Break out your lingerie…


Returning to Negaunee’s Vista Theatre is a play filled with traditions, some of which include throwing hot dogs, rice and toilet paper; audience members yelling at the characters on stage and a dreaded pink V on the face of first-time viewers.

And of course, who could forget all the people in lingerie.

“The Rocky Horror Show” is back for its eighth straight year in Negaunee. The play, which is sponsored by the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council, will have its first showing Thursday at 7 p.m.

“This play has it all: sex, drugs and rock and roll,” said Ella Bartlett, who plays Frank-N-Furter.

The play, which was also made into a movie, has garnered its own cult following since it first debuted in Great Britain in 1973. What makes “Rocky” so infamous is the nonsensical, character-driven plot that’s fueled with lots and lots of sex.

Newly engaged couple Brad (Mike Rudden) and Janet (Alaina O’Brien) are driving in their car during a storm when one of their tires pops. They walk through the rain until they find a castle, which happens to be the home of Frank-N-Furter (Ella Bartlett) and his following of transsexual Transylvanians. The couple tries to locate a telephone, but instead of being offered assistance, the two have their clothes taken from them and are subjected to an evening full of sex and science fiction. As the night progresses, Brad and Janet find themselves completely transformed by the openly sexual behavior of all the castle’s inhabitants. By the end of the play, these two main characters have gone from extremely conservative to completely uninhibited.

And while “Rocky” has developed a notoriety all its own, this year’s director, Emily Martello, is looking to mix it up. As the only person working on the play to have been involved with it for its eight-year run, Martello has had plenty of time to see what works and what doesn’t.

“What originally drew me (to directing) was the chance to make (the play) different. I’d been in it for seven years, and after working in the backstage crew, I knew we could put some new spin, some fresh blood into it,” she said. “Expect to see some changes this year.”

What is perhaps the biggest change to this year’s version of the play is focused on one character: Frank-N-Furter.

For the first time in its Neguanee history, the show will have a woman playing its lead role in Ella Bartlett, a senior secondary education English major.

“I’m a little nervous,” Bartlett said. “It’s really different to be doing this. What a dream come to true though, to get to play Tim Curry. He’s the god of sex.

“We’re playing it as a woman, playing a man, playing a woman. He’s really sexually confused,” she added. “And he’s a really lovable character, but at the same time, you get to be a total bitch, you just (have) to strut it. I mean, you enter on a song all about how sexy you are.”

Though some aspects will not be quite the same, all the classic elements unique to “Rocky” will remain, such as the characters Brad and Janet. This idea of character is what drew senior secondary education-math major Mike Rudden to Brad in the first place.

“(There’s a) tradition to it,” Rudden said. “Everyone knows the name (Brad). There’s such a culture behind it, you can’t really deviate from that. You just have to embrace it.”

And while it was the idea of his character that Rudden most liked, it was the progression of character that makes Alaina O’Brien, a junior theatre major, enjoy playing Janet.

“I’m not a super-extroverted kind of person in real life. So, (playing Janet) steps me outside of my comfort zone. She starts out conservative and ends up completely wild,” O’Brien said.

Along with the revealing costumes and unusual plotline is another unique aspect of the play: audience participation.

“I do a lot of theatre, and it’s not often you come across a show this audience-oriented,” Bartlett said. “I really love being that in tune with the audience.”

In fact, the audience is so much a part of the play that Pat Wagner, who plays the Narrator, said he was nervous for the show to begin, adding that some of the crowds can be pretty rowdy.

“I’m kind of afraid, especially for the midnight showings,” he said.

As the actors deliver their lines, people in the audience can yell “call-backs,” which are ready-made lines that go along with the play. Most of the time, they turn what would sound like an innocent statement into something sexually explicit or drug related, making the audience as inappropriate as the play.

Audience members are also encouraged to show up as scantily clad as the cast members.

“(The play) is really risqué for theatre, but it’s no worse than what you would see in an MTV music video. The audience is more risqué than the play,” Bartlett said

Dale Weingartner, Gwinn resident and lobby manager for the Vista, said he has gone to all seven showings of the play, but has only been a call-backer for six. Though he has been doing call-backs for six years, he said he uses the soundtrack of “Rocky” to help him remember them all.

“The whole month of October, when I’m driving, it’s the only CD I play,” Weingartner said. “I shout them out in my car.”

“Rocky” will run from Oct. 23-25, and from Oct. 29-31, with showings at 7 p.m. On Oct. 25 and 31, there will also be midnight showings. All 7 p.m. performances are $12 and all midnight showings are $15. Tickets can be bought at the Vista Theatre or at any EZ ticket outlet.