The Bawdy Caste members Michael Delfino, Julie Shepard, Nina Loschiavo and Tim Sturm play Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Columbia, Magenta and Riff Raff in front of a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Guild Theatre on April 6. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

It’s Saturday night, and The Bawdy Caste is all dressed up for the legendary B-Movie cult classic

At midnight on the first Saturday of every month, restless fans line up outside the Landmark Guild Theatre in Menlo Park. Some are glowing with glitter, others are strutting in gravity-defying high heels, and many are dressed provocatively.

They’re here for a late-night showing of the now-iconic 1975 cult movie, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Starring a young Susan Sarandon, the film—about “a transsexual from Transylvania” — is a campy musical masterpiece that holds the unique counterculture status of being the longest-running midnight movie of all time.

Audience members dance to Village People’s “YMCA” while others arrive at the Guild Theatre before the start of the midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on April 6. (Photos by Magali Gauthier)

Newcomers to the monthly showing, or “virgins” as they’re called in the Rocky community, might think they’re seeing double during the movie. They’re not. Performers dressed as characters in the film act out the entire movie in front of the screen. This lively fusion of stage and screen mayhem is a long-running tradition with Rocky Horror that has played out for over 40 years in midnight showings around the world dating back to New York City in 1976.

The Bawdy Caste, a volunteer shadow cast that specializes in screen-accurate renditions of movies, performs “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at least twice a month, once at the Guild and once at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. The troupe first formed in 1995, and then partnered with Landmark Theatres in 2006, when the Bawdy Caste started performing bi-monthly at the Guild Theatre.

When preparing for a role, each cast member memorizes his or her character’s performance, both their lines and exact on-screen movements.

“We work really, really hard to do the same hand gestures, the same blinks,” said Siobhan Taylor, a cast member since 2008.

Michael Delfino, who is playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter, performs with other Bawdy Caste members. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Michael Delfino, who has played Rocky characters Frank, Brad and Rocky since 2011, said that when learning a new role, he watches the movie over and over again to figure out the character’s exact choreography. His on-stage actions, like stepping forward and backward, titling his head, or smiling, are precise copies of what’s happening in the movie.

The cast costumes also mimic what’s on screen. Taylor, a professional seamstress, has reproduced to a T many of the costumes for the characters she has played over the years: a Transylvanian, Magenta, Janet and Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

Nina Loschiavo explains that the character of Magenta has the most striking eyelashes in the film. The cast’s goal is to be screen-accurate, so she wears fake eyelashes to mimic Magenta’s in the movie. (Photos by Magali Gauthier)

Taylor said most of the cast’s 60 members rotate in and out of performing and behind-the-scene roles. Before acting, Delfino joined the cast as a support crew member in 2009. The Bawdy Caste has its own sound operators, a spotlight operator, prop managers, sales team, audience experience team and production assistants.

“All the theater really has to do is provide the movie,” said Chris Hatfield, the manager of the Clay since 2006. “The cast sets up everything else.”

Hatfield says that many generations of people come to the midnight showings, thanks to the inclusive community Rocky Horror fans have created over the past 45 years.

Taylor says the cast is also made up of performers of all genders, bodies and sexualities.

“Frank says at the end of the movie ‘Don’t dream it, be it,’” said Delfino. “Whoever you are, whatever you want to be, you can be. When we see audience members being whatever they want to be, that is the cultural phenomenon that is ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’”

The next showing will be on May 4 at the Guild Theatre.

Clockwise from top left: Cars zoom by Landmark’s Guild Theatre in Menlo Park before the monthly midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The cast first performed at the Guild in 2006, on Dec. 2 and 16. The show used to take place twice a month; The promotional poster for the Guild Theatre performances in the fall of 2008 (Photo courtesy of Landmark’s Guild Theatre); Julie Shepard, who is playing Columbia, gets dressed in a boiler room in the back of the Guild. Shepard has been a member of The Bawdy Caste since 1996. She says in 2006 the troupe sent out letters to several theater managers in the Bay Area asking whether their locations would be interested in The Bawdy Caste performing alongside their midnight screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Chris Hatfield, the manager of Landmark’s Clay Theatre, read the letter and immediately started setting up shows. Shepard appeared as Janet in The Bawdy Caste’s first performance at the Guild on Dec. 2, 2006. (Photos by Magali Gauthier)
Clockwise from top left: Michael Delfino’s high heels for the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter; The performers use a boiler room as a changing area backstage of the Guild Theatre; Siobhan Taylor, who is playing Janet, puts the finishing touches on her makeup. Taylor loves the film, as she grew up watching it with her parents. In 2008, a couple of months after turning 18, she started volunteering for the Bawdy Caste. She worked behind the scenes before transitioning into performing as a Transylvanian, Magenta, Janet and Dr. Frank-N-Furter. The role of Janet holds a special place in her heart. “I don’t look like Janet,” said Taylor. “I’m tall and curvy and it’s really empowering to play a strong, sexual female character.” She says that it doesn’t matter that most of the cast members don’t look like the film actors. Body positivity is an integral part of the cast culture. “People play the role they want to,” said Taylor. “We have members of all ages, all bodies and all genders. We work very, very hard to make it inclusive for the performers and the audience.” (Photo by Magali Gauthier)
Michael Delfino takes a break outside the theater before the start of the show. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)
Clockwise from top left: Nina Loschiavo secures a wig on her head. She is playing Magenta in the April 6 midnight shadow cast performance at the Guild Theatre; Siobhan Taylor, who is playing Janet, listens to The Bawdy Caste directors before the start of the show; Michael Delfino puts the final touches on his Dr. Frank-N-Furter costume. Delfino is a kenpo instructor and has volunteered his weekend nights (and early mornings) to The Bawdy Caste since 2009. Though he has appeared as Brad and Rocky in previous productions of Rocky, he says playing Frank is an opportunity for him to engage with audience and cast members in a different way. “You can put your own personal spin into the part of Frank,” he said. “I play Frank with a more masculine approach, but someone else might play him to be more feminine”; Bawdy Caste performers and crew members relax in an alley lining the side of the Guild Theatre before the start of the midnight showing (Photos by Magali Gauthier)
Clockwise from top left: Michael Delfino, who is playing Frank, and Siobhan Taylor, who is playing Janet, perform a scene in front of the projected film. Delfino says that after learning the role of Frank by heart, he started rehearsing with cast members who would be playing characters opposite him. “You have to know how they respond to what you do so you have chemistry with your fellow castmate,” said Delfino. “It’s important to know, for example, how one Janet moves compared to another, what one is comfortable with compared to another”; Katie Martin performs as Trixie during the closing credits of the film; The Bawdy Caste actors perform the cabaret scene in front of the projected film during a midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Guild Theatre on April 6; A performer throws around a feather boa during the cabaret scene of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” (Photos by Magali Gauthier)
Katie Martin, who is playing Trixie, struts past smiling audience members while a Bawdy Caste crew member heckles her. Yelling call-back lines, as the Rocky community calls them, at the screen and the actors is a normal part of Rocky culture. “It’s part of the universal aspect of ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ — people all over the world getting together to yell stuff at a screen,” said Michael Delfino, a Bawdy Caste member. “Without the audience, yelling their call-back lines, the cultural phenomenon that is ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ would not exist.” (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

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Magali Gauthier

I’m a multimedia visual journalist working for the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac.

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