Originally written by 'The Fantasie Factory Players'
1st Revision - Brian Cox (1990)
2nd Revision - RHPS Official Fan Club (1997)
Previously part of James Norman's Rocky Horror Sourcebook
3rd Revision - A few tiny updates by the RHPS Official Fan Club (2010)
[ Introduction | The Theater Management | Organization ]
[ Cast Officers | Cast Personal Relations | Security ]
[ Publicity | Running the Show | Pre-Show ]
[ Virgins | Lighting | Props ]
[ Costumes | Floor Show | Makeup ]
[ The Final Word for Performers | After the Show ]
Welcome to Live Theater. That is essentially what shadowcasts really are, and they've kept The Rocky Horror Picture Show alive and kicking for many years. A cast run on PROFESSIONAL THEATER PRINCIPLES will help Rocky run for a long time in YOUR town, and make you and your performers (small scale) celebrities! First though, you need to ask yourself one very important question: DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO START A LIVE SHADOWCAST?
You'll need to give up your weekends, spare time, many HOT dates, and LOTS of sleep, and you'll be haunted by self-doubt and stress when things get hectic. However, if you love Rocky and you can take charge and organize, dive right in! The rewards are worth it: Seeing a virgin's mouth drop to the floor as Frank throws off his cape, seeing a packed theater and realizing that you're part of the reason behind the success of Rocky.
THE THEATER MANAGEMENT
You need to show the virtues of having a shadowcast, and how it can benefit the theater (click here for an outline on making a proposal to theater owners). Remember, most managers are interested in only one thing, money. Rocky with a cast pulls many more people than one without, and that means more profit for the theater. If the theater has multiple screens, Rocky with a cast will also tend to increase attendance at other movies as well. Show the manager that you and your cast will help preserve the walls, seats, and most importantly, the screen. Also be ready to sign individual insurance waivers, as the theater may ask you to, so that if one of your performers is injured, you cannot sue the theater.
To most managers, your shadowcast is nothing but a PR element for the film. If you publicize your cast and bring in an audience, the manager may be willing to help you out. Do not expect such bonuses as free tickets right away though. In fact, don't even ask for them. You should be willing to pay your way in for at least a month or two, and while you do this, keep track of the box office ticket count. When it's clear that your cast is increasing the ticket sales, then talk to the manager about goodies like free admission. Most of all, don't piss off the theater managers. Most of the time they don't need Rocky to be a success, and why make enemies with someone who can help you out with free tickets, letting you in free and early, allowing special shows, etc.?
If/when the theater manager has decided to show Rocky, theater MANAGEMENT must be who initially books the film for your theater. Since your theater manager likely already has access for booking other 20th Century Fox films, they should be able to call their boss, regional manager, etc. to procure a film print as well as the rights to show the film. If, and only if, that process fails and a print of Rocky cannot be found, should theater mangement contact the RHPS Official Fan Club via the website e-mail form.
Different structures work for different casts, but the form of leadership that usually works is not a dictatorship, but a democracy with officers elected by the majority of the cast members. Otherwise, cliques can develop, tempers could get hot, cast members might have their feelings hurt, and when they start leaving... no more cast. Depending on how bloody the cast problems get, maybe even no more Rocky. Cast officers need to remember that they are not elected to order around the other members of cast, but to shape the general direction that cast takes and provide a single voice for the management to talk to. A majority vote of the cast members should have the final word on anything, though.
Find a meeting place for the cast that is central to most cast members and where noise shouldn't be a problem. For example, your cast could rotate the meeting place among all the members, so that everyone has a chance to host a meeting if they want to. Also decide on a time and day of the week to rehearse, and hold to that every week. Rehearsals should not be mandatory, but there should always be a time where people can go to rehearse if they need to. Again, hosting rehearsal can rotate among the cast members, but try to remember that you need a large area with a home video player to rehearse for Rocky.
At the first cast meeting, the Secretary should collect names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and the characters that each person in cast is qualified to perform. In a pinch, many Riffs can also do Frank, Eddies often do Dr. Scott, and remember your gender makes no difference at all. There have been excellent male Columbias, female Franks and other cross-gendered characters. The address and phone number information should be available to all cast members, but if a member wants their address or phone number removed from the list, it should be removed. The officers must work to ensure that everyone has current information about all cast members.
