The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 sci-fi musical tale about a couple’s unexpected encounter with an alien scientist, has garnered a cult following, particularly leading up to Halloween. Across the country and in metro Detroit, fans come out in droves for midnight showings of the film. Often joined by full-costume performances and crowd participation elements, which include everything from throwing toast on stage and “devirignizing” first-time audience members with shocking and humorous tasks. Faith Duede, founder of the Rocky Horror Preservation Society, is working to keep this tradition alive locally. A neonatal ICU nurse at University of Michigan by day, Duede founded the Rocky Horror Preservation Society five years ago, which now performs twice a month at the State Wayne Theatre. Ahead of the cast’s biggest time of year — “Rockytober” — she spoke with Hour Detroit about her love for the film and what makes her troupe’s shows special.
Hour Detroit: What was your experience like starting the Rocky Horror Preservation Society?
Faith Duede: I have been a big fan of Rocky Horror Picture Show for many years. I performed it when I was in high school and really enjoyed it. Fast forward 20 years, my husband and I were discussing what to do for our 10th wedding anniversary. We got married on Halloween and decided to do a Rocky Horror [celebration for the anniversary]. We discovered that we both loved the film, and started going to showings together. I was then helping someone who runs a Rocky Horror Michigan showings website make phone calls. I called Phoenix Theatres to see if they were doing a showing and they said, ‘No, but do you know a cast?’ and that’s how it was born. That was in 2012. The cast was founded in 2013. I used to perform, now I’m doing more behind-the-scenes work. [Director] Becky Milanio Koupparis and I help the cast with costuming, props, and set pieces. It is 100 percent volunteer. We sell prop bags, but we’re zero profit. It all goes right back into buying light bulbs, makeup, water. People don’t make money off Rocky Horror. There are people who have been doing it for 40 years simply because they love it.
What can those who haven’t been to a live performance expect?
If you’ve watched Rocky Horror at home, the live performance is nothing like you would even imagine it would be. The way we do Rocky Horror at the State Wayne is how it used to be done in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s immersive. Our actors perform the movie with the film on the screen, and go into the audience and sit on laps and climb over chairs. We encourage people to come in costume. Our audience is probably 50 percent regulars. Do not come expecting to hear the movie, because people yell back to it. Rocky Horror is the place where people who feel like outcasts feel at home. A lot of our performers maybe have anxiety, or want to be stage performers but they’re not comfortable in other groups. We have 36 people on our cast. There are 11 roles, but we trade off.
— Faith Duede
Live performances of Rocky Horror are known for giving “virgin” audience members special treatment. Can you elaborate on that and what you do to make your show special?
One of the biggest things I would love to emphasize is: Don’t be scared to come to a showing. We’ve been to other shows where casts do things to humiliate the crowd. We want to have fun. We have virgins [first-time audience members] play a Lady and the Tramp game with Fruit Roll Ups. [The character] Trixie, for a lot of casts, simply dances to the first song. For us, Trixie stays the entire show and helps the audience know what to do. She holds up cue cards. We’ve got various gags. There’s a part in the movie where we use squirt guns, and [my husband] used to take a giant Super Soaker, put on goggles and a snorkel, and nail people. We also, for almost every performance, have Transylvanians, the people in the background at the party. We use ours through almost the whole show. They’re on stage and dancing. We do a lot of little things to make the show more impressive.
October is the busiest time of year for Rocky Horror. What can audiences expect this month?
Rockytober is the month we do the most authentic shows and try to go as all out as we can with screen accuracy. Phoenix has a theater at The Mall of Monroe. It’s 65 feet wide, and it’s a big auditorium. We did Rocky Horror there last October and did really well. We want to do it again this year. When people come to a show in October, we want to give them the true experience.
Why is it so important to keep the tradition of the midnight showings alive in metro Detroit?
It’s OK to dress, think, or act somewhat differently, and Rocky Horror is a place where you can come together. The showings encourage people to be who they want to be, and you’re entertaining people. That’s why I love to do it. I don’t move like I used to, but I can teach new people how to sew, hang a light, or paint, and then they’re going to teach somebody else. It’s passing it down generation after generation.
Faith Duede’s cast sells $4 prop bags, which audience members use throughout the performance of the film. Take a peek at what’s inside and
Played by Tim Curry in the film, Dr. Frank N. Furter is a mad scientist, alien. In one scene, Furter makes a toast at dinner, and viewers are encouraged to reach into their prop bag and throw a provided piece of toast in the air.
During the dinner, Furter also puts on a party hat. At that moment, audience members should pull their party hat out of their prop bag and wear it, too.
The characters Brad and Janet, played by Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon, have car trouble at the start of the film. As they make their way toward Furter’s castle to ask for help, they’re caught in the rain and use newspaper to shield their heads. During this scene, the crowd should also cover up with a provided newspaper.
Show-goers are prompted to throw a handful of playing cards up in the air when Furter sings a song with the lyrics, “Cards for sorrow, cards for pain.”