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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Boston’s Full Body Cast ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ turns 40

Saichand Chowdary
Moviegoers enter for a daytime showing at the AMC at Boston Common, the theater where the Rocky Horrow FBC performs. Photo by Saichand Chowdary / Mass Media Staff

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” has been a widespread cultural phenomenon since its release in 1975. The film, which serves as a parody of sci-fi and horror movies of past decades, struck chords with millions—particularly the queer community. It surrounds a stereotypical couple who stumble upon a castle full of wacky aliens from the planet Transsexual. As the night goes on, the couple discovers many truths about themselves and their sexualities. 

The movie’s strange cast of characters is rife with sexual ferocity and queer pride. Each inhabitant of the mansion serves as a challenge to typical gender roles and heteronormativity. The main themes of androgyny, having pride in one’s identity and experimentation resonated with the queer community. The film still circulates in the community to this day.

The film still plays in theaters to this day thanks to its fans. It’s not uncommon to find various midnight screenings of the movie, especially around Halloween. Performing casts will dress as the characters and mimic the movie as it plays behind them. This is known as a “shadow cast.”

One of the oldest shadow casts is Boston’s Full Body Cast, which is set to turn 40 years old on April 13. After performing for over twenty years in the Harvard Square Theater, the cast moved to the AMC Boston Common in 2012 and has been there since. To celebrate the show’s anniversary, the cast plans on bringing back historic performers, showing off never-before-seen sketches, and screening an upcoming documentary that chronicles the organization’s history.

The performing cast’s mission is “to provide a creative and educational environment” and “promote the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion in all its programming and activities,” in the words of their press kit. It carries out these ideals by inviting volunteers from all walks of life; the organization is also entirely led by LGBTQ+ people of color. By celebrating diversity, they claim “we can achieve an ideal environment to foster creativity and innovation.”

The organization gets its spark from its numerous volunteers who make up the entire cast and crew. None of the production members receive any profit from their work; they do it because they love it. It’s a welcoming environment that encourages people to be themselves, which makes acting and working with the production a great deal of fun.

Many students work with the organization. They have a flexible schedule, with most of the required effort being on the weekends. It’s low-pressure, exciting, and a wonderful way for volunteers to gain theater experience and find a community of like-minded people. Better yet, they are always welcoming new faces.

One student who works on the FBC is UMass Boston freshman Ander O’Donnell. O’Donnell typically works with the tech crew, working lights, props or merchandise. “When I’m helping with lights and props,” he said, “I’m expected to be able to communicate with the other people who are working with me to make the show the best it can possibly be.”

O’Donnell has slowly been transitioning into the acting scene as well. After about six tech shows, crew members are allowed to try acting with the organization. He spends most of his weekends at rehearsals for the show, working with the casting director and the other actors. “One thing that is never expected is perfection,” he said. “It’s always been used as a learning experience.”

Above all, O’Donnell values the community that comes with doing the show. “They are some of the nicest, most accepting people I’ve ever met,” he said. “I’ve gotten to meet so many cool people who have helped me become a better, more confident version of myself.”

Those looking to work with the organization should first attend a show to see the cast in action. The group is always looking for fresh faces and eager volunteers, so those who wish to find be part of the FBC’s zany crew are welcome anytime.