For the ease of running the first meeting, give everyone voting privileges. After that though, voting should be allowed only by people who have performed or helped with backstage work a set number of times (4 seems about the average). If someone performs for 4 shows and attends a meeting, then they are fairly serious about the cast and about performing. Vote the member in at the next cast meeting.
The President and Vice President should decide who performs any given show. If you have two people who want to play a part, alternate performances so that they both get some time off. Other shadowcasts choose to have understudies so that if the lead performer is injured or goes on vacation, or whatever, the alternate can step in and play the part. Personal critiques of the actors should be done in private only, not at the show. If you notice something that an actor is doing incorrectly, jot it down and mention to that person later.
The cast Secretary should keep the minutes, cast list, and handle all official cast correspondence. The Secretary should also make out a schedule showing who is performing for each show, preferably several months in advance. This gives the actors enough time to set up replacements if they cannot perform on a week that they are scheduled. Access to a printer or copy machine is virtually a must for this position, and use of a computer database can greatly ease the mass of paperwork involved in keep track of cast.
CAST PERSONAL RELATIONS
When you are performing, you MUST DROP negative feelings about the rest of the world or about other cast members. When you perform you are your character. Absolutely NO personal conflicts can interrupt the show, even if cast members must be sent home for that night. Casts get destroyed from internal friction much faster than from outside forces. There is no good reason to tear each other down at the show, in the end it only hurts your show... and everyone's image of you.
Only two things should bring immediate dismissal from cast. One - Showing up to performance drunk or on drugs TWICE. The first time should result in probation, but not dismissal, as anyone can make a mistake once. Two - if a cast member attempts to purposely disrupt the show or the cast's relationship with management, there should be no leeway. The cast members should be immediately removed both from the theater and from the cast.
To avoid possible injuries, it is crucial to have some kind of cast security. You should have at least one person who is specifically identified as a security person in order to keep moderate order. Your security will also probably be more polite than the theater rent-a-cop, so it is to your benefit to handle it yourself. Security should make sure that any items that are thrown are only thrown back, should stop smokers and confiscate booze and drugs. Also, check with your theater about throwing wet items or squirting water. Many theaters don't like them simply because they can damage the screen too easily. Security personnel should receive free admission to the theater along with cast and should have full cast privileges just like any performer would. Remember they are just as much a part of cast as anyone else.
The Emcee of the show should explain the theater's rules loudly and clearly during the pre-show. Many casts choose to have some humor thrown in with the rules, but the rules should be clear and easy to understand. Also try to get your security to handle problems, but NEVER eject anyone from the theater except as a last resort. Approval of the manager is a must as well. After all, they did pay to see the show, and the theater should have the final say on whether or not they get to stay.
The best publicity is free and passed on by word of mouth, but here are some tips for making your shadowcast better known.
Remember, everyone outside of Rocky is a "Rocky Ambassador" of a sort. All members of cast should make an attempt to publicize both Rocky and the cast wherever they can.
If your theater has an official RHPS Press Kit, DON'T CUT IT UP! Put it in a safe place and then have a professional graphic arts shop make photocopies of it. Then use the duplicates for publicity. One press kit was never designed to provide publicity for this many years, so you need to improvise.
Another means of publicity is to try to get one of the theater's large glass marquees. Place a Rocky poster in it and then surround it by pictures of your cast members in complete costume and makeup. That way everyone who comes into the theater will see the pictures there and know about Rocky and your cast. See the last section of this guide if you need makeup or costume information, or help with publicity.
Remember that all your publicity materials are going to virgins who know nothing about Rocky. Therefore, you should emphasize only the basics... "Throw rice. Dance the Time Warp. The movie where YOU'RE part of the show. The longest continuously running movie ever. America's favorite midnight movie", etc. Mention your theater and your cast at the bottom of the flyer, particularly if you have more than one shadowcast in your area. You should not try to explain the show to anyone not familiar with it. Simply tell them that they should come and see it for themselves.
