Don't dream it, be it
Landing the role of a lifetime can be a very scary thing
It’s happening. This year, I get to perform in one of my dream roles as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show.” I first saw “Rocky Horror” in 2009 as a production that was done by my college’s theatre department. It was hard to follow at first, and I didn’t understand why some audience members kept yelling at the actors. Little did I know that these remarks, called callouts, are one of many aspects that make this show so fun to see live.
By the end of the show, I was hooked. Perhaps it was all the rock music and glamor? Or maybe it was the shirtless muscular man in tight gold pants? When I watched the movie a week later, I wasn’t as big a fan of it as the live performance. Although it was fun and campy, it was missing the communal aspect of watching a live show. Perhaps the most important aspect of art is allowing yourself to suspend your belief of reality not by yourself, but with others.
“The Rocky Horror Show” premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1973. Written by Richard O’Brien, it is inspired by B-movies, and horror and science fiction films from the first half of the 20th century. O’Brien, who would go on to play Riff Raff in the film, wrote most of “Rocky Horror” when he was out of work and needed to occupy himself.
“Rocky Horror” was a success when it first arrived as a play in the U.K. A reviewer from the Guardian wrote in June 1973 that, “(‘Rocky Horror’) won me over entirely because it achieves the rare feat of being witty and erotic at the same time.” The success of the show led to it becoming a movie, although it wasn’t deemed nearly as successful as the play. But in time, the movie would achieve cult status when it became a regular late-night showing at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles.
Although I’ve imagined taking this role for years, I have found myself feeling “silly” throughout the process. Silly in the fact that it can feel absurd to put so much energy into something that asks all people in the building – actors and audiences – to make believe together for two hours in a dark room. When I prepared for my audition, I felt silly recording myself and looking for the bits of body language that suggested I was nervous or not sure what came next. When I started rehearsals, I felt silly doing new numbers, feeling like my feet weren’t keeping up with the rest of my body. Now that it is the eve of the show opening, I feel scared that I will not be able to shake this silly feeling. And what if people start believing I’m as silly as I currently feel?
However, is “make believe” crucial to life? Does allowing ourselves to be something we’re not, in front of people who know we’re not those things, help us find larger truths about ourselves? Or give us hope? Leading up to Frank, I have been able to participate in drag shows both locally and out of town for the past two years. What I found by doing drag is that I have a lot more courage in me than I once realized. I have used this courage as a source of power that allows me to push through when I feel silly as Frank, or even as Doug.
Perhaps I’m most scared of this silliness because it reminds me of my time as a child. A time when playing make believe allowed me to travel to faraway lands and to be people I could never have the circumstances to be. And like childhood, this moment is fleeting. Perhaps, if I accept the silliness, it gives way for gratitude. Gratitude that, out of all the silly things I could be doing, I get to perform this role with you here and now.
“Rocky Horror Show” is playing at the Durango Arts Center, 802 E. 2nd Ave., starting on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at durangoarts.org.
– Doug Gonzalez