10.16.2021 Rocky Horror - MO 2

Production director Aaron Odom of the Trident Theatre Company stands in for an absent cast member during Rocky Horror Picture Show rehearsals Wednesday night.

It’s the genuine hope of the WYO and Trident Theatre to present “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on an annual basis. Our production goes up Saturday night, and each year presents new and amazing challenges.

I’ve been involved with the production for several years now, and the show is in its ninth year running in Sheridan. But this is the first time I’ve ever directed it, and I’m proud to do so on the main stage of the WYO, the nexus of performing arts in Sheridan.

While “Rocky Horror” is a staple piece for the LBGTQ+ community, there is so much for anyone to appreciate within such a show. Of course, there is the dressing up, the audience interaction that truly breaks the fourth wall, the props, the dancing and singing; all of which are required to have the full “Rocky” experience. And, if you’ve had a good time, then most of the work we did behind the scenes won’t leave too much of a trace. But, since I’m talking about it, let me give you a “behind-the-scenes” look.

As many of you know, this show is quite sexual in nature, and many patrons may not realize just how much personal work can go into being somewhat intimate on stage. It can be even more difficult for an actor to be as generous with their sexuality as this show requires. In the past in the acting world, it was just expected that an actor gets onstage and does what is written on the page for them to say or do with very little question about how the content will affect them personally. For many, performing such actions could unlock unfortunate past traumas associated with acts such as kissing or cuddling or even dancing provocatively.

Thus, we employed intimacy training and choreography, which is a big thing in the theater world right now. At the beginning of every rehearsal, we would conduct personal body and emotional “check-ins,” an honest audit of sorts. Sometimes, someone might say, “My shoulders are off limits tonight,” or, “I’m having a difficult mental health day.”

Knowing that we still had to deliver the content on the page while still keeping each other safe, this group maintained much more professionalism than I have seen in many productions I have been involved with before. If any body restrictions came up, we would ask what could be appropriate, and honest answers came out with positivity, such as, “Instead of putting your hand on my shoulders, how about my hips?” All parties would agree, and we’d move on. If someone would be having difficulties with mental or emotional health, a bevy of therapeutic solutions would be offered and would require consent from the actor before proceeding. It’s really been something.

I don’t think we could have had such openness as a group without the suggestion of one of our actors early in the process. It was suggested that, since we would have to be so open with our bodies, we should be open with our emotions as individuals, too. Therefore, we sat down and each gave a personal reason as to why we wanted to be part of this production.

Once we started sharing, it became clear that everyone needed this show to be part of their lives right now. Some were getting over stage fright. Some were answering very personal questions about themselves. Some planned to use this show to help heal psychological wounds. Knowing that, each of us gained such profound respect for each other that we’re going to have a hard time letting this go.

So, yes, this show still has all the makeup and glitter and fishnet stockings and corsets and feather boas and sexual freedom that “Rocky Horror” fans have come to expect over the years. But just know that for us, this means something a little more, and we’re going to give our all.

But, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be back at it next year. I’ll see you at intermission!

Aaron Odom is the managing and artistic director for Trident Theatre Company and produces the podcast "Euripides, Eumenides," which can be found on any major podcast provider or at tridenttheatre.com.

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