Rocky Reimagined: Students Take a Modern Approach to a Classic

A student dances onstage at Wellesley's October 2022 shadowcast production of Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Image credit: Amber Celletti
Author  Quinn Etoll '23 & Amber Celletti
Published on 

Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast performances, where actors mimic the 1975 film while it plays on a screen behind them, have been a Wellesley Halloween tradition since 2012, but this year’s directors wanted to do things differently. Co-directors Demeter Appel-Riehle ’25 and Julien Barriere ’24, along with SJ Stephens ’23, who played Dr. Frank-N-Furter, intended to make the October 29 event, co-sponsored by the Shakespeare Society and the Film Society, more thoughtful and inclusive by acknowledging and rejecting the bigotry present in both the film and the culture surrounding Rocky Horror, at Wellesley and beyond. To address the issues, such as transphobic and homophobic stereotypes, head-on, Appel-Riehle, Barriere, and Stephens organized a roundtable discussion with Wellesley’s Office of LGBTQ+ Programs and Services on October 19. Organizers provided detailed content warnings for each scene, prefaced the performance with a speech about the issues of both the culture and the text of Rocky Horror, discouraged gender policing of attendees, whether off-campus guests or Wellesley students, and encouraged all attendees to think critically about the show while also having fun. Barriere, in his director’s speech, was proud to reveal that the majority of the cast and crew of this year’s performance was trans and/or queer, which he said was important to note for a film that caricatures trans women. Appel-Riehle, Barriere, and Stephens said they want Wellesley’s Rocky Horror tradition to be one that celebrates the diverse identities of Wellesley students and its future as a more inclusive space.