Midnight follies at the Guild

It's Saturday night, and The Bawdy Caste is all dressed up, with someplace to go

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/The Almanac

Editors note: A version of this story with large photos can be viewed here.

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 cult film, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

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.

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.

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

Each cast member memorizes his or her character's performance. Michael Delfino, who has played Rocky characters Frank, Brad and Rocky since 2011, said that to prepare for a role he watches the movie to figure out the exact blocking. When on stage, he then moves left, right, forward and backward whenever his character on screen does.

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

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 since the movie's release.

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.

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