Still Relevant After All These Years
June 1, 2017
"Is The Rocky Horror Show still a relevant piece of theater today?"
I asked the cast when we began rehearsals. All agreed that it was relevant, but in a far different context from when it first opened at the small upstairs space of the Royal Court Theatre in London on June 19, 1973. Back then, campy B-rated horror films and the mix of Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry and glam rock-inspired tunes would have been part and parcel of the spectators' upbringings, whereas now they're a nostalgia trip.
Certainly, the call for social change in the lyrics, "Don't dream it - be it," still resonates. However, we must remember that arguably it was born out of the most un-apathetic youth culture the world had ever known, a youth culture that fueled the free speech movement, the civil rights movement, the black arts movement, the anti-nuke movement, the anti-war movement, the Chicano movement, the women's liberation movement and the gay rights movement, to name just a handful.
While we're now long used to the emergence of movements for social change (whether we agree with them or not) we're highly experienced in the ongoing steps, both forward and backward, this network of un-unified causes makes, though never consolidating in a way that might bring on ultimate human progress.
For the youth culture of 1973, on the other hand, there was still lingering hope among many for coalescence into an ideal: an ultimate fix. The shocking Kent State shootings by the National Guard in 1970, for instance, would have been within recent memory, but maybe no one could yet see them as standard operating procedure whenever protests become too large, too unwieldy and, well, too hopeful.
This is not to say that a Rocky Horror Show of today is one we must see only with jadedness, apathy and pessimism. My own children talk of a gender and sexual-identity fluidness in their middle and high schools right here in Indiana, where acceptance of difference is the norm rather than the exception. However, they also practice active shooter drills, fear terrorism in public spaces and wonder about the madness of the current presidential election and what its outcome will mean for their future on a myriad of fronts.
All of this is to say that beyond the sense of freedom and fun that erupted in the 60s and 70s (which squelched the sexual repression of the 50s era and allowed us to heckle with utter abandon and joyously dance the Time Warp ever since) the show also captures a cultural landslide that started back then and hasn't yet found its angle of repose. We're still, as the narrator informs us in the show's final moments, "insects ... crawling on the planet's face ... lost in time, lost in space and meaning."
We encourage audience participation for The Rocky Horror Show! Wear costumes, shout at the stage and, of course, be ready to do the Time Warp. Rocky prop bags will be available for $5 at the show. For the safety and comfort of all of our patrons, we do ask that the audience not bring in their own props.