On more than one occasion this year, as I was locked inside that decadent little red velvet theatre – surrounded by a glorious Freaker’s Ball of fellow theatregoers being unapologetically themselves – I’ve wondered if what we were doing there was changing anyone.
I’ve wondered if that guy in the fishnets and stilettos was just doing it for fun, or if he has secretly longed for this night – for a chance to be fully real in public. If the woman next to me, who clearly didn’t know what she’d gotten herself into, managed to lose her moral compass – even for a second – and find herself delighted by unexpected pleasures. If anyone, who couldn’t embrace a transgendered, gay or somehow “other than” friend, family member or neighbor before that night, would see them differently the next day.
I’ve wondered how many people in that audience were reminded how they once hugged their knees tight to their chest while a deep loneliness they swore no one could understand (but is long-gone now), swallowed them whole – every time Frank sang about how he wanted to be dressed the same as Fay Wray. (Or, maybe that was just me.) And I’ve wondered if anyone was inspired by the show to stop hiding or making apologies for who they are – to “don’t dream it, be it.”
I guess we’ll never know. But night after night, through 14 shows, I’ve wondered those things. Mostly because I hoped for them to be true. About three shows in, I started to see Rocky Horror differently. And I started to hope that it would somehow be more to people than just a cult-classic allegory of the 60s counterculture revolution and the sci-fi movie romp that most see it as.
It clearly was to me.
I knew what Rocky Horror was before this season. I’d seen it years ago, from the back seven rows of the long-gone Vogue Theatre in Stratford. It was a haze of cigarette smoke, toast and rice, from what I remember. While I didn’t love the movie back then, it struck a chord in the punk rock, teenage, non-conformist me with its ghosts of past decadence, it’s incredibly liberal sexual politics and the rather big FU that it casually sends, on raised eyebrow, to mainstream society’s ‘rules’.
Those are still some of the things I love about it today. And…
Rocky Horror has been a dear friend this year – an incredible, two-hour long, wickedly talented, dear friend who met me at the door and wrapped me up in a big, ‘ol campy, glam-rock blanket full of corsets, strange and beautiful people, haunted mansions, secret labs, sex and glitter. (That entire sentence brings me joy, you guys.) And like any dear friend whose time is fleeting – you just want to soak up every last minute with them.
Hence, 14 shows. Fourteen rock concert shows that carried me through some of the toughest days of this last year. The loss of a real-life dear friend. The agonizing rollercoaster of my mom’s illness. Crazy amounts of change at work. By the end of the first song, Rocky could always kick a shitty day out on its treacherous ass.
Sending heartfelt thanks & gratitude to everyone involved in the production this season – that was some beautiful chaos and it meant more to many of us than you will ever know.
And now that it’s almost over….’I’m at the ‘start of a pretty big downer.’