The etiquette, traditions and all the information you need to go and see this cult classic whether it’s your first time ever or a yearly tradition!
So you’ve decided (or been coerced) to see Rocky Horror Picture Show this year. Be it in the theatre, or live, there are some things you should know before you walk into that theatre for the first or the 100th time.
If you would like to just look at a specific section of this article you can use the links below…otherwise enjoy!
First: always buy your tickets in advance. Tickets for this show almost always sell out and often additional showings are added if this happens. Don’t wait to get your ticket at the door or all your hard work and preparation may be turned away! And we don’t want that to happen!
While you are ordering your tickets always make sure to check with the theatre/performance to see what is allowed of their guests. Here is a list of things to ask:
- Is audience participation allowed? If it is, then to what level? Are call-backs ok but participation kits are forbidden? Is it a live performance and participation will distract the performers?
- Do you allow your patrons to dress up? If so, then do you have any restrictions on what type of costumes are allowed? (some theatres have restrictions or regulations about just how revealing a costume can be or suggestions like wearing a coat to the theatre over your outfit in order to comply with the regulations of the area they are located).
- Are your patrons allowed to bring their own participation kits? If they are what restrictions are there on what is contained in the kits (some theatres will let you toss toast but it can’t have butter or anything on it…it must be dry, others will reject the use of confetti or glitter)? What modifications does your theatre/performance require? If you don’t allow outside kits: will there be kits at the theatre/performance for purchase? Or are kits strictly forbidden? If kits are for sale is there a list of the items inside so that the patrons can know ahead of time what call backs and participation moments to focus on?
Many of these things will probably be answered on the website where you find the event. Most places that have hosted this event for years will know what to put on their informational pages. You may not even have to ask anything when you reserve your tickets. But when in doubt ALWAYS ask. While participation in this show is fun it is often mildly destructive and means that the theatre may not want to take the time to clean up the mess that this show can leave behind.
Please be respectful of any requirements and regulations your participating theatre or performance group may have. One person can ruin the experience for everyone and can prevent further performances. If you enjoy being able to participate in this fun event year after year then be respectful and have fun.
Below you’ll find other information broken down by category. Feel free to skip to the category that you may want more information on.
Normally dressing up is not only acceptable it is ENCOURAGED! And you don’t have to dress as a particular character to have fun with this. If you want to go with a generic costume any combination of vintage style dress particularly in pastel colors, corset, fishnets, high heels, vintage style flats, vintage button downs, khakis, wingtips, anything acceptable to wear to a sock hop, cardigans and sweaters, pretty much anything gothic or dark, or any sort of undergarments you are comfortable wearing in public (particularly if they are embellished in pleather or sparkles) are all acceptable to wear.
If you have more conservative sensibilities do be aware that this is the kind of show were anything goes and you will see everything from half naked women walking men on a leash to fully buttoned up vintage pin up dolls. This does not mean you have to dress like this. Just be prepared to see a lot of skin.
If you want to dress up as a specific character here is a quick list of items you may have around your house or can pick up for cheap.
Do note: these are just suggestions. Honestly, it’s the overall feel of the characters that make them recognizable. Feel free to put your own personal spin and comfort level on the outfits! I’ve seen some awesome Janet (underwear outfits) in everything from a thong and corset to a full pinup undergarment set complete with the crinoline. It’s all about the general feel of the character!
Janet has a few outfits throughout the show.
The easiest of which is the pastel and white outfit that she shows up to the mansion in. it is simply a pastel pink button-down style dress (any type of pastel dress will do) belted around the waist. A white (or light colored) cardigan and a matching pair of shoes and purse. It doesn’t matter if you match the colors in the movie exactly… most everyone will know who you are if you wear something like this. Especially if you are joined by someone dressed as Brad.
If you are willing to be a little more scandalous but still covered up you could go for Janet in her underwear. This is a simple white bra (of any style you are comfortable in), a white slip usually of a silky material (the kind you could find at a big box store for a few bucks), the white shoes and the white purse from above. And white brief style full coverage undies. If you want to be a little more daring you could rip the front off the slip…this happens to Janet in the movie.
Brad has a few outfits in the show as well.
The most common of which is the outfit he shows up to the mansion in. Grey slacks (or really any color), a white button down, a sweater vest and some sort of vintage jacket (in the movie it is a tan jacket sporting the Denton, TX high school logo on the front), white calf-high socks, and some sort of tennis shoe/loafer/dress shoe. And you can’t forget the glasses… some sort of horn-rimmed plastic framed glasses…usually slightly square in shape. Again, like Janet, colors here can vary. Its more the overall look that gets the point across.
