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The Mass Media

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The Virgin Suicide: The Rocky Horror Experience

The first time it happens, it can be quite painful. You’re nervous and worried about getting it right. You generally have no idea how it is done, your only concern is not looking like too much of a fool. It should be fun; half the amusement is the anticipation itself. You look pretty silly but you’re just trying to blend in with the natives. Waiting outside, standing in line, wondering what all the hype is about, sort of like a Brittany Spears concert.

That’s how it was for me at The Rocky Horror Picture Show (What did you think I was talking about?). Imagine Harvard Square on a warm, Cambridge summer night where you’re surrounded by a coven of people dressed in black and chattering about “virgins” (Incidentally, this term refers to people who’ve never seen the show before. Television and video don’t count, either.). It’s not any different than being down in the Pit during the day but there is a specialized language and costume involved in this case.

I was supposed to go with my ex-boyfriend in a vain attempt at “just being friends” before I was old enough to realize that there was no such thing. He ended up begging off because it was too much of an emotional ordeal, etc. so, annoyed and alone, I decided I’d brave it myself.

Clad completely in black, I could’ve passed for your average Goth, minus the makeup and suicide scars. I didn’t speak to anyone, just stood in line like everyone else, taking it all in and wondering what I’d gotten myself into. I tentatively asked the people next to me why the word “virgin” kept coming up and the adventure began.

The security guys came over, beckoned by more knowledgeable veterans and painted a big, burgundy-colored lipstick “v” on my forehead and cleavage, protocol for all newbies waiting to be broken in.

For those of you who don’t know, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a Halloween staple and Saturday night tradition in the Church St. Theater, Loew’s Cinema. Each weekend, from the witching hour till 2am, crowds gather to relive the experience of a poorly made mix of science fiction and sexual insanity. The movie doesn’t even deserve the eminence of an 60s B movie rating for all the substance the silly-string plot contains. What keeps people coming back is the unique mixture of interactive theater and creative casting. The original cast was made up of such stars as Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Meatloaf, and more.

First, there was waiting in the hallway while the head of security, Tracey, made a speech in which we were informed of several basic rules: no weapons, no water guns, and no touching the actors (except they can touch you!), followed by a quick pat frisk. In some venues, it would be considered an exercise in psychological abuse, sexual harassment, and public humiliation. We call it just plain fun.

To warm up the crowd, they often put on pre-shows, creative little skits written as spoofs of movies, shows, or political issues or just a scenario acted out to a particular song. That evening, they showed one called “Punk Rock Girl,” a ditty about a guy falling in love with a stereotypical alternachick.

After that was the “Timewarp,” where the crowd jumps up out of their seat, to the left and right, participating in an obscene game of charades you’d never play at the annual family reunion. “It’s just a jump to your left/Just a step to your right/Bring your knees in tight/Do the pelvic thrust.” One or more members of the audience were even generous enough to demonstrate for/against me.

Then came Frank, a six-foot, leather-cloaked, makeup covered transvestite and master of ceremonies. Not exactly the kind of guy you’d bring home to mother but not too much different from your average Cambridge resident. He presides over the popping of the cherry and, amongst other things, the selection of the sacrificial virgin.

The symbolic cherry is actually a big red balloon that is stuck between your legs while you are waiting for the public deflowering. However, the arduous selection process used involves a rigorous voting system and only a chosen few virgins are placed onstage to be weeded out. I was lucky enough to be picked and, before I knew it, I was topless, duct-taped, and letting the world know just how much air-conditioning there was in the theater.

The rest of the evening was somewhat anticlimactic. Between having an actor vigorously thrust his pelvis into my face, throwing stuff at the actors, the rampant pseudo-orgiastic overtones, and screaming lines at the screen with everyone else, it was one of the more unusual experiences I’ve had. It’s not the movie you come for; it’s the people.

The Harvard Square cast, known as the Fullbody Cast, does an excellent job of turning an ordinary, low grade, low budget trashy movie into a surrealistic foray into drama, politics, and avant-garde theatre. Always innovative, even in the small space they are allotted, they realize that ingenuity is essential for repeat crowds and the ever-expanding circle of new followers.

It’s right off the Harvard Square stop on the Red Line, although you’ll need to find your own transportation. Parking is usually a problem and tickets should be bought a half-hour in advance. Visit the website, fullbodycast.org to find out more information and cheap thrills. This is a rite of passage that will leave you gasping and panting for more. It’s not nearly as messy and painful as it seems and it’s a better use of time and money.

About the Contributor
MiMi Yeh served as arts editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2001-2002; *2002-2003; 2003-2004 *Evan Sicuranza served as arts editor for Fall 2002 Disclaimer: Years served is based on online database and may not detail entire service.