Arts & Life, Fine & Performing Arts

The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s lasting impact on LGBTQ+ communities

Long Beach State’s theater department’s production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, performed at The Players Theatre, does not hold back on exploring themes of sexual liberation and gender identity. As progressive times change, new generations continue to admire the cult classic in new ways, despite the fact it premiered around the time their parents were born.

Since 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been a fan-favorite in the LGBTQ+ community due to its themes of sexual liberation and self-discovery; although it was unknown and risque for its time, students find it refreshing and liberating 47 years later. The cast notes the production’s lasting impact, as it continues to affirm the queer community’s pride through flamboyant, sexual numbers and dialogue.

“I do believe that there are so many corners of this world where there are people that want to quiet us, and I say us as part of the LGBTQ plus community, or erase us or pretend like we’re not there,” said Emmanuel Madera, a fourth-year CSULB student working on his BFA in acting. “And that’s just as prevalent right now as it ever was.”

The colorful musical follows characters Janet and Brad, a sheltered couple exposed to wild, sex-positive characters, making them question their heteronormative and sheltered values. “Virgins” of the show are marked with a red “V” before entering the theater, where they experience the interactive audience shouting vulgar words throughout the show, like “Slut!” and “Asshole!”

The cast takes their bow in front of pride flags for the finale
The cast takes their bow in front of pride flags for the finale Photo credit: Montserrat Palmerin

Cast members say they related to the characters in the play along with the problems they faced as queer people feeling comfortable in their sexuality.

“We’ve[the cast] had those moments of feeling like we can’t exist with our sexuality, even if we’re not queer, just people, it’s hard to embrace your sexuality,” said Abbey Toler, a fourth-year journalism student with a theater minor, “I struggle really like a lot with my sexuality, not as a queer person, but just like, as a human and so I think I think doing this sort of show, is a really fun outlet to just free yourself, really.”

Director Jen Richardson discussed the effects a show like this has on the public, especially those who feel as though they cannot be their true selves.

“I hope they get infused with a sense of pride,” said Richardson.

A majority of the cast identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community and explains how being in theater is not only their creative outlet but creates a strong sense of community.

“Queer people tend towards the arts, just because it lets all of us express who we are as people. And we feel more of a community,” said fourth-year theater major Briana Wilson. “I think it just helps us create safe spaces for queer people, for people of color. For anyone who feels like on the outskirts of society and art is a really good place for that.”

The audience roars in applause following the red cast's performance.
The audience roars in applause following the red cast's performance. Photo credit: Montserrat Palmerin

Members and allies of the LGBT+ community further emphasized the importance of the musical still remaining in production almost 50 years later. Although progress has been made in the nation, issues similar to those in 1975 are still prevalent, the cast said. For example, earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law the “Don’t Say Gay” law, limiting the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in Florida schools.

“So if they’re going to be loud then we’re going to be louder,” said Madera.

The cast touches on the current political state of the nation, specifically the recent results of the midterm elections regarding Proposition 28, which provides more funding for the arts in California schools.

“I think that underfunding for things that give people a sense of community has been happening for a really long time. And so the fact that that Prop 28 was passed, that’s really amazing,” said Wilson. Along with the rest of the cast, they feel hopeful for the future of the theater and art departments.

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