Don't forget, if your shadowcast has any show that is open to the public, let the RHPS Official Fan Club know, using the form on the Fan Club website. There's a list of showtimes at www.RockyHorror.com that is updated free of charge for all theaters and all casts, anywhere in the world. Setting up an account for your cast on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, and keeping them updated on a regular basis, are also a great way to find and keep in touch with local Rocky fans.
RUNNING THE SHOW
Once you have permission to have a shadowcast at your theater, you need to stage a show. This involves quite a bit more than just telling people where to stand. You need to do some formal blocking, stage diagrams, figure out where lights are, and also get everyone to know their own characters' actions, facial expressions, and hand gestures. You can learn basic acting techniques from a school or even a book. Just remember that in stage acting, everything must be larger than life. Gestures should be larger, motions and lines need to be made more obvious. Also, when performing you should actually say your lines, don't just mouth the words. Even if you can't sing, give it a try anyway, as it helps the other performers to pace themselves off of each other.
You should NEVER yell audience lines while you are performing. If you want to sit down in the front row and yell, okay, but you should never break character while you are in view of the audience.
This is your audience 'warm-up.' It should be humorous and should show off the fact that you are a creative cast who doesn't just mouth the words. The pre-show should be coordinated by the President, but should be run the Emcee, which should be the same person every week. In your pre-show you should always mention the names of the performers for that night, as well as information about how to reach your cast online, the RHPS Official Fan Club, and info about how to become a part of your cast. Never turn down someone who wants to volunteer to be a part of cast. Take their name, address, and phone number and save it. You never know when you might need a stand-in or new actor. Your pre-show should also mention if you have any special guests that night, such as people from other shadowcasts who have come to see your show, celebrities, or anyone else that you feel is of note.
Pre-show should start with a list of the rules. Have some fun with this, but make sure that people know that you are VERY serious about the rules. Then you should do the virgins (see below.) After virgins, have some crowd entertainment ready. Do some Monty Python jokes, hand magic, sex jokes, whatever gets the crowd going. This is your chance to show off your creativity, so BE CREATIVE!
Finally, when you are ready to start the show, you should have a standard line that is yelled to end the pre-show and to cue the projectionist to start the film. This needs to be arranged with her/him in advance. For instance, one theater gets the audience chanting 'LIPS... LIPS... LIPS...' until Lips come on the screen. This way, there is a smooth transition from Pre-show to movie. In order to do this you need to befriend the projectionist, but most are fairly willing to accommodate you as much as the management will let them.
A few virgin initiations go a long way, so don't overdo it. Also remember that every virgin may be a future Rocky fan, so don't insult or scare any of them. If a virgin doesn't want to be sacrificed, then come up with something else. You should never force a virgin to do something that they don't want to do. Rocky is meant to bring together blacks, whites, gays, straights, and uncertains without alienating anyone. Everyone is equal at Rocky, and everyone deserves basic courtesy, cast and audience alike.
For beginning casts, large flashlights are the best, cheapest lighting source. You should have one person in cast who is in charge of lighting. If you want to be a little bit more industrious, you can buy a Brinkman Q-Beam spotlight or any 12-volt DC hand spotlight and use that. You will need to make a power supply though, of at least 10 AMP capacity, so you should have someone in cast who can do this. A spotlight without a power supply does you no good at all. In order to make the power supply you will need a car battery charger (10 AMP or greater). One charger will run only one hand spot, as they pull a lot of current. DO NOT attempt to run more than one spotlight off of one charger. You will burn up the wiring in the charger and may cause a fire.
Get someone who is handy with a soldering iron to wire a charging jack to take the place of the battery clasps on the charger, and a charging plug to take the place of the cigarette lighter plug on the hand spot. When that is done, you have a spotlight.
You should raise the light above the audience member's heads, as it will blind the cast if you don't. You may have a platform to light from; an empty projection window, or maybe just a stepladder, but whatever you use, it should be at least 6 feet off of the ground. Remember to aim the spotlight at the chests of the actors, NOT their faces. If you see a red reflection from their eyes, you are aiming too high and are blinding them.
You also need to be VERY careful not to turn a hand spot toward the audience at any time. A blinded audience cannot enjoy the show, so always point the spotlights forward. If you do have aisle scenes that need to be lit, use smaller flashlights to light them, as they can be directed more easily.