And just like with Janet, if you want to be a little more daring you can go with his underwear look: white brief style underwear (I recommend ones made out of a thick fabric or maybe two layers), white calf-high socks, tennis shoes/loafers/dress shoes, and the famous horn-rimmed glasses. Variations of this add a white tank-top style undershirt… or even a pastel colored women’s cut bathrobe (if you want to go with Brad a little further into the film).
If you want simple then go with Magenta. Basically some variation of a French style maids outfit as long or a short as you are comfortable with, fishnet thigh highs and boots or heels finish the ensemble… Make sure to curl your hair and tease it big. Bonus points if you dye it burgundy or go with a wig! Add a feather duster, or not, and you are set.
Magenta also has a simple outfit made from a (often sheer) black negligee and the appropriate undergarments (often sparkly), fishnet stockings, and heels or boots with the same curled and teased hair.
A riff on the traditional butler’s costume. With a little flamboyance added: tails from an old tuxedo, a white vest (with no shirt), skinny or tuxedo cut pants, heels or combat style boots (whichever you are comfortable in), biker or other fingerless style gloves, and a long haired wig with a bald top. The hunch on the back is optional.
If you are into super flamboyant you can always dress up as Columbia. She is the brightest and flashiest of the group.
Her most memorable outfit is as follows: rainbow striped black satin shorts (quite short shorts), a rainbow sparkly corset, red sparkly bowtie, gold sequined top hat and tailcoat, fishnets or sheer tights with the seams up the back, light blue bobbie-style socks and some sort of heels (usually Mary Jane style).
My favorite outfit is her pjs outfit. A pair of vintage style pjs (the ones that look like a button up shirt and a pair of pj pants that match), and a bra or nothing underneath the top (if you are really daring), and a mickey mouse ear hat.
Dr. Frank N Furter:
Has the most outfits of everyone…the diva that he is.
The simplest is his most noted. A black corset or teddy usually sparkly or sequined, fishnet stocking or thigh highs with a garter belt, black brief underwear (preferably shiny), some sort of high heels, a pearl or faux pearl necklace, elbow length fingerless gloves and full makeup (kind of a play on the pale faces of vampires with a little drag queen thrown in for good measure). A crazy mop of fairly quaffed hair completes the look. Some variations add a feather boa or a leather biker jacket. Boots can also replace the heels if you aren’t comfortable in them or can’t find your size!
His lab outfit is the same look as above but adds on a green lab coat and pink rubber gloves. Because this is a more covered up look the most important part of his main outfit are the few items we can see: the elbow gloves, pearl necklace, hair and makeup, the fishnet stockings, and heels
Take outfit one and add a leather biker jacket.
Check the “finale costume” for his other look.
Gold briefs or boy shorts, gold boots. Two items. The skimpiest and the simplest of all the costumes in the film.
One of the easiest of the costumes…Eddie is your typical Greaser from the 1950s. Cuffed jeans, black tee shirt, leather biker boots (doc martins also work), leather biker vest (bonus points if you trick it out with spikes and leopard print lapels), a long white scarf. Pair this with a pompadour hairstyle and you are set.
This works even better as a couples costume with someone dressed as Columbia (in her first outfit sans the top hat and tailcoat)
This works great for groups. Brad, Janet, Rocky, Columbia and Frank all wear this outfit: black corset (red for Frank), black panties, black garter belt, black high heels, thigh high black fishnets, red or black feather boa.
Audience participation is HUGE in Rocky Horror. All AP varies from theatre to theatre and community to community. If you aren’t sure the following information is usually pretty safe. When you feel something coming call it out. The whole point of the community is finding new or revisiting old discarded lines and keeping the show fresh. Don’t be frightened to participate. It’s the whole point of the community is to have fun!
Common Call Backs/Participation:
Call Backs can vary from theatre to theatre. Some performances even provide sheets with the more common and universally acceptable call backs. Here are some typical ones and when they are used!
- Slut! (or some variation)- when Janet appears or more commonly when her full name “Janet Weiss” is said**
- Asshole! (or some variation)- when Brad appears on screen or more commonly when his full name “Brad Majors” is said**
- Do the Time Warp! Most performances will teach you the dance before the movie starts but it’s a simple dance:
- “it’s just a jump to the left”- hop to your left
- “and a step to the ri-ri-ri-i-i-ight!”- on “step” put your right foot to the right and then repeat as they sing “right” ending with your feet around shoulder width apart (for more advanced dancers: as you step your right foot to the side keep your hands at waist level and move them out and back to your belly button)
- “put your hands on your hips”- put your hands above your head and circle them out to your sides ending with them on your hips…if you want to make this even sillier then make your hands jazz hands
- “and bring your knees in ti-i-ight!”- starting with one then the other bring just your knees into each other leaving your feet about shoulder width apart
- “but it’s the pelvic thrust”- thrust your pelvis forward and back around 3-5 times
- “that really drives you in-sa-a-a-a-ane!”- circle your hips around in time to the music…not in a fluid motion
- “lets do the Time Warp again!” jump and face your body to the side (usually to face the left)
- When Dr.Scott comes into the show there is a good minute long scene where everyone is saying each others’ names. After “Rocky!” Yell: “Bullwinkle!”
