Whether shivering with an-ti-ci....pation over the "Glee" spin on Rocky Horror Picture Show, or drawn to the theater by Halloween's siren call to "be it, don't dream it," it seems appropriate to touch base with Aron Siegel, arguably Atlanta's Rocky Horror steward, as producer of Lips Down on Dixie's RHPS floor show.
For those uninitiated (aka Virgins), one simple bit of advice: Get thee to the Plaza Theatre, and bust that RHPS cherry with Lips Down On Dixie, an experienced troupe, who will be gentle, and make sure you remember your first time fondly.
Siegel, who both produces the floor show, and performs as the Criminologist, is an Atlanta film production stalwart, having worked professionally as location sound mixer and independent film producer for more than 10 years. His feature mixing credits include The Greenskeeper horror film starring John Rocker, Blood Car starring Anna Chlumsky, Conjurer starring John Schneider, 20 Years After starring Josh Leonard and Azura Skye, The Way Home starring Dean Cain, and most significantly, The Signal winner at Sundance 2007. He recently helped produce the sci-fi/drama I am the Bluebird. Siegel also mixed all the Webisodes and mixed for the splinter unit of the CW episodic television series, "Vampire Diaries," and was the principal sound mixer on the Sony-Lifetime TV Series "Drop Dead Diva," which just wrapped its second season.
Tell me about Lips Down on Dixie? How long has the group been performing in Atlanta? Have you always been at the Plaza?
Lips Down on Dixie began in June of 2000 at Merchant's Walk Theater. The cast relocated to the Plaza Theatre in December of 2000, which is still its home base today.
In its first year at the Plaza, the cast was predominantly Rocky-oriented and its efforts earned the cast a spot on the cover of Creative Loafing as well as a cabaret-style show at the Masquerade for the club's "Secret Room."
In 2002, LDOD spread its focus, keeping Rocky Horror a priority but also establishing itself as a theater troupe. Working to spread recognition beyond the midnight performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the cast has taken several opportunities to really showcase its talent.
The first came unexpectedly in May of 2002, when a thunderstorm knocked out power for several city blocks, including the Plaza Theatre. Instead of canceling the show, the cast just kept on performing, singing and acting out the movie with nothing but high-powered flashlights and even stronger lungs. The performance became affectionately known as "LDOD Unplugged," and its success earned the cast a spot in the Atlanta Constitution's "Peach Buzz" section and stirred interest from other theater groups.
LDOD invaded Atlanta's fetish nightclub, the Chamber, for two fetish-themed shows within a two-week period entitled "The Rocky Horror Fetish Show." The performances featured variants on traditional Rocky costumes and characters as they performed the classic "Time Warp" and an alternate version of "Sweet Transvestite" and swapped the Eddie and Columbia interaction of "Hot Patootie" for Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."
In its later years, LDOD has appeared at other venues in town including Starlight Drive-In's yearly Rock ’n’ Roll Monster Bash performing Rob Zombie's "Brick House", Club Future performing "I'm a slave for you" and Tongue & Groove for their Lingerie Fashion Show.
The goals of the cast are outlined in its mission statement:
LDOD wants to offer an atmosphere for young adults in the Atlanta area where they can be themselves, without the stigma of peer pressure or the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Not only does the cast achieve its goal of providing a danger-free environment in which kids can go wild, throw things, sing, dance, and scream audience participation lines at a movie screen, but it also puts on a performance that is cohesive, screen-accurate, and, most importantly, energetic and fun.
LDOD's slogan is "Betcha haven't seen it like this!"
To what do you attribute the longevity of RHPS?
The Rocky Horror Picture Show [at a theater] is not just a movie. It’s an experience. I’ve often compared watching the movie on DVD at home and experiencing it in a theater to watching a cooking show on TV versus cooking and tasting the meal yourself.
The longevity can be attributed to most live shows; there’s a always a different performance.
The cast and audience manage to change the audience participation lines as necessary when something makes the headlines, though there has been no [Christine] O’Donnell material as of yet.
Tell me about the first time you saw RHPS?
Then notes I wrote from our original program say it best:
NOTES FROM THE PRODUCER:
The Rocky Horror Experience Defined
What can I say? It's been 27 years since The Rocky Horror Picture Show first flickered on movie screens around the country. In its initial release, RHPS bombed. It wasn't Rocky's first run that mattered. It was the continued midnight showings that caught on. First with a handful of people shouting back at the screen, then with the added 'props' like rice and toilet paper, and then finally performers.
