My day began as a dude wearing a Jacksonville Jaguars hat, a matching shirt and jeans. Somehow, in the course of another typical rainy Sunday in Gainesville, I found myself untypically wearing makeup, a wig and women’s lingerie.
The cast and crew of the upcoming live shadowcast performance of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at High Dive had a lot to do with that.
I’m an outsider. I’ve never actually seen the movie — which is appalling to the fans of the cult classic.
I waited in my car in the parking lot of the venue for Shay Smith, who directs and plays the character Columbia in the performance, which will take place at High Dive on various dates throughout October. Once inside of the normally loud and busy venue, I was struck by how quiet and empty the building was.
It wasn’t quiet for long.
Performers trickled in, carrying boxes overflowing with costume pieces. Smith sorted through those bins as she called out to her group to arrange the stools in the audience. She wants her performers to be used to maneuvering and interacting in that space — an important part of their version of the show.
"We’re the only group I know that focuses on really getting out here," Smith said, as she smacked her lips and caressed my face, "and playing with the audience."
Smith said the importance of physically interacting with the audience is a simple but valuable tool to direct their attention to important scenes — or a magical act to make that person have the time of their life.
Smith’s son, Hayden Hudleston, who plays Frank N. Furter, echoed the sentiment. He has the job description of corrupting the audience along with the show’s other main characters, Brad and Janet. He filled me in on his plans for his audience this year.
"I’m gonna sit (on) their lap; I’m gonna play with their face; I’m gonna make them feel very involved in the performance," Hudleston said.
He likes to seek out people who are enjoying the show but still have some reservations. His mission is to bring them out of their shells so they can have an amazing time. He believes those are the people who have the most fun at the show.
Deciding I wanted to join in on the fun, I meekly asked if they would be willing to put me in costume.
Their reply was a stark contrast to my mumble and came much faster and with more enthusiasm: I was to be dressed up.
Shay created a domino effect of finding makeup and clothing for my costume, asking this person and texting that person before eventually having more than enough to put me in Frank N. Furter’s iconic drag.
Within minutes, I had my shirt off and was sitting on a stool as Hudleston and his girlfriend Rosie Kereston, who works stage crew and makeup, worked together to make me look the part.
I listened to the couple laugh as they told me about a confused store clerk who tried to match makeup for Kereston’s skin tone instead of Hudleston’s. In that moment, it struck me just how much this show is part of their lives and how much they care about it.
The couple instructed each other on how best to contour my face and nose before they began working on the bane of every girl’s makeup routine — the furry creatures that live above each eye.
"And remember," Hudleston said, "your eyebrows are sisters, not twins."
Kereston confirms with a giggle that turned into a whispered and throaty laugh before saying, "That’s good advice."
While I’m instructed to make "soft eyes" and "soft lips" so the duo can paint my face just right, I find it fascinating this is something the couple has truly bonded over: doing makeup. Similarly, the show’s razor’s edge of androgynous behavior, which it has become famous for, is what makes it so interesting and timeless for its fans.
Hudleston said it was "pretty huge" the film had so much sexual liberty when it came out in the ‘70s. It questioned gender roles in a way that had never been done before.
"My character as the transvestite master of the house is pretty iconic in that movement," Hudleston said.
When my costume was complete and my pictures were taken, it was hard not to feel a bit of good-spirited embarrassment. I imagine the participants in the show’s "virgin games" must feel the same way.
For the uninitiated, the virgin games are for those who have never attended a shadowcast performance of the show before. Even if someone is a huge fan of the film, they can still take part in the games if they’ve never been to a live performance.
"(The games are) completely voluntary," said Katey Sands, who plays the criminologist, "but it usually increases the entertainment value for both the audience and the person there for the first time."
Sands intentionally revealed very little about the virgin games. An audience member can request to participate both before and during the show, but the games themselves are a surprise. Virgins can be spotted at the show with a "V" marked with red lipstick on their forehead or cheek.
The first show date is Thursday at High Dive, 210 SW Second Ave., and tickets are available for $10 at the door or for $7 in advance on ticketfly.com. Doors open at 9 p.m.
"The fact that people are still coming out 40 years after, shows that there’s something in this that is special to Rocky Horror," Kereston said.
If you make your way to the show, you may just see a dude wearing a Jaguar hat with a lipstick "V" on his face.