**be careful with the overuse of these call backs. While the easiest these should be used pointedly and not at every single appearance. These characters are on screen a lot and these call backs can become irritating, especially to those who are frequent Rocky Horror patrons.
Kits contain the physical items that you use to participate in the show. Some uses are apparent (like the squirt guns and the newspapers during the song “Over at the Frankenstein place”) others are little more obscure like the toilet paper. I am going to list the most common items and where they are used in the show. But remember, always check with your theatre/performance on what items are or are not allowed or even what modifications you may have to make to items (like taping the toilet paper roll closed or only using paper confetti).
- Rice- toss this in the beginning of the film when the wedding party is throwing rice at the newly weds
- Newspaper- when Janet covers her head from the rain so should you!
- Water pistols- use these to simulate the rain that Brad and Janet are caught in…that’s why the newspapers are handy!
- Some sort of compact light such as flashlight or the light on your phone (please do not use open flames like a lighter if this is not allowed by the theatre)- when the lyrics to “over at the Frankenstein place” say “there’s a light” its time to light up the theatre
- Rubber gloves- snap these when Frankenfurter snaps his in the creation scene
- Noisemakers or celebration horns (the kind you use on New Years Eve)- ring in during the celebration of the creation with the rest of the Transylvanians
- Confetti- toss this when the Transylvanians do as Frank and Rocky head back towards their bedroom
- Toilet paper- when Brad yells “great Scott!” as Dr. Scott enters the lab toss this at the screen (seems silly but it is because of the brand of toilet paper)
- A piece or two of toast (DRY)- when Frank goes to make a toast…throw the toast at the screen
- Party hat (like from a birthday)- put yours on when Frank puts on his
- Bell- during the song “Planet Shmanet Janet” Frank sings the line “did you hear a bell ring?” Ring it now!
- Playing cards (you just need a few so most groups split a pack)- when Frank sings “I’m going home” there is a line that says “cards for sorrow, cards for pain” you should toss these around now
What do you crazy people mean by VIRGIN?!?!?!
In the Rocky Horror world the term Virgin is used to describe ANYONE who has NEVER seen the show in a theatre usually with a live cast that acts out some of the parts of the film in front of the screen but at the very least in a theatre with complete audience participation.
NOTE: SEEING THE FILM AT HOME OR ON TV DOES NOT COUNT FOR YOUR VIRGINITY STANDING!!!
So if it is your first time you should be prepared. Here are some tips:
Wear whatever makes you comfortable. You shouldn’t feel obligated to dress as any particular character or in any particular way. Just be prepared to see a lot of varying states of undress, dress, dress up, cosplay, kink and a lot of craziness… I promise we may look crazy but we are all just here to have fun.
No one expects you to understand anything that is going on, any call backs or when to use your props…if you are with a group of friends they will help you with all of this if you want to play with us. If not just enjoy! Its all about being part of the group and the culture!
If you know some of the simple call backs (for example when Janet shows up you yell “slut” or when Brad shows up you yell “asshole”) don’t do them every single time during the film. These are easy to learn but get really annoying if they are said EVERY time these characters appear…they are in the show for MOST of the time. There are lots of simple ones to learn and you’ll get the hang of it soon!
If you don’t want to participate in the Virgin Ceremony then it’s best to make sure that your group knows that. They will keep you firmly in your seat. As a community we love to have fun and laugh, and be kind of crude, but we don’t want anyone so uncomfortable that they don’t come back or don’t have fun. We will listen to your wishes!
The Virgin Ceremony:
This varies from theatre to theatre and usually consists of two carefully chosen Virgins from the audience.
In some places all other Virgins will be marked when they come in with a lipstick “V” on your forehead. This isn’t meant to be embarrassing…its more of a sign to let those around you know if we should help you out! Either by teaching you something, or offering you a quick time warp lesson, or something out of our prop kit (or even shelter under our newspaper as the rain falls down). Usually being marked like this is more than helpful for the community around you but if you really don’t want to stand out just let the person marking Virgins know.
The community is meant to be fun and inclusive. We want you to come back. We want you to feel safe and comfortable. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable through their actions, words or is pressuring you in any way find the coordinators of the event (or anyone who is helping the theatre out) and let them know. We want you to be safe.
Some common Virgin participation ceremonies are things like deep throating a banana, faking an orgasm or eating a brownie out of other Virgin’s lap (to look like you are eating them out…this is what I was asked to do and it was super fun and all in the spirit of the night),
After you have watched the movie in the theatre ONCE then you NEVER are considered a Virgin again and are safe from this silly and fun bit of the community.