The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Sadly, tragically, lamentably not for everyone

After 28 years at the AMC Harvard Square theater, the Rocky Horror Picture Show will move its weekly midnight screenings of  to the AMC Loews Boston Common 19 theater, with shows starting Saturday, Aug. 4.

Though I am sad to see the show move from Harvard Square, where I have seen it many times, I am happy that it lives on in New England. As a card-carrying member of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan Club, a two-time performer in the show and someone who saw the Broadway version of the show twice, I am desperately hoping that the show lives on long enough for me to take my children someday.


When they are much, much older.  

If you are not familiar, a midnight performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show is much more than just a showing of the 1975 science fiction/horror musical starring Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry. It is a live performance that demands audience participation that includes such things as dancing the Time Warp along with the film and throwing toast, water, toilet paper, hot dogs, and rice at the appropriate points in the movie.

Fans often attend shows in costume, while an onstage "shadowcast" act out the movie. Audience members also use newspapers to cover their heads and squirt guns for rain during the "Over at the Frankenstein Place" musical sequence, and use noise makers during the scene in which Rocky is unveiled.

Most prevalent, however, are the call-backs: lines that audience members shout back at the film at appropriately timed intervals. They are often hilarious, occasionally vulgar, and an ever-present element of any midnight showing. Many of these call-backs have been canonized over the years and can be as tightly scripted as any play, though new lines involving recent pop culture references often find their way into the script as well. You can actually buy audio versions of the film that include recordings of the audience call-backs in order to learn them before attending the show.

In truth, none of this accurately describes The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s the kind of thing that must be experienced firsthand to be fully understood.

I attended my first Rocky Horror Picture Show in the early 1990’s after arriving in Connecticut, but that show quickly shut down. Soon after, I discovered the midnight show in Harvard Square and began making the trek a few times a year for several years, though it’s been a while since I have returned. 

The problem with the show, or more accurately, the problem with potential audience members, is that the show begins at midnight, meaning that audiences don’t exit the theater until well after 2:00 AM. For someone like me, who lives in Connecticut, this means that I am probably crawling into bed just as the sun is peeking over the horizon  (or not sleeping at all), making it exceedingly difficult for me to find friends who are willing to attend a performance.

As you may know, I am a constant advocate of putting yourself out there, but I am also a frequent complainer about the lack of friends who are willing to drive into the city on a weeknight for a Moth show, arrive home in the wee hours of the morning after a Monday Night football game and are otherwise hampered by an incessant need to be home at a reasonable hour.

For these people, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an impossibility, even though it runs on a Saturday night. Admittedly, this is partly the result of an aging base of friends who simply cannot stay awake all night as they once could, but it also take a certain type of person who is willing to drive into Boston for a midnight showing of a movie where you will be asked to dance in the aisles, dodge toast and toilet paper, absorb a shower of water and rice and possibly be dragged on stage to perform. 

My greatest hope is that my children will be this kind of people.

Life is a hell of a lot more fun when you are willing to try the ridiculous and sacrifice sleep for the sake of possibility.