How I Got Rocky Started in Sierra Vista
I started out with the San Antonio Texas cast in 1985. It was the best thing I had ever done, and as it has been said by the best of us "It was a release".
Well, if you want to hear about how I got this thing started, read on.
In 1995 my 10-year younger brother Chris brought home a copy of Rocky Horror on video while we were living in Leavenworth, Kansas. He and I were sharing the basement of our house, and while he and his friends were watching the movie, I was trying to be good! I sat on my side of the room and continued reading my book. One of my favorite lines came up, and I could not bottle it any more, I let it fly and was met by scowls and comments like "Shut up, you're ruining the movie!" I stopped, then went back to my book. A little later another of my favorite lines came up and I lost all control. This time though, they all laughed I went on for the rest of the movie and had 'em hooked. Since then Chris has become "a Regular Frankie Fan", and Chris kept after me to get him to a "REAL" show.
Almost two years later. Chris and I moved to Sierra Vista, Arizona. This is a tiny little town that Chris and I had sworn to turn on its ear when we got here as there is nothing for someone under 21 or a non-drinker to do here. Well, Chris and I were sitting around watching the video for the billionth time, when he said, "Why can't we get a show started here?" I thought about it and it did not seem all that far gone of an idea. I told Chris if he could find me a cast, I would work on getting a theater. So I started talking to some of my friends I had made here: their reaction was, to say the least not positive. Then by some stroke of luck, I was in a cafe here and was talking to another friend. He was telling me about how conservative this town was and all the other reasons why it wouldn't work when some folks walked up to me telling me how cool it would be to do Rocky here.
Well from there my task was clear -- I had to find a theater. I looked through the phonebook and there were a grand total of two in the area. I went on to look for costumes and found a little tuxedo shop around the corner from where I live. I was talking to the owner of the shop about what I was doing, and found out her kids had gone to Rocky Horror when they were in college. (It is always good to find a person for costumes that has done/or at least knows Rocky Horror!) She did not really have much except for the basic Tranny stuff. So I continued talking to her about the opposition I was finding in town and the fact that I was looking for a theater. She told me that Sierra Vista was a funny town that way but I/we should do it anyway. She went on to tell me I should go to the Uptown Three Theater, as she knew one of the theater's owners. She gave me all the important info on them. I feel that this lady, Dianne King, should be canonized! (She became my first connection and my first step towards success.)
About a week later I went to the theater. The reason I took so much time was because I wanted to get my thoughts together. I had to remember three things: 1) I had to appeal to their business sense 2) I had to assure them that their theater patrons were going to be safe (this meant no people getting hurt, killed, maimed etc.) 3) I had to assure them that their theater was not going to be destroyed or picketed etc. I also had to convince them that I cared for these same things. I went to see the owners of the theater. (Note: make an appointment, I went in unannounced.) I met Dee, and she had been to Rocky once and seen a couple of seats destroyed -- my heart and hopes sank. I went on and pitched the idea to her and she told me she would talk to Liz , and call me later that week. Dee also asked me if I could help them get a copy of the film. As I later found out, Dee is the business partner and the money mind, while Liz is the public relations partner. I went home and started breathing again. I also wrote Sal Piro an e-mail. The best tool I had at my disposal was the Internet. Sal wrote me back within a day with the info I needed. He told me I should let them talk to their booker and see where they get and if that failed, let him know and he would see what kind of help he could be.
A week passed and I had not heard a thing from Dee (I was beginning to worry,) so I called. Dee had not had a chance to talk to Liz. She said she'd talk to her as soon as she got back (Liz was at a "theater owners" convention). I was losing faith quickly. A week later Dee called me back, and she wanted to sit down with Liz and me whenever we could arrange it. She had talked to Liz and they were concerned about a lot of things. First concern was the cost of the movie. I had no idea what kind of deal other theaters were getting for it. I was honest about this and told them what the show in Tucson was getting for admission. They also asked about controlling the damage to the theater. (Be honest about this!) I told them we were planning on having the Trannys do the crowd control stuff, and beyond that it was up to them. I was not going to remove people from the theater or any thing like that. They liked my straight-forward approach. They had other concerns which we talked about., and after working that all out, we basically had the theater. I wanted to run opposite weekends from Tucson's Rocky Horror. They asked when I wanted to start this thing (it was early October.) I said that the holidays were a bad time for Rocky and we would not get much as far as patronage. So it was decided that we would open January 11, 1997.
