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‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ returns to Mount Baker Theatre

Meet the cast of Saturday's production

The shadow cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show dances to "Time Warp" as the movie plays on the big screen behind them during a Friday
The shadow cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show dances to "Time Warp" as the movie plays on the big screen behind them during a Friday (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Hailey Hoffman Visual Journalist

For the last week, a hoard of volunteers has gathered their fishnets, built walls out of cardboard boxes and watched “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at least five times to prepare for the main event — their shadow cast performance at the Mount Baker Theatre.

For more than two decades, dozens of people have graced the MBT stages lip-syncing to “Dammit Janet” and dancing along to the “Time Warp” on the weekend before Halloween. The cast copies each scene of the movie with their own costumes, props and takes on the cult classic as it plays on the big screen behind them.

Paul Henderson and Megan Sutton are once again directing around two dozen actors for the one-night event, happening Saturday, Oct. 28.

photo  Director Megan Sutton lifts her hands in celebration as the stage lift successfully raises Heather Duncan as Frank-N-Furter up onto the stage. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

This year is no different than years past — creativity and flexibility with little-to-no budget shape the decisions and directions of the stage cast.

“The whole idea is… what is feasible,” Henderson said.

While the premise remains the same each year, what comes out on stage is, of course, a little different.

Will Rocky Horror (the creature with a bodybuilder’s physique) be shadowed by someone hardly 5 feet tall? Will Eddie arrive on stage via unicycle or Razor scooter as Eddie on screen rips around on a motorcycle? How will the Transylvanians (secondary characters) serve as props?

photo  Hannah Thomas shadows the creature Rocky Horror. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

The creativity blooms within the confines, and the shadow cast leans into the campiness established by the movie as they blur expectations and create situations that tickle the crowd. 

“It’s one of my favorite things,” Henderson said. “It’s completely open.”

The cast indulges in the silliness of it all each year — while many don fishnets and corsets — and the audience response, many say, is magnetic and addicting. Almost every year, the show is sold out, and the crowd enhances the experience by shouting “official” callbacks, or responses to lines, that the most dedicated audiences have yelled for decades since the movie was released in 1975.

For many cast members, the audience, the story and their fellow cast members keep them coming back. 

Taylor Daniels, she/her

Age: 20

Role: Lips, Transylvanian

Years: 2

photo  Taylor Daniels, 20, is performing as Lips and a Transylvanian in the show. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

How did you get involved with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show?”

Originally, I was in a show with Paul (Henderson), and he was like, “I do this really awesome thing: Rocky Horror at the Mount Baker Theatre. Is there anybody who’s interested?” I loved it so much last year, everybody was so amazing. It’s just such a welcoming environment where you get to show as much or as little of yourself as you want. The people just really compelled me to come back because I just love being with everybody.

What do you like about the RHPS?

There’s just so much diversity, not just with the people, but with emotions. You get so much different levels of people. It’s not a story. I don’t think it’s necessarily meant to be understood, which I think is what brings people together because it’s so random and so all over the place that it just makes a beautiful masterpiece.

What do you look forward to most this year?

I am really, really thrilled to be stepping out of just being a Transylvanian and getting to do a little bit of a name role. Lips isn’t typically a named role and most of the adaptations of the shadow casts, but people have turned it into a really beautiful group or solo dance sequence. I’m just really, really excited to showcase something on the biggest stage that I’ve ever done a trio dance number on.

Heather Duncan, she/they

Age: 28

Role: Frank

Years: 6

photo  Heather Duncan has been involved on and off with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in Bellingham for a decade. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

What keeps you coming back?

The rush of being on stage… The nostalgia and the badassery. I’m just really confident and it’s just so fun because it’s silly, but serious.

You’re Frank-N-Furter, how do you feel?

I’ve wanted to be Frank ever since my first one. I was like, “I want to do that someday.” It’s just really cool to finally be able to be that role that I’ve just always wanted to be. Tim Curry’s the best. It’s a very culturally significant movie and I’m really stoked to play the guy.

What do you like about RHPS?

I like how gay it is, especially for its time, and how campy. It’s just so much; they did a good job.

Do you have anything you want to tell the audience or the Bellingham community?

Have fun, keep an open mind and remember “up and back.”

Kennedy Rainer, she/they

Age: 23

Role: Janet

Years: 2

photo  Kennedy Rainer returns for her second year as Janet. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

Why do you partake in the RHPS?

It’s really fun. It’s always like, it’s so much fun that we laugh every single night. And I’ve been friends with Megan and Paul for years. It is just so fun seeing people get to explore and so much campy fun, and I love it.

What do you like about it?

It has a super good message like it is very much a product of its time at points. Just that resounding message of you can be who you want to be. There is no shame and finding yourself lovable, valuable, attractive — there is nothing wrong with that.

Do you have anything you want to tell the audience or the Bellingham community?

Don’t be afraid to be loud. Don’t be afraid to be goofy and silly as long as it doesn’t hurt other people. With everything that’s been going on, we just need something that’s silly and fun and it’s OK to indulge in that even if you feel like you look weird. Everybody looks weird.

Desi Williams, they/them

Age: 32

Role: Magenta

Years: 3

photo  “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” veteran Desi Williams is returning as Magenta for the first time. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)  

What keeps you coming back?

I love the movie, and I love the people that I work with and the excitement that we get from the audience especially. I never got to do it in the smaller [theater], but this being sold out, it just energizes you even if you’re tired, it keeps you going.

What do you like about the RHPS?

I like that it’s a nod to Frankenstein, and also that it’s just a queer cult classic.

How do you feel about being Magenta?

I was Riff Raff last year and I’m Magenta this year…different queues and stuff has been a little challenging, but I’m really excited.

Do you have anything you want to tell the audience or the Bellingham community?

If you haven’t given it a chance, it’s a queer icon for a reason. Also, remember that it’s a product of its time. There’s certain things in the movie and certain call-outs that people do that they’ve been doing for years that you have to take it with a grain of salt. The underlying message and the underlying community that’s been built around this is such a safe, loving, welcoming place.

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