In honor of the Washington Savoyards’ production of “The Rocky Horror Show,” Backstage is doing the time warp with a few of the rotating cast of guest narrators. Because “Rocky Horror” is possibly the only place in modern pop culture, outside of Taylor Swift songs, where losing your virginity is still a big deal, we’re going back to the very first time: So, Matthew Gardiner, how was your first-ever Rocky experience?
“Very traumatic,” said the Signature Theatre associate artistic director. “On Halloween, they did ‘Rocky’ in our student center [at Carnegie Mellon]. . . . They ask you if you’re a virgin, and they put the ‘V’ on your head. And I was a freshman in college, and that was traumatic.”
It probably didn’t help that Gardiner was going in blind. “I did not know what I was going to see. I knew certain songs from it,” but as far as the crazy costumes and rituals, “I did not get that memo.”
He has his game face on for the Washington Savoyards gig, although he admits, “I’m nervous. I have no idea what they’re going to do to me.”
Jay Brock, who is directing the Savoyards production, got involved in the “Rocky Horror” scene in Berkeley, Calif., right after his high school graduation.
“There was this girl who was two years ahead of us in high school, and she was, of course, so much more worldly than all of us,” Brock said. “I remember going to her house and having her do makeup on us. She had all this costume-y stuff that was the style of the show, and I remember she put a dog collar on me. . . . We were like her little slaves. We got thrown in. I think I was scared to death.”
Upon arriving at the show that night, there was a line down the street and around the block. “It was like a club,” he said. “I remember seeing this line and being terrified. [They were] the strangest people I’d ever seen.”
After getting over his initial terror, “I went literally every possible weekend for a year with a group of friends,” said Brock.
Michael Bobbitt, the artistic director of Adventure Theatre MTC, had his first “Rocky Horror” experience when he narrated the show earlier this month. “I took my 11-year-old son and his friend,” said Bobbitt. “They had a blast! And I think being able to curse in public with permission was appealing to them.”
Leandra Lynn, another guest narrator, is a cast member of the Sonic Transducers, the District’s only “Rocky Horror Picture Show” shadowcast (live performers who act in front of, and synchronized with, the film).
Lynn saw “Rocky Horror” for the first time at age 15. With her dad.
Despite all the reasons one might think it would be awkward for a teenage girl to see “Rocky Horror” with her dad — nothing says “father-daughter bonding” like singing along to the lyrics “touch-a touch-a touch-a touch me, I wanna be dirty!” — Lynn swears that the experience was “completely fine, because he’s one of the cool parents.”
Except for that one night when he pretended to be a “Rocky” rookie, and the cast pulled him up onstage to sing “. . . baby one more time.” “I was mortified,” said Lynn.
She warns that “Rocky Horror,” with its bizarre plot, extreme audience participation, and absolutely bonkers costumes and characters, is not necessarily the right entertainment for everyone.
“It’s the gay musical comedy of Frankenstein’s monster,” said Lynn. “And if I’ve lost you there, you probably shouldn’t go.”
Through Nov. 4, 1333 H St. NE, 202-339-7993, www.savoyards. org.
Evan Sanderson, a native of Columbia, Md., was studying theater at Boston University when he stumbled across a sentence in Rolling Stone that stopped him.
It wasn’t even in a Rolling Stone story, actually. It was from Bloomberg, and Rolling Stone had just reposted it. It was a tiny blurb. It said: “The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care.”
Reading that sentence “hit me so hard,” said Sanderson. “It felt so unfair on this level that I just could not handle it. So that started me off on this train of [thought]. . . . What does this mean for my generation? How could that possibly be, that we let them come home and we don’t give them any support?”
Thinking led to writing, which led to “Fallujah,” Sanderson’s play that landed a spot in the 2011 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, won the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award and the Quest for Peace Award, and will enjoy its world premiere in London this November, presented by Liminal Space Productions. Sanderson, 24, is based out of Boston and now balances acting and writing (he’ll appear in “Amadeus” at the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, Mass., next April).
When he decided to write “Fallujah,” Sanderson, who is also a former Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company intern, hadn’t written anything before, nor did he have any expertise about the military.
“I had the most cursory relationship to the armed forces, in terms of the war,” said Sanderson. “It was just something going on. I didn’t even consider that we were at war. . . . I just sort of lived my life and went to theater school and did my thing.”
He chose to write the play — which is technically part two in a trilogy, though he hasn’t done anything publicly with the other pieces — as his thesis, which meant spending two and a half years researching, one source leading to another to another.
Despite all his research, he says, “I don’t really know what it’s like to be on the ground in combat there. I have no idea,” he said. “But I do know what it’s like to be lonely, and I do know what it’s like to miss home really, really badly, or to love someone and not be able to be with someone. And that’s really what the story is about. . . . I think what’s primary is what’s going on between people and in the isolated souls of these individuals who are being left to die, basically. To just wither away.”