From there I needed to hold cast auditions. I had no idea just how to get people to come, let alone the right people. Well, my only possibility was going to the local (ultra conservative) paper and putting up flyers all over the place. First I went to the paper and asked where I should run the ad, and they had a bunch of suggestions many of which were under $50. (Yeah, fat lot of good that'll do me, I got no money!) I kept talking to the receptionist. Then all of a sudden she pipes up "This is a play???" I answered "well it is, kind of." She suggested that I talk to Maureen (the Arts reporter) who handles this sort of thing all the time. She was not in so I left a message on her desk and asked her to call me. I went home and started working on flyers.
Well a couple of days passed, and I had not heard from Maureen. So I called her, and she was busy, but promised to call me ASAP. She called me the next day while I was at work. I took the time to explain the basics, as she told me that had never seen Rocky (this was going to be fun.) I asked her how much this was going to cost me, and she said this was arts "news" and that my article would appear in Thursday's paper. She also wanted to do an article on us, and said that it would be best to do the interview/article just before we opened. I am not one to look at a person with experience and tell them they are wrong. Thursday rolled around and we had 1/8th of a page (for those of you who have never priced 1/8th of a page, call your local paper and see why we were so happy).
After auditions and casting were done, the cast decided on cast advisors (as I had never directed anything, I delegated out everything at first.) I picked them for their experience. The next week about 15 people showed up, including the person I had chosen as Brad (local radio DJ), and we had most of the cast. I was happy, but life can get in the way of dreams. We lost our Brad to personal problems, and another to the Christmas season and love. But "the show must go on" and so we elected Tina (our Magenta) as the new member of cast advisory [council.] We made up some bylaws that we all laughed about at first, then we started to realize that we needed them. Rules are important to us all; they give us a reason not to blow off the world and do our own thing.
When started rehearsals and the going was rough. Our Frank was a Staff Sergeant in the Army, and he walked like a soldier. A pair of high heels does wonders to how a man walks. Our Riff was less than enthusiastic. Our Columbia was never there and was fired, and we got a new one who's working out perfectly. Our Brad had to leave and the person who was to play No-Neck got ousted to Brad, then to Dr. Scott, (he was a real prince though this.) I got pushed into No-Neck (not that I minded, I love that part!) and our Brad (the third one) just kept losing track of where we were in the movie.
We were having problems with lights, but Pat, our Riff Raff & Technical Advisor, comes to me with an offer from the high school theater department. They had some old spots that they didn't need anymore so they'd sell them to us cheap. Then we were having a problem with blocking as we had never had a chance to do it in the theater. I talked to Dee & Liz, and they were willing to give us the theater on Saturday mornings (a definite plus). We were also missing the one all-purpose prop; a coffee table. We started looking for one and found a couple, but they were all too expensive. Then, like a gift from God, Tina says, "I have one in my shed." We also got a donation from one of my cast members’ parents, and it was used to build a coffin.
We did the interview with the paper and it went well. They wanted to take pictures of us in costume. Our rehearsals get better every day, and I hope they will continue to. I have three feelings on rehearsals:
1. Keep them fun.
2. Remember that blocking and costumes are more important than lines.
3. Listen to your cast they see things you don't!
Advertising: advertising is one of the best things we have done. Bill (our Frank) bought 10 tickets so we could give them away on the local radio station K-101 (the station our first Brad, Jeffrey, works at). I went to talk to the station about this. I got pushed to the station manager who thought that I was a person trying to get a promotion company started. I had to convince him we were just a small group of people who really wanted this to happen. He then said it was okay, and he'd personally get the ball rolling. We also did a street show in Bisbee. We performed a few numbers and people watched us with mild curiosity. The turnout wasn't so good but the response has been great. We then got the article in the Sierra Vista Herald -- it was great! I owe Julie (the reporter) a lot, she did a fine job. We got 1/2 front page of the arts section. Talk about good advertising, this is the best money can't buy!
