Madness takes its toll at theatre department’s “Rocky Horror” production

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Audience members participating in the costume contest before the performance.
Photo by Kaitlin Englund.

Kaitlin Englund

Life and Entertainment Editor

Hundreds of people funneled into the University of West Florida Mainstage Theatre Saturday night for one of UWF’s most outlandish fundraising events, the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

The UWF Theatre Department hosts a “shadow cast” of the production, in which theatre students pantomime the movie projected behind them, complete with costumes and props.

Saturday marked the second year for the event at UWF and the 40th anniversary for the release of the movie. This year, the production featured two special guest stars: Dr. Greg Lanier, dean of the University College, as The Criminologist, and local celebrity Lauren Mitchell as Frank-N-Furter.

Mitchell, who has been performing in the area for 28 years, said she was happy to come perform at UWF and help get the word out about the event.

“My favorite part is the second show, with all the rowdy kids,” Mitchell said, adding that her favorite scene to perform is the “orgy.”

Mitchell’s sparkling corset outfits were a hit with the crowd, eliciting rowdy responses from the audience members upon her entrance to the stage.

However, it wasn’t just Mitchell’s extravagant costumes that got the crowd going wild.

As anyone who has been to a “shadow cast” of the movie knows, the actors on stage are not the only ones participating. Audience members often come dressed up as their favorite strange and scantily-clad characters.

Before the show started, costumed audience members were asked to come to the stage to compete in a costume contest. Audience applause determined who had the best costume, and the winner was not only given a “Miss Transylvania” sash to wear, but was brought on stage during the show to dance the “Time Warp” with the cast members.

The audience also plays a large role in the production, as they shout out various phrases that have become tradition since shortly after the film’s release, and even throw different novelties around the theatre, creating a unique, interactive film screening.

Unlike most theatre performances, the audience was also encouraged to use their phones throughout the show to take pictures and post them to social media using the hashtag #RHPSUWF15.

This year, the theatre department had an 8 p.m. and midnight showing, which together raised approximately $5,000 to help the department with production costs for this school year. The theatre honor fraternity Alpha Psi Omega also sold goody bags to the audience with the novelties to participate, to raise money for their organization.

Jerre Brisky, director of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts, said the theatre department, similar to many other organizations, faced a 25 percent cut this year in funding from Student Government Association fees. It is that cut that makes “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” such an important fundraising event for the department.