Vancouver Island University’s student-run theatre group is marking a quarter century of presenting a cult classic simultaneously on screen and on stage.
On March 18 the Satyr Players are staging their 25th annual production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, featuring a “shadow cast” performing on stage while the 1975 film is projected onto a screen behind them. This year, however, the production will be pre-recorded and broadcast online due to COVID-19.
“It’s important to make sure we get it as beautiful and right as we possibly can and also just have fun with it,” said Christopher Carter, who is directing and plays the role of Brad. “Because it’s really our first time where everyone is on stage and just having fun instead of just sitting at home hoping for something to happen.”
Carter, a second-year theatre student, said originally the plan was to stage a “drive-in” production. Instead he said it will be filmed in VIU’s Malaspina Theatre during class, “that way we have at least some audience in the background just cheering us on and just calling us names.” Carter added that the production will have multiple cameras and may even make use of additional projections and pyrotechnics, all while the actors wear face shields and take COVID-19 safety measures into account.
Branden Martell, another second-year theatre student, is moving from behind the curtain to in front of it. Last year he was the assistant stage manager and this year he joins the shadow cast as the butler Riff Raff.
“I’ve never really been a part of the flamboyant crowd and over the years I’ve really come out of my shell and this year I just thought, ‘What the heck, I might as well get on stage,’” he said.
Martell said it will be a challenge performing without the usual enthusiastic crowd.
“Personally for me I think the biggest downfall is the audience isn’t going to be there giving us the energy,” he said. “It’s up to us to make that energy ourselves and get the audience into it at home.”
The Satyr Players aren’t completely new to staging online shows. In September, Carter wrote and directed a Zoom murder mystery for the company. He said the experience taught him “no matter what production you’re in, or any type of situation … you’ve always got to make sure that everyone’s having fun.”
“The goal of theatre I feel like is always to have fun with what you’re doing, be awesome, love what you want to do,” Carter said. “For [Rocky Horror] it’s mostly the same actors I worked with, same team I worked with for the murder mystery show. Everyone’s bringing the same positive energy vibe that I saw from them last year.”
WHAT’S ON … VIU’s Satyr Players present The Rocky Horror Picture Show on March 12 at 7 p.m. Admission by donation. Tickets available here.