Last Minutes: Well it's the last week before the show and I am biting my nails and sleeping like a scared person. I am sweating when I talk about the show and wondering if I should have the car running before the show is over. Things are getting a little tense. One of my cast members had suggested to me that his mother could sew some costumes for the show. We were missing the two space suits at the end of the show, Rocky's shorts, and Columbia's jacket. Joan Way (our Rocky's mother) and I went into Tucson to get the fabric we would need. The cast funds were at the bottom and I had no money. Joan says "get me the money when you guys get it" . I could have fainted! What a sweetheart! We went to a place called "Sas Fabric By The Pound." We got the cloth much cheaper than we could have gotten it from any retail source and it was good cloth -- about five yards of gold lame, three yards of black vinyl , eight yards of quilting material and some other odds and ends. It was Friday evening when we got back to her house and she still needed to do measurements on both Magenta and Riff. I called them over (a cast phone list is handy) and they got measured.
Now, it's 9:30pm the night before the show, and I knew how to sew. Joan set me down in front of the sewing machine and started me working, to get my mind off of things. Bill shows up somewhere in here and gets the job of dressmaker's dummy. Joan was done (at 4:30 a.m.) with both of the space suits after carefully studying the picture of them Bill had brought. I did everything from running to the store for sodas to wiping her brow like a good nurse. he gained the nick name "miracle" from that time forward.
Show day, 9:30 a.m.: We have our last rehearsal with the movie (our theater management brought someone in to load up and start the movie -- way beyond the call of duty!) I got up and brought with me the two space suits. Mouths dropped when I presented Magenta and Riff Raff with their new costumes. Our rehearsal with the film went moderately well, no major problems to worry about. I went back home and caught some sleep for about two hours. I then headed back over to Joan's -- she had almost finished Columbia's jacket and was finished with Rocky's shorts and Frank's cloak. She had not gone to bed and was still working. I thanked her for her efforts, and felt guilty for sleeping. She finished up the jacket, and I jokingly mentioned to her we also needed a corset for Frank during the Floor Show. She asked me for a picture of it and went to work on it. Do you believe in "miracles"? I do!
8:00pm: I am racing back to my house for first call. This is the call in which we were going to get the people together to get makeup done. I get there and am the only one there (panic mode!) At 8:30 everybody started showing up (I thought I had said 8:00 but I had said 8:30.) We started getting everybody ready and things went well. We planned on getting to the theater at 11:15 as the show was at 12:00 midnight and we thought this was plenty of time to get set up. Two cars and a van got us all to the Uptown Three, and when we got out there was applause. There were people lined up all along the front of the theater. "My God! What is going on here?" was my first thought. Liz and Dee were happy as larks, and a friend of theirs was taping the madness and generally enjoying the excitement. We all calmed down and got to work. The show was SOLD OUT in 25 minutes and for a 214 seat theater we sold 216 tickets. We also had another 15 members of our cast that we had never met get in for free. (Give the theater a cast list before the show or make up ids - but do something!) We also turned away 50-75 people, so to say the least we had a packed house. The pre-show was a bit long (32 minutes) and we never stated the rules. Most of the audience had never done Rocky before they threw rice and TP the whole show. It was madness! Fun, but complete madness! We had one minor problem; one person brought eggs and almost hit the screen. We were cleaning for two hours after the show and then had a small cast party. From now on, we will be checking bags for excessive and unacceptable props and we have decided to state the rules to the audience while they are waiting in line and after they come in. We have to protect our screen and our theater. The cast put together a program to let audience members read the rules while standing in line for tickets.
If you should decide to do this for your town please remember these things:
Be ready to lose lots of sleep. Think of stress as your friend because you'll have married it before you're through. Think of everything and you'll forget something every time. Do it for love not for MONEY. You'll go broke trying to make money off of this venture. I believe that all of the stress and time it took to bring Rocky to Sierra Vista was well worth it. There is a certain satisfaction in achieving your dreams when it seems that all odds are against you. In doing Rocky I have found a group of friends whom I shall never forget and a sense of pride in aiding in the constructive corruption of a ho-hum retirement town that had previously ignored its younger population. If you are considering to attempt a production, my advice (for all it's worth) is don't let anything stand in your way, or as Frank would say, "DON'T DREAM IT - BE IT!"