Atlanta's Rocky Horror experience was delayed a few years. George and Michael Ellis owned a few theaters here and started showing Rocky Horror in September of 1978 at the Film Forum theater (now Garden Hills) on Peachtree Street. Rocky Horror was so popular in Atlanta that the Ellis's had five screenings a weekend. Once at midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then again at 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
My first RHPS experience was anticlimactic compared to today's productions. Less is more was definitely the case. Of course, I didn't know what to expect when I walked into the theatre. There were no virgin christenings or certificates. There was no special fuss made for anyone that had never seen the movie before. But there was an Emcee. Michael Ellis began with what I learned was a Rocky ritual. He calmly sat on the front of the stage and stated the rules. 1) Don't throw anything at the screen. 2) If you parked in the Al Hambra apartments parking lot, you will get towed away! (which made for a great a/p line for 'Whatever happened to Fay Wray?' (She parked in the Al Hambra apartments and got towed away!). 3) No liquor. The list was quite short compared to today's laundry list. The lights went down and the movie started. I was completely taken aback by the audience participation (A/P). But as I later realized, the best was yet to come. There were no actors playing Brad, Janet, or any of the other characters even through the "Time Warp." True, the audience members all got on their feet to dance the "Time Warp," but nary a sign of any performer. Finally, rhythmic clapping from the audience signaling the descending elevator and stiletto heels tapping along to a low bass line on the screen revealed Frankenfurter! The most amazing thing happened. Right on the screen in front of me was Tim Curry dressed in makeup and costume, and right directly in front of the screen was a man that could have been Tim Curry's double completely in sync with his screen counterpart! The musical number finished and there he went—out of sight for the rest of the movie. There was also an Eddie, but nothing will ever compare with my introduction to live performance synchronized to the screen.
There was something else about that experience that has lasted all these years. There was a sense of belonging. That everyone had gathered in the same place at the same time for a party, and that even though I knew no one, they welcomed me with open arms. They did not judge me by my appearance, ethnicity, sexual orientation or any other criteria, they just accepted me. I was still in high school and pretty much a shy and quiet kid. The Rocky Horror mantra "Don't Dream It, Be it" helped me. In the following years, I became president of the Drama Club, Editor of the school newspaper, Host of a TV show for kids, and Master Of Ceremonies for the high school beauty pageant. I became very secure in my own sexuality and as a result very accepting of others not necessarily 'playing for the same team'.
Film Forum lost its copy of RHPS in late 1979. Atlanta went without Rocky Horror for Six months. Early in 1980, George Lefont brought Rocky Horror to the Silver Screen theatre in Peachtree Battle shopping center. I was recruited to join the performing cast by a group of unlikely performers. Because Lefont limited his screenings of RHPS to only midnight Friday and Saturday, our attendance was very strong. We sold out a 400-seat theatre on both Fridays and Saturdays. And our attendees were among the who's who in the country. From members of R.E.M., the B-52's, Prince, Ru Paul, we ran the gamut of entertainers and celebrities.
Shortly thereafter, I got a job in the nightclub business as a DJ and wasn't able to continue my favorite obsession. It wasn't until years later when RHPS had moved several times that I was able to go back. One of my excursions while traveling to NYC, was to see Rocky at the 8th Street playhouse. What a thrill. While on a trip to London, most people visit Buckingham Palace etc. I went to Oakley Court hotel, the castle for the filming of RHPS.
The 2001 summer was certainly nostalgic. I began performing as The Criminologist for Lips Down on Dixie and went thrifting for great Rocky costumes. There's an old saying that you can never go home. It's not exactly true. You just need to know how to get there.
What we have tried to create for you is a Rocky Horror experience like the one from Rocky in its infancy. Enjoy the show
Are you excited about "Glee" episode? Do you have anything in store for "Gleek" virgins who venture to the Plaza in the coming weeks?
There are a number of our cast members that are true Gleeks. We have a few surprises for our Gleek virgins. Only time will tell.
What is your favorite B-Movie?
Other than Rocky Horror, I’m a big fan of Brian DePalma’s Phantom of the Paradise.
Lips Down On Dixie performs weekly at the Plaza Theatre every Friday at Midnight. Get there early as the Pre-show entertainment begins in the lobby line.
Visit them online here: http://www.lipsdownondixie.org/
Friend them on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Atlanta-GA/Lips-Down-On-Dixie-inc/86216487718
Friend the Plaza on Facebook, too: http://www.facebook.com/ThePlazaAtlanta?ref=ts
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