Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Theatre in the Grove brings Rocky Horror to the little stage

Everyone once in a while Theatre in the Grove gets the urge to whip out the four-inch glam rock heels, slap on the cherry red lipstick and expose Forest Grove audiences to an edgier side of community theater.

We don’t blame them. It’s been a solid, but long, 43 years, and it’s time to spice things up. In 2010, the theater company showed a little leg in Broadway’s “Cabaret.” This year, director Ken Centers had his hands full with the jazzy and dramatic “Chicago,” and “Urinetown” was nothing but greed, love and corruption.

With Halloween creeping up, Centers’ wife and TITG vet Pruella Centers is stirring up a classic cult concoction. It’s the story of an ordinary couple, Brad and Janet, and the unforgettable night they spend at the castle of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a transvestite mad-scientist from the planet Transsexual.

It’s the “Rocky Horror Show” and it’s for immature adult audiences only. Theatre in the Grove remakes Richard O’ Brien’s original musical that inspired Hollywood movie makers’ intent to shock, tease and provoke virgin viewers and experienced audiences with the glamorous, gender-bending rock and roll sci-fi fantasy and 1970s B-movie spoof “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Get ready to dress up, blurt out lines, scream obscenities and throw rice at the cast like generations of young and old have come to do at midnight showings in theaters across the country since 1977.

“Rocky Horror” will run on Fridays and Saturdays Oct. 26 through Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. There will be one matinee performance on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2:30 p.m. and special midnight performances on Halloween night, Oct. 31 and Nov. 3 and Nov. 10, for mature audiences only.

Letting loose

Considering TITG’s typical family-friendly and children’s show repertoire, Director Pruella Centers says the longtime community theater took things slow when getting started with the racy “Rocky Horror.” Yet it was only a matter of time before cast members were prancing and dancing, singing and slinging boas, bursting through doors and hooking up behind silk screens on stage.

“We don’t want to corrupt or traumatize anybody,” said Centers, who teams up with her husband and fellow Theater in the Grove veteran director Ken, her son, Zachary, a veteran actor and the show’s set and costume designer, as well as her sister and choreographer, Layla Scrivner, in re-creating the show.

Permission slips were passed out, deep breaths were taken and 20 actors aged 18 and older were cast to fill the roles of the smash cult favorite that hit New York theaters at midnight in 1975.

First ignored by the mainstream, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” soon drew a cult following, mainly by those who felt left out and unaccepted by society — gays, lesbians, transvestites, misfits and the open-minded.

“People were lost and felt like they couldn’t be who they were,” said Ken Centers, who remembers going to the picture show in California when the movie first hit the big screen. “It was the first time they put something out there that was an acceptance of a lifestyle.”

For that reason, Centers said, the show still resonates and empowers audiences today. “(“Rocky Horror”) opened a door for them, even if it was just for one hour of not feeling like they were being judged.”

Better yet, it’s a chance to get nutty in the theater. “It was one of the few times I got to act like an idiot and just have fun,” said Centers, who will play the show’s main narrator, a psychologist. “It was just so much fun.”

Midnight inspiration

To get pumped for their roles, Theatre in Grove’s cast bonded over a trip to the infamous midnight theater showing of the movie at Portland’s Clinton Street Pub, where “Rocky Horror” regulars get costumed up and settle in for a wild night of audience participation.

Theatre in the Grove’s cast includes a healthy mix of regulars, Pacific University students and a few newcomers.

Justin Canfield and Abby Boardman play the just-married, straight-edge prudes Brad and Janet; William Dober plays cross-dressing ringleader Dr. Frank N. Furter and Joseph Baisch plays his sexy scientific creation Rocky Horror.

Other members include Ron Hansen as Dr. Scott, Zachary Centers as Riff Raff, Brittney Spady as Magenta, McKenzie Brock as Columbia and a host of others rounding out the cast as phantoms and Transylvanians.

Zachary Centers, 25, a Southern Oregon University theater and costume design graduate, says at the time “Rocky Horror” first aired in the 1970s, the costumes and make-up worn by the cast’s Transylvanians were jarring, but not so much anymore.

As the show progressed, each visual rendering of “Rocky Horror Show” seems to fit the counter-culture of the day, taking up a steam punk aesthetic since the 1990s. However, even punk has faded into mass acceptance, said Centers.

Piercings, color-dyed hair and tattoos are the going trend in Portland, he noted, and therefore wouldn’t have the same shock effect. So the young Centers has something different in mind.

He will dress his cast in a Victorian-era look with saloon style: gathered burlesque skirts and poofy arms that taper to straight for the Transylvanian types. Less dressed cast members are more turn-of-the-century goths — ditching fishnets for flowery brocade lace.

Zachary Centers is no virgin to the “Rocky Horror” show and he is expecting people to get rowdy and say nasty things at Theatre in the Grove’s multiple productions. But, he says, Frank N. Furter and the narrator won’t hesitate to put them in their place.

It’s the first time Centers has switched roles from an audience member to actor in the show, and he’s really excited about having an audience yell at him. He has always wanted to act in the show, and as Riff Raff, he’s finally able to thrust himself into character.

“I think everybody should come prepared to have a really good time,” said his mother Pruella, who watched her son begin acting on Theatre in the Grove stages at age five. “Leave your inhibitions at the door.”

Beware, first-timers: If you haven’t seen “The Rock Horror Picture Show,” for a nominal fee a friend may have you “de-virginized” on stage.

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