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Largest performance at university since 1999

KARRYthumbHow does an actor prepare to play Dr. Frank-N-Furter — the self-proclaimed "Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania?"

If that actor is Reid Haggis, he dresses up in stiletto heels and goes to a Lady Gaga concert.

"My Achilles tendons were sore for days afterward," Haggis says. "But I am going to have to get used to it. If I roll my ankle once during a performance, it will be bad."

Haggis, as a lingerie-clad Frank-N-Furter, will be one of the principal actors in The Rocky Horror Show running at Mount Royal University (MRU) from 

KARRYmain1Reid Haggis (in yellow) and Nathan Illes (in black) are joined by other principal members of the Rocky Horror show cast.

Photo by Karry Taylor
March 28 to April 6.

With a cast of 29, the show will be the largest performance staged at Mount Royal since 1999.

Show chosen to generate interest

Doug Rathbun, a MRU faculty member and the coordinator of the university's theatre program, says Rocky Horror was chosen to help move the program's production company — Theatre MRU — more into the public eye.

"We decided to do something that would have some real audience appeal to it," Rathbun, who is also the show's production manager, says. "We want to make people aware of what our theatre students are capable of.

"If you say 'Rocky Horror,' everybody perks up and says 'Oh, I know that.' It is something special to help generate interest in Theatre MRU."

Rathbun says Rocky Horror was also chosen to allow the company's acting and technical students to become involved in a large, multi-faceted production. The shows will involve live music performed by students enrolled in the university's music performance diploma program.

"This will be an opportunity to get the jazz program involved in the theatre company, which we have been trying to do for a number of years," Rathbun says.

First-year acting students step up

Twenty-year old Haggis is one of only three first-year students selected to play a main character.

He says that he is both "honoured and excited" to play the part of the mad scientist Frank-N-Furter — a role played by Tim Curry in the 1975 cult classic movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

"I wanted this role because I have always leaned more towards the over-the-top villain, jazzy-type characters. They are more fun to play," Haggis says.

"Frank-N-Furter is very over-the-top. But that is because he has insecurities and is very lonely inside. It's a crazy role, but I am very excited to find out more about him through the process."

Second-year acting student Nathan Illes, meanwhile, says he is looking forward to the opportunity to take part in what will be the largest production of his career so far.

"We do so much smaller scale studio work, with minimal to no props and costumes. So it's nice to have the contrasts of doing a full-scale production," Illes says.

Actors strive to make roles their own

As actors in a show that has built up a cult-like following, both Haggis and Illes are working to make the roles their own.

Karrymain2Reid Haggis, currently a first year acting student enrolled in Mount Royal's theatre arts program, has been singing and dancing for over a decade. 

Photo by Karry Taylor

Haggis says that while he wants to do "justice" to the role of Frank-N-Further, he also doesn't want to simply mold it to Curry's famous adaptation.

"I want to let the character be authentic, real and to let him be the one whom everybody knows," Haggis says. "But at the same time, I want bring myself into it and put my own twist on it too."

Illes faces a similar challenge playing Eddie, a role played in the movie by actor and singer Meat Loaf.

While Illes says he finds it hard to "separate" Meat Loaf's performance from the role, he believes the tendency for Rocky Horror audience to become highly involved with the show will play a part in how he frames his own take on the character.

"A live show is very different from what the movie is. I have never had the experience before where an audience is throwing stuff at me as I am trying to perform," Illes says.

"I think that I will feed off that energy and it will empower my own performance."

Haggis says Rocky Horror is a show that "requires" an audience.

"That's the whole premise of the show — to invite the audience in and to let it be interactive," Haggis says.

For his part, Rathbun says he is looking forward to how the audience receives the show.

"Wherever you do Rocky Horror, it brings the Rocky fanatics out of the woodwork. It really is a fabulous, exciting production because of the audience involvement," Rathbun says.

Rocky newbies encouraged to attend

Illes says Rocky Horror is "a very non-elitist" show that welcomes all.

"There is going to be a very positive environment and vibe around the show. So we hope that people want to come see that and share in that," he says.

Haggis says those who haven't seen Rocky Horror before shouldn't be discouraged or intimidated. "Just come out and have a good time. If you like rock and roll music from the '70s and jazz music and horror films, you should come and see it," he says.

"Its such a huge, over-the-top and out there story. The audience can get lost in that and give themselves over to absolute pleasure."

The show's run will include two midnight performances (March 30 and April 6).

For more information on the show, visit Theatre MRU.

To read more Calgary Journal coverage on Rocky Horror, visit Rocky Horror rituals

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