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Unnerved, Excited and Entertained: Director Joel Ferrell on THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW (posted 08-25-2014)

In 1977 I entered the University of Texas at Austin as a freshman. Among the many "rites of passage" required of me as an 18-year-old was a trip to the local "alternative" movie theater to see a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I only vaguely knew what I was in for.

My still-vivid memory is that I was unnerved, excited, confused, entertained and very aware that there was a spirit of fun, freedom and abandon that filled the dirty little theater to bursting. It was a memorable night.

It would be a few years before I could begin to articulate what I had begun to "learn" that evening. One of those things was that I had a long and interesting road ahead of me to fully discover and claim my own sexual identity. Another was that there was far more variation and a much wider spectrum of sexual and gender “identities” than I had realized, though something in me knew this must be true. Thirdly, I loved the wonderful sense of honoring and spoofing everything from B-level horror and science fiction movies, to the "ideal American world" of June and Ward Cleaver and Ozzy and Harriet. The ‘60s had happened and the ‘70s were upon us, and no self-respecting college freshman in Austin, Texas wanted to appear naive.

Rocky Horror began as a small, scrappy stage show in London, moved across the pond to questionable success and became a movie based on the stage version. The movie hardly received raves, but scores of irreverent young people and folks who felt marginalized or ostracized just kept going to see it. Before long they were talking to it and throwing things at it and it now was no longer just a show, or a movie, but a counter-culture party that could not be stopped. It was a wild romp, and it was outrageous and fun. 

And yet, in all the farce and spoof and drag show-fun is a reminder: we are all utterly unique. And no one has the right to declare themselves more normal or important or better. As Americans, who claim freedom as our birthright ordained by our creator, we are all required to invent ourselves using the raw materials we're given; and if you're foolish enough to believe you shouldn't keep evolving, you may be missing a lot of the fun. 

To reference a quote by Ru Paul that changed my way of looking at myself and others: “We're born naked—the rest is drag.”

I hope you enjoy getting your own Fierce Alien Transvestite “on” at the show!

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW is onstage September 11-October 19 at the Wyly Theatre.


Pictured above, left: Julie Johnson, Chamblee Ferguson.
Right, front: Morgan Mabry Mason, Alex Organ, Joel Ferrell, Walter Lee, Jason Labosco; Right back: Carson Nicely (not in this production), Jeremy Allen Dumont.
Photo: Karen Almond