Let’s do the time warp again: Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Pittsburgh Playhouse

Written By Samantha Hindman, For The Globe

The Point Park tradition of putting on a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was put on a two-year hiatus, but thanks to Point Park’s student-run Ghostlight Theatre Company, the science fiction double feature is back and better than ever.

For Zachariah Washington, the director of both Rocky Horror and Ghostlight itself, this production has a strong personal value. “The last [production] was in 2019, my freshman year,” Washington recalled. “I thought it was only right that we put it on in respect to the SAEM Club.”

But this sentiment isn’t exclusive to Washington alone. “For Ghostlight, choosing this show was about picking a project we were all passionate about and being able to be proud of something we could watch come to fruition,” said Kyrsten Noftz, marketing director for the theatre company. 

This show isn’t going to be your usual musical production, though. One of the many ways that Rocky Horror defies expectations is that as opposed to a traditional cast, singing and dancing along with music, the show instead uses what is called a “shadow cast”. 

A shadow cast is responsible for moving, lip syncing, and expressing identically to the film, which will be playing behind them via projector for the duration of the performance. “It’s my job to move my face the way she [Janet] does and move my hand at the same time she will,” said Madison Downing, the actress playing the show’s female lead Janet Weiss. “It’s about mirroring someone that you won’t be able to see when you’re on stage and trusting that the work you put in during rehearsal pays off and the audience sees that.”

“You don’t really get a script to learn or memorize because your script is the movie,” Said David Kayser, playing as Frank-N-Furter in the production. The actors also highlighted that with a shadow cast, timing is everything. With no way to see if you’re in sync with the movie behind you, the cast must trust that their practice has made perfect.

A shadow cast may be no easy feat to pull off, but it doesn’t come without its benefits. “I love the shadow cast in particular because it has an audience participation level that the musical doesn’t have,” explained Washington. He confirmed that this show is going to rely heavily on audience participation (with props to match!), so you better arrive ready to groove.

Rocky Horror is a timeless classic, but its influence spreads past its catchy songs and eccentricity. “Rocky Horror has always been something that’s influenced me as a person,” Kayser noted on his connection with the show. “Growing up in the LGBTQ+ community you never really saw that much representation, so having Frank-N-Furter was always sort of a safe haven.”

Rocky Horror is special to me. Everybody in the world can relate to these characters in one way, shape, or form,” said Washington. “The weirdness of those characters is the weirdness that lives inside us.”

The Ghostlight production of Rocky Horror will take place in the Pittsburgh Playhouse, specifically within the Rauh Theater. Running from October 28th to the 31st with each show starting at 9PM, you’ll have four chances to dance your heart out with these creatures of the night.