idea] out to Team Q, and they just took it and ran with it, and [I] was excited that they wanted to make it an annual thing,” he said. “I think we were just looking for a fun way for students to celebrate a particular kind of aspect of queer culture that has a lot of resonance for young LGBT people. Midnight screenings of Rocky Horror are a place that a lot of queer youth have found community and connected to others with common interests.”
Cox explained that one of the main attractions or highlights of the Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition is for audience members to yell out responses to specific audio cues from the movie. Termed “callbacks,” audience members are free to shout out and fill in lines after characters’ pauses or in between conversations.
“I think for me, the favorite part is definitely how interactive the audience is and how much fun they have with it,” Cox said. “Last year, I was an audience member, and my favorite parts were the callbacks. There are some hilarious callbacks.”
Joshua LaPalme, one of the shadow cast members, also said that some of the highlights of the event came from callbacks with the audience. He said part of the challenge of the production is getting audience members who are too timid to participate in the callbacks to engage with the cast. He cited measures that have been put in place to ensure full audience participation.
“People are naturally timid to scream things at a movie screen, and I think it’s pretty engrained in people that you do not talk in theaters, or you have to turn off your phone for the movie, but that’s not what we are going for, and most shadow casts have dedicated callback people,” LaPalme, a junior, said. “So we will go and call in response with each other and try to get it going, and [eventually], I think a lot of people were very involved in the callbacks.”
Team Q has made some changes to the show to make it more welcoming and community-friendly, Testa said. This has included changing some of the callbacks, because some terminology in Rocky Horror is harsh and derogatory.
“I was really pleased that Team Q found a way to maintain the fun elements of the callback process whilst weeding out the ones that did not feel as welcoming,” Testa said. “I was really pleased that they decided to do something different with that [aspect], and I think they did some cool stuff to keep the spirit of the tradition but also reflect the values of the LGBT Center and Team Q.”
Testa said he hopes to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition continue for years to come at Tufts.
“I would like to see it continue and see people pass it on to younger students and for them to take it up,” he said. “We just love to see, as long as it’s a tradition that feels fun to them, for it to keep evolving and for people to keep working on it.”
Cox also expressed her desire to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition continue.
“I think we are dedicated to making it an annual thing for Tufts, the night before Halloween kind of thing,” she said.
According to LaPalme, who participated in both last year’s and this year’s Rocky Horror event, the freedom of the interaction between audience and actors creates a memorable atmosphere for the event.
“This event is probably one of the highlights of my Tufts experience,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to get on stage and just have fun; it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, it’s just a chance to let you be you on stage and have fun.”