The best source of lighting for Rocky is a theatrical spotlight. These are expensive, but if you can have one donated from a local theater that is upgrading their lighting system, or can buy one from a theater that is closing down, it will prove to be an extremely valuable investment.
There is an alternative to using a spotlight, and this is for shadowcasts who are willing to put out the time and money for a KNOCKOUT lighting system. It will take some money to do it, but it involves using a slide projector as a spotlight. This allows you to use different colors, sizes, and shapes or spotlights by placing different slides into the projector. Also, perhaps you don't have the money to build an entire castle for Riff, so just build the window and project the castle around it. The same can be done for other scenes as well.
Purchase as many props as possible at Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other thrift stores. It won't kill your budget, and it also won't hurt so much when they are lost, damaged, or stolen. Whether you believe it or not, they will be. While realistic props are good to have, a shadowcast with little or no budget can use a large trunk for Frank's throne, the bed, and the dinner table, as well as something that actors can stand on for smaller scenes like the elevator.
The most expensive prop is, by far, Dr. Scott's wheelchair. Someone will simply have to bite the bullet and buy one. It shouldn't be something that may be defective or fall apart onstage. If you're going to buy one, you should go ahead and spend the money and get a good chair. If you don't, Dr. Scott will have to hold his breath and pray every time that he goes down the aisle. There is a cast who, while they couldn't afford a wheelchair, made do with the next best thing. They found an old shopping cart and cut it down so that there was a place for Dr. Scott to sit. It worked as a functional wheelchair. If you can afford a chair, buy one, but if you really can't, this is a reasonable alternative.
There are many who have different views on costumes. Some say that cast members should have their own costumes and props, others say that it is easier on the cast if they have a costume for each character that anyone can use. While it would be nice to say that one size fits all in costumes, it simply doesn't. Therefore, the clothing part of each costume should be maintained by the individual performers of a cast. Props, on the other hand, such as Eddie's motorcycle or sax, Riff's laser, or Frank's electric knife, should be purchased by the cast, as they will not change from person to person. It's up to you how you choose to do it, but based on input from a number of casts, I believe that this procedure results in the fewest hassles over costumes.
An easy Frank corset is a black knit shirt or sweater with the sleeves, removed and hemmed. Cut up the front and hem it on both sides about 2 inches from the edge; then put eyelets up the front and lace it. There's a Frank corset.
All performers, Brad and Janet especially, should be very aware of how much skin they are showing at ALL times. Some Janets have shown their 'true colors' when their slips were hit by the spotlight. Have the slip double lined to prevent this. Brads need to have the crotch sewn up on their jockey shorts to prevent 'pink invaders' from popping out onstage. Flashing may sound like fun, but it will probably get you kicked out of the theater and maybe even arrested.
For exposed males (Brad, Frank, Rocky, Dr. Scott), black swimming trunks (racing trunks) are the best, cheapest safety precaution from showing too much. Rocky should avoid trunks made of genuine gold lamé, as it cannot be cleaned. Use gold swimming trunks instead. If the female performers can't afford floor show corsets, they'll look great in black swimsuits or lingerie. Again though, make sure you're covered.
The largest and most constant expense for Rocky is fishnet stockings. You should stay away from 'fishnet panty hose', as they don't look or feel the same. There is no question that, whether you will admit it or not, men, the feel of real fishnet stockings will get everyone into the Rocky mood. Pretty much all cast members should have one regular pair, one backup for emergencies, and one deluxe pair for special occasions (Halloween show, anniversary shows). They can be found at Frederick's or at most costume stores (probably a little bit less expensive), and during Halloween many stores will carry cheap fishnets that may not last very long, but only cost a few dollars.
Some casts don't do a full floor Show, which is a shame, as it is the climax of the show. Despite what many other casts will tell you, it IS possible for all performers to change in time for the floor show.
Assuming that you do have some kind of floor show costumes, Brad and Rocky should be wearing their black swim trunks and garter belts under their earlier costumes. Dr. Scott can be wearing his fishnets from the time he gets into the wheelchair. If you want to ease his change, don't wear pants, just use the blanket to cover Dr. Scott's legs and have the fishnets on underneath. Then he's all ready for floor show from the start. Otherwise Dr. Scott will need to change during the start of floor show.
