College Players’ ‘Rocky Horror’ tells audience: ‘It’s okay to be whoever you are’

Maggs Zuniga acts as Magenta from the “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as the film plays in the background in McLaren Hall. PHOTO BY MEGAN ROBERTSON / SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN

The College Players transformed the McLaren Center into a theater on Saturday, Oct. 30, as approximately 200 students gathered to see the troupe’s first production of the school year, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” 

This production combined various mediums, having student actors lip-sync and dance while the 1975 cult classic film played behind them on a large screen. As the show progressed, cast members planted in the audience called out to these performers, creating an atmosphere where the viewers were just as involved in the production as the performers. 

In an attempt to bring camaraderie and high energy to the group, the evening began with games such as charades and a dance competition between audience members. Being the day before Halloween, the crowd was dressed in costumes. Audience members mirrored the excitement the cast had for the revival of the College Players’ performances on campus. 

Fen Wright, a sophomore psychology major, directed the show and said, “There is an air of excitement. This is the first production we’re doing, so people really want to make a splash, to bring College Players a revival.” 

Maggs Zuniga, a freshman performing arts and social justice major, played the role of Magenta. They said they were very excited to be acting again. “It feels like we’re stepping back into something. It’s like we just pressed pause, and now we’re back,” Zuniga said.

Certain precautions were enacted to keep the event safe. Audience members were required to be masked and vaccinated against COVID-19, and performers had to keep their masks on while backstage. 

Sadiya Kazani, a sophomore history major, said she had come out to support her friends who were involved in the production. “I have been hearing a lot about it, seeing little sneak peeks of the dress rehearsals, so I am excited for sure,” she said prior to the performance. 

The classic shadow cast style of performance has served as the College Players’ first show of the year for over a decade. It is seen as a fun way to acknowledge the history and livelihood of the LGBTQ+ community, which is a reason they come back to it year after year. 

“It’s important to look back on one of the first big movies that had any queer representation,” Wright said. “We might consider it bad queer representation today, but it’s a really good glimpse into queer culture in a time where it has been covered up.”

In addition to the LGBTQ+ representation in this show, the production team prioritized safety and trust when handling the sexual content of the piece. Prior to the blocking of the performance’s scenes, College Players Executive Producer Bex Brzostoski led consent in theatre workshops following guidelines from Intimacy Directors and Coordinators, a UK based organization leading training on intimacy and consent in the performing arts. “We wanted to prioritize each actor’s control over their own body and autonomy,” Brzostoski said. 

The group begins each run of the show with what they call “tapping in,” a process where they stand in a circle, take meditative breaths, and tap each others’ palms, signifying that they are “tapping in” to their character and letting their personal relationships with one another “tap out” until the show’s end. 

While the production team was intentional with many aspects of the show, like LGBTQ+ representation and intimacy work, one of the major challenges was something out of their control: the show’s location. 

With the Presentation Theater still under repair and the Lone Mountain Blackbox Theater occupied, the cast planned on performing in the Koret Swig Gym. However, the venue brought complications with lighting and sound. Brzostoski said McLaren was perfect for this show. “I hope that we can continue to use that space every year until the Presentation Theater is finally fixed,” they said. 

The production ended with standing ovation as Jasmine Bost, a junior playing the role of Frank N. Furter, ended her song with a pride flag draped across her shoulders. 

“By producing a queer show as the very first show, we’re saying: it’s okay to be whoever you are and be proud about it,” Brzostoski said. 

The College Players will be producing Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to be performed in December. More information can be found @collegeplayers1863 on Instagram or at collegeplayers1863@gmail.com

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