Screening the cult classic “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a Hattiesburg tradition. Cross-dressing and screaming expletives are optional, but there is no room for sexual modesty. “Rocky Horror” is a nonsensical movie about taboo sexual situations. However, the event held at Saenger Theatre every year is about being as weird as possible, and it is socially acceptable.
Instead of just giving audience members a water gun and jumping straight into the movie, this year a newer tradition was incorporated into the night’s festivities, adding even more sexual tension. The Hattiesburlesque cast, who usually performs exclusively at The Thirsty Hippo, started the show by teaching everyone how to do the Time Warp.
For those who haven’t seen “Rocky Horror,” the Time Warp is a dance the eclectic partygoers at the Transylvanian Convention are doing when main characters Brad and Janet arrive at Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle. At this point in the movie, people in the audience are to stand up and do the Time Warp too. Hattiesburlesque did not want anyone to be left out during this fun scene, so they taught the dance before the movie.
After ensuring all audience members were fluent in the Time Warp, the burlesque team hosted a big costume competition for people in the audience who dressed up for the show. At the end, all the contestants did the time warp together on stage. Hattiesburlesque then ended the pre-show with one more performance: a risqué rendition of “Sweet Transvestite.”
Finally, the big red lips appeared on the screen, and the theater was filled with hoots and screams. Paper bags taped to the back of each seat were filled with props for the audience at different cues in the movie.
Perhaps the most iconic is the flat tire scene in which Brad and Janet are caught in the rain. Viewers mimic the characters by putting sheets of newspaper over their heads (on Friday night, the audience actually used pages from the Student Printz) and shooting water guns into the air, or at one another.
When Janet sees the light of the castle, she sings “Over At the Frankenstein Place.” When she gets to the line “there’s a light,” watchers are cued to use the flashlight function on their phones (or a lighter like back in the day) to wave in the air.
People buying tickets expecting to watch a movie would be disappointed. There is so much interaction, spoken lines in the movie can barely be heard above others talking back to the movie, singing along, dancing in the aisles or screaming vulgar names at the main characters. Viewers may leave the theater and have no idea what the movie is about.
“Rocky Horror” is a parody of classic horror stories such as “Frankenstein” and “Dracula.” Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the mad scientist who creates his ideal lovers in a rainbow-tinted tank, stalks around in a black cape just like the infamous vampire Dracula.
The movie, created in the 1970s, was meant to test the limits of strict sexual norms of the time, but it was not popular until over 10 years later. “Rocky Horror” was an added inspiration to the punk-rock era that emerged in the 1980s but its influence is prevalent even today.
Participating in the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a right of passage for teenagers and some adults who have never lost their “‘Rocky Horror’ virginity.” It continues to challenge our sexual assumptions of what is normal and encourage people to get outside of their comfort zone one night of the year.