ACE’s Rocky Horror Shadowcast: inside the time warp


Tim Curry, Nell Campbell and Patricia Quinn star in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in 1975. [20TH CENTURY FOX]

Brenna Flanagan, Lifestyles Editor

UNC Wilmington’s Association for Campus Entertainment (ACE) will show its shadowcast performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” where members of ACE act out and facilitate audience participation to certain scenes in the film, on Friday, Oct. 18 at 11:59 p.m. This annual tradition is one of ACE’s most looked forward to events. I got to talk with the Rocky Horror Shadowcast co-chair and actor, Graeme Colquhoun, about what makes “Rocky Horror” so special and why ACE continues to put it on decades after its first performance.  

Why Rocky Horror? Where did this idea stem from, what makes this movie special?  

Graeme Colquhoun: The first UNCW production of a Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadowcast was held more than a decade ago, and it has been an annual ACE event ever since. The film represents total acceptance and uninhibited expression, resonating with any voice yearning to be free. The subtext is sublime, but the spectacle is what truly cements the show. As a full Shadowcast, the actors are always performing in front of the screen, whether they are dancing, acting or shouting callouts into the audience. By using prop bags and callouts, we inspire interaction with the audience, further deepening the collective feeling that every voice is heard and integral to the spectacle. 

What is the process for picking actors? How has the rehearsal process gone this year? 

GC: The cast consists of ACE members; the chairs open a casting call before the summer where the actors shortlist their desired roles, and then we discuss who would be most well-suited for the roles at hand. The initial rehearsal was held the first weekend of classes. The rehearsal environment is one of great creativity and excitement. One selling point for participating in a Shadowcast is the bonding experience you have in rehearsal. Whether we are rehearsing a sensitive scene or taking a water break between numbers, cast members are constantly building each other up and becoming closer. 

Why do you continue to do Rocky Horror every year instead of another movie and do you/how do you adapt the event every year? 

Rocky Horror has its fundamental truths, callouts and numbers that define every production, but each iteration is the vision of that year’s group of chairs. The way my other co-chairs, Mikaela and Eliza, and I approached this year’s show varied greatly from the approach of last year’s chairs, so it ensures that the dedicated fans who have been to dozens of Shadowcasts will have a new and fresh experience. “Rocky Horror Picture Show” has stood tall for decades because it captures joy, heartache, campiness, musical theatre, science-fiction and pure liberation. The eternal nature of those components means the show has hardly aged, and the ability to reimagine it annually means the show will never grow old. 

What is your favorite part of the experience? 

Collaboration bears ripe fruit, and the funniest moments of the show come from a flash of improvisation or an off-hand suggestion by a cast member in rehearsal. Each actor can spend the week preparing their lines and their movements, only to arrive at rehearsal and work with their peers to create a more grand and entertaining performance which would never have occurred to them alone. Being able to facilitate and witness this creation through collaboration is the greatest joy I have taken from this experience.  

Are there any fun facts/funny stories/Easter eggs about this performance or the rehearsals?  

There are stories and in-jokes about this show that will last as long as these friendships will, but to tell them now would spoil the show. We have worked for months in the most enjoyable of circumstances to blow away the audience, so I invite the intrigued and the experienced to come and find out just what we plan to thrust upon the audience. 

ACE will perform its Rocky Horror Shadowcast on Friday, Oct. 18 at 11:59 p.m. in UNCW’s Lumina Theater.