The Guide sat down with Calvin Engstrom (CAS ’24) and Megan O’Malley (CAS ’24), directors of Georgetown’s fifth annual “Rocky Horror Picture Show” to discuss LGBTQ+ independent productions and their experiences working on the show.
The show is based on the 1975 film of the same name, which is part horror, part comedy and part musical with heavily indecent undertones. Over time, the film has developed into a cult classic, and for the past five years, the movie has been a crucial element to the Georgetown rendition, which features cast members lip-syncing their lines.
This year, directors Engstrom and O’Malley forged new paths with the production, stepping up to ensure that queer voices are heard through the Rocky Horror tradition. After a tumultuous few years due to COVID-19, both were excited to return to the traditional pre-Halloween showtimes that are often attributed to the production.
“We’re hoping to set the example for any future directors to say: look, we are back to ‘Rocky’ normalcy, it’s better than ever, you too step up and make it happen for another cohort,” Engstrom told The Hoya.
For two seniors who aren’t planning to pursue theater as a career, “Rocky Horror” was a true passion project, focused on giving the cast and audience the best possible experience, starting with auditions. Trying to avoid typical type-casting for certain roles, Engstrom and O’Malley decided to pursue a gender-bent cast that they felt would best represent each character.
“So when we were casting people, none of it was about ‘this person looks like this’ or ‘this person is this gender.’ It was more about the execution of the energy of the character,” Engstrom said.“If you take gender into account when you’re casting ‘Rocky,’ it kind of fundamentally undermines the show that you’re casting.”
The plot of “Rocky Horror” follows sweethearts who find themselves marooned at an eerie mansion after a flat tire strands them during a storm. They soon meet a variety of bizarre characters who express themselves through intricate musical sequences.
After auditions began in early September, the cast and crew only had about a month and a half of rehearsals before opening night. Faced with providing costumes, makeup and props for the production, the directors turned to their sponsor, GU Pride, for support.
“They were so dedicated to making sure we got literally everything we needed, they had absolutely no restrictions from making sure we all had clothes that fit, makeup that matched and a space to perform,” O’Malley said.
With the cast properly outfitted, the props organized and the crew prepared, it was time for Engstrom and O’Malley to face two sold-out shows on Oct. 28 and 29.
O’Malley believes that shows like “Rocky Horror” are important because it defies the delegitimization of such “adult” performances by some political actors today.
“Georgetown students are coming together to watch some crazy show. A crazy queer show that really means a lot in the context of the fact that there’s so many bills out there that didn’t want that to happen,” she said to The Hoya.
Engstrom was impressed with how the show ended up after weeks of hard work, and he attributes the show’s success, in large part, to the energy brought to the stage by the actors.
“The main thing for me for both of the shows was just how much fun it was to watch everyone. They were having such a good time that the only time they would consider breaking character was because they had such a good time themselves,” Engstrom said.
The directors also believe that it is vital for more independent, queer productions such as “Rocky” to appear on Georgetown’s campus.
“If there was some sort of mechanism to support more independent theater, independent performances of people who want to bring in the voices of queer groups and more people of color into performances spaces in Georgetown, that would be so cool,” Engstrom said.
Engstrom and O’Malley encourage anyone interested in “Rocky Horror” or any other theatrical opportunity to branch out and try to let go of their insecurities. They said students should use Georgetown as a chance to open themselves up to new experiences that they might otherwise be unable to do.
“If you have any hesitations, just think to yourself, if not now, when will I get another chance to be a part of this great, big, wonderful, queer phenomenon? When is there going to be a better time for me to do it?” Engstrom said.