Dammit, Janet

I think as many of us have experienced, sex is a great liberating and transformative force upon the person, but it mustn’t, as it has for Frank, consume the person.

For the last month or so, I’ve been preparing my newest show at the Stray Dog Theatre. The Rocky Horror Show opens this Thursday and plays until the 28th of October. As is customary at the Stray Dog, I’m playing a dual role- this time as Eddie/Dr. Scott. Anyone who is familiar with the show will also understand what I mean when I say that I’m doing another Stray Dog requirement when I end up center stage covered in blood. The show also¬†features some of the best songs in the musical theatre. “Science Fiction Double Feature” and “Over at the Frankenstein Place” are some of my favorite songs in the world.

This isn’t my first time doing Rocky, but reading the script for the second time in a decade, I was really struck by how out of this world the show is. I mean, what the fuck is this show about? It’s sort of an homage to 50’s Hollywood Sci-Fi films and sort of a sexual revolution diatribe. Also there’s Meatloaf. Oh, and everyone cross dresses. But I must admit, the show Toucha-Toucha-Touches me.

I’m no expert in script analysis (I was once told by a director to “start acting whenever [I] feel like it”). But in taking a hard look at the script, it seems to me that one word continues to stick out. “Trans”. It’s everywhere. Frank is a “sweet transvestite”, he and his crew are from transsexual Transylvania, and Dr. Scott (great scott!) is obsessed with the “audiovibratory physiomolecular transport device” known as the sonic transducer. Even the basic premise of the show, that Brad and Janet leave their waspy shells at the door of Castle Frankenstein and metamorphose into sex crazed perverts, is about the transition of sexual attitudes that had been happening in western countries throughout the 60’s and 70’s when the show was written.

The show is also a cautionary tale. While the audience can delight in the bedroom scene, in which Frank seduces both Brad and Janet into their first sexual experiences, Frank ultimately ends up a corpse, and it’s unclear whether Brad or Janet are better off for their time with him. Frank is undone by a subordinate because of his egregious authoritarianism and actions which, considered in a modern light, are sexual assault. Even my own characters, Eddie and Dr. Scott, seem more scarred (Eddie very literally) by the experience of being at Castle Frankenstein than they are liberated by it.

So here it is. The show is best seen within the context of when it was originally written- at the height of the sexual revolution. I think as many of us have experienced, sex is a great liberating and transformative force upon the person, but it mustn’t, as it has for Frank, consume the person. However, there is merit in giving yourself “over to absolute pleasure”, but be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater when getting your rocks off.

Author: Mike Wells

Mike is a St. Louis based actor, activist, and burrito enthusiast. He enjoys Camel cigarettes and sex in the dark.

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