The Rocky Horror Show 2018
- By gentleguide
- On Wed 10 oct 2018
How do you reinvent something that subverted expectations in the first place? That’s the goal of Kata Klysmic Productions latest endeavor, their yearly October “tradition” of presenting The Rocky Horror Show. And since I’ve often described Kata Klysmic as “the most subversive theatre group in town”, you can bet there will be some very creative and surprising elements in this year’s presentation.
The first change will be evident the moment you walk into the new theatre space. Kata Klysmic is still performing at The Garden Nightclub in the East Village area, but there’s now a newly created stage area for their shows instead of being shoehorned into the dance floor/bar. A bit more room, both for performance and for audience, leads to a more expansive (and more creative) interpretation of the classic Rocky Horror story.
Director Emily Davis is excited to christen the new room, and loves the transformation. “I directed the last show of ours on the old stage and now I get to break in the new one! It is a proscenium with a bit of the thrust. However, we will still be everywhere in the room and right in your face. No one is safe. I’ve had a lot of fun learning what this space can lend us with the cast. It is a new environment with the same creativity we always bring to our shows.”
Part of that creativity extends to the set, designed by Kata’s Artistic Director Nicholas Amundson. While many people know the movie version of Rocky Horror thanks to years and years of midnight showings complete with dress-up cosplay, Amundson and Davis had a little different dress-up in mind for this year’s stage production.
Welcome to the Dollhouse
Instead of trying to re-create the movie, they’re going with a “Dollhouse” theme this year. “When I was asked to direct this show,” says Davis, “I already had this dollhouse theme in mind. When you look at the show, the characters who change the most are the women and Rocky (the child-like character). Frank plays with people like dolls, and in our version the Narrator has the upper hand as well. We are blessed with so many talented female actors who are allowing us to gender-bend the cast.”
Deidra Mohr is one of those actors, and she gets to bend the role of Riff-Raff. “The Dollhouse theme, to me, becomes more interesting in its interpretation to each of the characters and their relationships. The Narrator is threading the story, ‘playing’ with the characters. Frank consistently sees and sets himself as the Master of the house and all those who enter it. However, is he really controlling his ‘family,’ toying with them so to speak? Or are other characters individually seeking to play the puppet master?”
“It’s definitely a fun theme to put to use,” Mohr continues, “especially when thinking of my own character’s development. Ah, dear Riff-Raff… he says he’s ‘just a humble servant,’ however his motives and demeanor could all be calculative schemes in his own candidacy for power. After all, it’s delightful (for Riff-Raff) to be eclectically creepy under Frank’s thumb, but it would be even more invigorating to take a taste of control too.”
While Mohr knows the classic movie version of Rocky Horror and Riff-Raff, her interpretation is hardly the same. “The movie’s Riff is far more cool and calmed than my take on the fellow. I see him as a bit more manic, and extra weird. A little madness is ever pressing on his mind, might as well make it a fun ride for all!” She’s also ready with a bit of a warning for audiences coming to see the show. “And in the new space, mind you, things will be far more personal and immersive for our audience….”
Something Old, Something New
The audience is introduced to this wild world through the eyes of the newly engaged Brad Majors (played by Zayne Cummings) and Janet Weiss (Maggie Schmidt). Their relatively normal lives are turned upside down due to a flat tire during a rainstorm, and a visit to Frank’s “Dollhouse.”
Schmidt is in her initial production with Kata Klysmic, and while also familiar with the movie version of Rocky Horror, this is her first experience with the stage adaptation. “I feel audiences definitely have certain expectations with such an iconic show. I’m hoping to live up to those expectations, while digging into my character a bit more. I think Janet can easily be written off as hysterical, but she’s a lot more aware of her surroundings than Brad. She realizes the danger they’re in, and with the bizarre nature of the circumstances reacts accordingly (with a flair for the melodramatic).
“It’s just such fun. We’ve had a blast. I think the nature of the show is so open to adaptation and character interpretations. The story is bizarre, yet so much of it is relevant too. There are aliens, yes, but also sexual awakenings, power struggles, emotional growth and transformations (not necessarily in that order). There are some pretty universal themes under the corsets and fishnets. I can’t imagine this show will ever lose its charm.”
The cast is almost entirely new for this year’s production, compared to the previous Kata Klysmic shows. The only returning member from last year’s show is Samantha Arneson. While she played Rocky last fall, she’s got the role of Columbia this time around.
“Hey, I got a call-out for being the kid they can’t get rid of! When I tried out, I specifically had the character of Columbia in mind since I can tap dance. Obviously the second time was a charm since I did end up being cast as Columbia. I’’m trying to make my Columbia more strident and a bit less ditzy than Katie Shepard’s portrayal last year, which was hilarious - although there’s certainly some ditz in there.”
“A holdover from last year - and with most productions, really - is that Columbia is essentially the red headed stepchild of Frank’s crew. Her loyalty to Frank serves a purpose, but Riff Raff and Magenta, in addition to not being very kind to her, only really let her in on as much of what’s going on as they absolutely have to.”
While director Davis was also onstage in those past efforts (she played Magenta last year), she’s got the job of directing this production… if she can limit herself to that. “I always adore Kata Klysmic for their attention to those who want to start. We have those who come in that hadn’t acted in ages, or music directed, or choreographed, or whatnot. We love to nurture and teach in a silly and creative environment. This company has led me to the theater artist I am today, and I am proud to continue their mission and work.”
“This cast surprises me every rehearsal with new quirks in their characters. This year I’m making the effort to move out of the way and let them bring amazing things to the stage. But anyone who has been directed by me has seen me be the biggest fangirl in the world, always up and running around and dancing and singing along. I’m sure I’ll accidentally start doing it during performances as well. The cast is so amazing and talented and hilarious that it is hard not being on stage with them. So, just know you’ll be blown away again!”
Kata Klysmic Productions presents their not-so-traditional production of The Rocky Horror Show in the new theatre space at The Garden Nightclub. The seven performances start October 19th and run through the 28th. Tickets are available through Midwestix under The Garden Nightclub listing. So come visit the Dollhouse this year!!