For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, Second Stage Productions, an MSU student-run theater company, will return to the stage to perform Rocky Horror Show on Dec. 9 and 10.
An organizational subset of the MSU Department of Theatre, Second Stage aims to give students of all disciplines an inclusive theater experience, Rocky Horror Show director and Second Stage marketing director Josh Denver said.
“The theater department here is pretty rigorous in what it asks of you, so a lot of students who aren’t specifically in the major feel like they aren’t allowed to step into that environment,” Denver said. "We aim to make this experience entirely collaborative. … I can be just as inspired by peers as a professor or a working artist or a professional in the field.”
Senior Andrew Seng, who plays Dr. Frank 'N' Furter in the show, said his favorite part about Second Stage is getting to collaborate with students outside of the theater department.
Rocky Horror costume designer Katherin Poon said the collective passion for theater is what fuels the work put into Second Stage performances.
“I think that everybody’s commitment to Second Stage is really what sets it apart,” Poon said. “Second Stage is more extracurricular, meaning that we put in tons more work. … Anybody who’s a part of our shows really does it because they want to, and they love it and because they want to be a part of it.”
The Second Stage season extends with three main shows per semester during the fall and spring. Along with a full production by Second Stage Productions, students from Second Stage Musical Theatre perform a cabaret and students from the Second Stage improv group, After School Special, perform an improv show. However, in the past two years, the Second Stage seasons were filled with smaller productions and student-written work.
“Last spring I costumed two other Second Stage shows but none have been of the caliber and to the magnitude of Rocky Horror,” Poon said. “It’s been a really, really cool process. We have a lot of people on our design team; we have a wonderful cast and overall this production is just one of the biggest things that we’ve pumped out in my opinion.”
In typical Rocky Horror fashion, audience participation is encouraged throughout the show. Donations to Second Stage of any amount allow audience members to receive a bag of rice to throw at performers during the show. In addition to call and response interactions, Denver said the audience will be invited to perform the song “The Time Warp” with the cast onstage.
“The Rocky Horror Show is a cult classic that we’re trying to slightly reimagine in a new modern lens,” Denver said. “We definitely are trying to focus on the queer and sexual liberation that this show has to offer and the outright fun and chaos.”
Senior Kelley Whitehouse, who plays Janet Weiss in the show, said being a part of Rocky Horror has been a longtime dream of hers.
“Rocky Horror is a passion project for a lot of us and it’s something that we’ve all loved for many years,” Whitehouse said. “This has been one of my favorite shows for as long as I can remember.”
Denver said the upcoming performance is an opportunity to bring back aspects of the original Rocky Horror Show fan base from the 1970s, like costumes and midnight showings.
“To get to set that experience for a new generation is something so exciting,” Denver said. “I think the community aspect that we’re going to get from the audience of this show is something that you’re not going to want to miss out on.”
The Rocky Horror Show will premiere on Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. in the MSU Auditorium Arena Theatre. There will be additional showings on Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.
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“It’s going to be the greatest night of your life,” Whitehouse said. “It’s a thrilling show with a beautiful message about love and acceptance in an abstract way.”