Brad and Janet should break from the medusa pose as soon as Janet is turned to stone. That will give them just about 2 minutes to change into their floor show costumes. The hardest change is Janet, as she must completely remove her bra and panties in order to put on her floor show corset. Columbia is fairly simple, she can start dressing during the first bedroom scene and wear her floor show costume under the pajamas. Frank's change is relatively simple, as he has a full 4-5 minutes to change into his floor show outfit. If you have the time, it looks good if you can alter Frank's wig for the floor show as well. The other option is to have two wigs, but once you become proficient at changing, you should be able to do with one.
Floor Show makeup - nearly impossible. Don't even try when you're first starting out. You'll have a hard enough time getting changed into costumes, makeup should be the last thing that you worry about for the floor show.
The most commonly used makeup is clown white for Frank, Magenta, Riff, and Columbia. We recommend Bob Kelly greasepaint sticks, as they aren't as gritty as other grease paint, are easier and faster to apply, go farther, and are hypo-allergenic. The latter is very important, as your face will eventually start to react to the other, cheaper makeup. Clown White should also be used for the Transylvanians, if you have any. It should be smoothed over their faces to make them look pale, but not as pale as Frank or the others. Then powder that down with light talcum powder and apply other colors over that. Cheap eye makeup is the best for blushes and eye shadows. It comes in brilliant colors that are perfect for stage.
Remember, you are onstage and under a spotlight. Therefore all performers MUST wear some kind of makeup to darken their faces. Faces will appear washed out onstage, so even Brad and Janet should darken their eyebrows and eyelashes and make sure that their faces are not washed out. If you have a theatrical costume store in town, they can tell you the best products to use to avoid this, as the makeup will change depending on what kind of lighting you are using.
THE FINAL WORD FOR PERFORMERS
Many performers are stuck on makeup and props. They can't perform without a skin cap for Riff, a sax for Eddie, or their frizzled Frank wig. The props don't make the show. YOU DO! The greatest props still require a good performance to make the show good. There is no question that a show without props or costumes is much harder to perform, but you should still be able to do just as good a job, if not better, as you would with costumes.
For bows, each cast member should go out and bow when their character comes on in the credits. People doing lights should remember this, and many casts will also do a group bow in the end. After bows, you should thank the audience for coming, and remind them of any special events coming up. As they leave, it will keep your audience on a personal level if you ask some of the former virgins what they thought of the show, try to show your audience that you are just as interested in them as they are in you.
AFTER THE SHOW
Immediately after your bows, it's time to get on a minimal amount of clothing and start the process of cleaning up the theater. While not all theaters require their casts to clean up, casts should do it anyway. If you think about it, you are helping to keep ticket prices down, and demonstrate your sense of responsibility by helping to clean up each week. After the theater is clean, then you can worry about packing your stuff, getting cleaned up, etc.
Most casts have a "cast breakfast" after the show, usually at a 24-hour diner or restaurant such as Denny's. Your cast's behavior is important here too, because it still reflects on your show. Midnight Insanity has a good rule they call their "Denny's rule"... for every dollar, or portion thereof you order in food, you must kick in a quarter for the tax and tip pot. This makes calculating the check far easier and helps prevent undertipping a usually overworked waitress. If the service is bad, complain, but leave the tip anyway! Another suggestion is having one person collect money for the order portion when the person is reading their order to the waitress.
There is one other major problem with cast breakfasts, aside from the bill and tip collection, and that is of rowdy people sitting at your table that you don't even know. Often many virgins want to hang around with the cast, much like rock groupies after a concert. A suggestion is that only the cast, and people that a cast member SPECIFICALLY accepts financial/social responsibility for, get to sit at the "cast table." If someone you don't know asks where you are having breakfast, tell them the truth. But also let them know that only people they know REALLY WELL and who are invited to the table by a specific cast member get to sit with the cast at breakfasts. The reason you don't want to tell them a lie is simple: They are future Rocky regulars/cast members and while you may not want them sitting with you (at the moment), you do want them to feel welcome in the Rocky culture and come back to the show.