Reminder Assistant Editor
SOUTH HADLEY For the past few decades, young men and women have been dressing up in fishnet stockings, glittery top hats and bright red lipstick on Saturday nights, looking to throw some rice and sing some songs. If that sounds crazy, you've clearly never been to a "Rocky Horror Picture Show."
South Hadley's Tower Theaters have been doing Saturday night shows since the film became available to them in 1989, according to current owner Bob Adam.
"There are a limited number of reels available, so when one was offered to us, we grabbed it," he explained. "At first, it was just supposed to be for Halloween, but we have a consistent audience every week, so we kept it."
It's not the movie that draws an audience every week, however. It's the cast that performs in front of the screen.
Sometime after the movie's release in 1975, fans of "Rocky Horror" decided it would be more fun to make the movie an interactive feature. When characters Brad and Janet leave the church after getting married, the audience throws rice. A more select group decided they would perform the film, line for line, movement for movement, on a stage in front of the screen.
"Most people don't even watch the movie," Adam said. "They come to watch the cast."
The Come Again Players, who have been performing at Tower Theaters for four years, celebrated their 200th show at midnight on Sept. 29.
"I first saw 'Rocky Horror' with a full body cast in Boston with my mom," said Come Again Players founder Michael Whitehouse. "I liked the community that formed around it, so I wanted to start a cast here," said the Sunderland resident.
The latest incarnation of a "Rocky Horror" cast started a little...rocky. The first audition brought in two actors for nine available parts, and they both wanted the same role. "It was very informal at first," Whitehouse said. "We made things up as we went along. There was no blocking at first the actors just followed the screen."
Now, Whitehouse claims, the Come Again Players are in the top 10 percent of accurate casts in the nation.
"This is a very robust cast," Whitehouse said. "They can absorb a lot of challenges."
Coureton Dalton, a 10-year veteran of "Rocky Horror Picture Shows," joined the Come Again Players six months after it formed. This is the fourth cast he has been a part of full-time (meaning every Saturday night).
Also from Sunderland, Dalton acts as the training manager for the group, hosting rehearsals every Friday night. "I've also played every part except Columbia," he stated.
Dalton said that he does "Rocky Horror" for the community formed by it. "It's like a family," he admitted. "I was so shy at 15, I went a year without talking. I found this show by chance, joined a cast in Houston, and then started a cast at my school in Boston. It makes you very self-confident because these shows provide a safe place for people to express themselves."
A place for self-expression is what Amanda Taylor, a cast member for four years, was looking for.
"I saw the movie and then a stage performance. I was a tap-dancer, so I wanted to play [the character] Columbia somewhere," she said. Columbia performs a tap-dance early in the film.
A South Hadley resident, Taylor said she hopes the show continues for a long time.
"Mt. Holyoke provides us with a new audience every year," she said. "The audience can vary by season, and sometimes we have a full theater."
Adam said for Halloween shows all 132 seats are taken, and in the past he's had to show the film on both screens because the crowd was so large.
"This is just fun to do," Adam said, "and it gives kids something to do. If it continues to be successful, I can see us doing this for another five or 10 years...or until Fox Studios asks for their reel back."
Tower Theaters is having two "Rocky Horror Picture Shows" for Halloween, one at midnight the night of Oct. 27 and one at 10:30 p.m. on Halloween. Admission is $6.25.
For more information the Come Again Players, visit their Web site at www.comeagainplayers.org.