‘The Rocky Horror Show’
Clear Space Theatre Company
20 Baltimore Ave.
Rehoboth Beach, Del.
June 26-Sept. 1
Traditional theater draws a clear line between the actors and the audience, discouraging engagement between the two; however, this is just one of many conventions the beloved cult classic “The Rocky Horror Show” breaks.
This summer at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, Clear Space Theatre Company presents the 1970s science-fiction musical that has captivated audiences of all ages over the past four decades. The show runs until Sept. 1. A special Aug. 11 midnight performance is slated to include props for the audience provided by the theater.
Founded in 2004 and based in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Clear Space Theatre Company is a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to providing not only professional theater productions but also arts education to Southern Delaware. The theater stages approximately 150 shows each year, attracting around 15,000 guests.
David Button has worked with Clear Space for the last 13 years and is currently in his fifth year as artistic director. Though he had always “admired ‘Rocky’ from afar,” Button truly fell in love with the show after performing in a rendition of it after college. He chose the musical for Clear Space this summer with the hope that it would challenge both audience members and tradition.
“I was looking for … something that I thought the community would really enjoy,” Button says. “Something that was slightly off kilter, something that was 100 percent different than everything else we were doing in the season, something that would push some boundaries.”
Although Button began casting for the summer season in January, the cast did not start formal rehearsals until June 4 — just three shorts weeks before opening night on June 26. During those three weeks, the cast worked six days a week and 12 hours a day on not only “Rocky Horror” but also the company’s two other summer productions, “Mary Poppins” and “Footloose.”
This summer’s cast consists of 13 professional actors alongside additional community performers, with Andrew Cuccaro playing the lead role of mad scientist, Dr. Frank N. Furter (“Frank”). The 23-year-old Syracuse native previously performed “Rocky Horror” senior year in college in a supporting role, so when Button offered him the role of Frank, he was eager to explore the show through the eyes of another character.
“Seeing the show from the perspective of this character, the mad scientist, who’s leading this group of people definitely gave me a boost of confidence I hadn’t seen before,” Cuccaro says. “It was fun to see what I could do on stage.”
In addition to being a mad scientist, Frank is also a self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite.” As a gay actor, Cuccaro says there is “so much power” for him in playing such an “iconic” queer role.
“I’ve watched the movie quite a few times in preparation for this,” Cuccaro says. “I knew there were certain things that Tim Curry (original film actor for Frank) does in his genius that people want, and there are certain things that I can bring to it artistically that are different because I don’t think people go to the theater to just go through the motions that someone else created.”
As director, Button has also been walking this line between tradition and nuance, calling Clear Space’s production “‘Rocky with bling.”
“Everyone knows what they’re coming to see, so why not challenge them and push the boundaries just a little more?” Button says. “‘Rocky’s’ already a very sexually driven show, and we made it 100 times what it normally is … we asked, ‘How can we surprise the audience a little more than they thought we would?’”
The original “Rocky Horror” film gained international fame not only for its cult following but also its audience participation, with movie goers dressing up as characters and interacting with the actors on screen. To this day, attendees throw toast, toilet paper, confetti and more at appropriate moments throughout the film. Although the live musical rendition at Clear Space does not feature flying toast or toilet paper, audience members are encouraged to yell and interact with actors in “call outs,” breaking tradition with conventional theater.
“This show feels so immersive with the audience calling out at you,” Cuccaro says. “(There are) so many opportunities to get involved in the show that other shows don’t really give you…(and) with call outs, it’s a new relationship with the audience every night.”
Button echoes the importance of the relationship between the actors and the audience.
“It gives us this amazing opportunity to break the fourth wall and engage with the audience in many ways,” Button says. “(And) it offers more freedom to the cast.”
Beyond simply the presence of audience interaction, Button has also been excited by the diversity of the audience members themselves, saying, “It has been such a different audience for us, so many more young folks. … It’s been wonderful to see a diverse group of ages coming to the theater.”
Button sees “Rocky” as an embodiment of Clear Space Theatre’s goals, and he hopes audience members see the show as the intersection between its two artistic endeavors: “integrity and risk.”
“The show says everything about our mission,” Button says. “It says we’re going to give you a solid, great production with amazing actors and scenic and costume design, but we’re also going to challenge you, we’re going to take you out on a limb and we’re going to show you how risky we can actually be and how far we can take you with us.”
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