It’s a quiet Friday night at Stony Brook University, but there’s some serious energy coming from the Union Basement.
In room 032A, members of Pocket Theatre are in loose clothing, using tea and caffeine for energy and are stretching to pop music. While this may seem like the early part of a yoga exercise, it’s actually a warm-up for another long night of intense rehearsals for the performers. The loose clothes are temporary, because come show time the clothing will consist of fishnet stockings, high heels and sharp outfits when Pocket Theatre brings The Rocky Horror Picture Show to Stony Brook University on Halloween and November 1st at the LDS Center.
Now this could have been another reenactment of the classic movie-musical, but Pocket Theatre is adding a twist to the presentation of the show to leave their own mark on it. To match the dinner theatre environment, the show will be presented in a burlesque style, combining multiple versions of the stage shows and backed by the music of the film.
21-year old theatre major Elizabeth Beckett, who’s directing the show, said the new style of the show and all around process of directing has been “amazing,” and something more suited for the show itself.
“We put our own spin on the show because it’s fun to make it our own,” said Beckett while looking at her energetic and jovial cast. “The burlesque theme fits with dinner theatre show, but it’s also sexy. It’s about sex and takes place in, almost like a brothel house.”
Beckett makes reference to one of the show’s songs, “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me” as a prime example of Rocky Horror’s sexuality. She notes the tone, strong dancers, and theme of sexual awakening, which is common in burlesque shows.
This is Beckett’s first time directing a show, though she has done short films previously. Pocket Theatre performs multiple shows every year, but Beckett herself brought up the idea of putting on Rocky Horror after mentioning the idea to Pocket Theatre’s president, 21-year old theatre major Chris Stratis. Stratis, who also serves as a producer for the show, loved the idea of Rocky Horror for the show’s “cult classic” status and its “socially non-conforming” display.
All of this is going on as the performers are led during dance practice. Everyone is close together, sharing jokes and laughing as they’re instructed to do a kick ball change, which mostly involves footwork. Each individual part of the dance is broken down and focused on, making sure each movement of the performers is perfect. The performers understand the commitment needed for the show, while some of them aren’t even theatre majors. They may not have the major, but they have the commitment with daily rehearsals—Friday’s lasting for five hours. Even with long hours and constant physical work, the actors of the production are a tight group and understand the importance of each other.
Meghan Ames, Kayla Figetakis, and Ashlyn Libert are all actors on the show. Ames, a 21-year old senior playing the role of Janet, realizes that everyone in the cast is “pretty essential because everyone moves the plot along.” Even the ensemble, called “phantoms,” are crucial. 20-year old junior, Figetakis, playing the role of Magenta, said that “all the personalities of the actors bring new stuff to the stage,” especially when everyone comes together. In fact, according to Libert, a 20-year old senior playing Columbia, the combined energy and personalities of the actors are all “molded into new characters.”
The floor of the Union room 032A is lined with blue tape, outlining a large rectangle with numbers on it. This is actually the measured size and length of the stage at the LDS Center used to practice the positions for the actors since they have not yet rehearsed on stage yet. While not having access to the stage yet is difficult, the tape outline helps. As the cast manages to stay within the lines throughout their numbers that go at a fast pace. Director Beckett is extremely proud of the actors and how quickly they’ve embodied their roles and been able to work the stage. At the start of rehearsals, each individual actor was given time to work on their own character. Once that was accomplished, the group came together and clicked as a team.
David Bonderoff, a 21-year old theatre arts major playing the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter revels at the opportunity for this show because he likes how the show is known for “freaking people out.”
“I like things that get people out of their comfort zones,” said Bonderoff. “I’ve done my job if my performance and the show gets people out of their comfort zones. I’ve never done anything like this before”
As far as what is going to make the show memorable, Bonderoff believes it’s the actors themselves. “The actors make it believable. Everyone is talented and we all have faith in them. Their work makes everything real.” Considering the commitment, the energy and the enjoyment radiating off of the actors—that certainly seems to be the case.