Starting Frankie’s Fishnets, a local shadow cast for The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a natural progression longtime devotee Amanda Proctor.
She had been a part of another Rocky Horror cast before forming the group in August 2011 and had been watching the cult classic regularly since age 10. Proctor isn’t normally a fan of musicals, but something about the movie connected with her, particularly the character of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, played by Tim Curry.
“Once I watched that movie and Tim Curry’s cape came off, I knew I was meant to do this … Rocky Horror has always been my calling. The movie itself I like, but also the show on top of it. It’s just a place where everyone can have a good time,” Proctor says.
As someone who felt like an outcast in school, Proctor was able to find a community with other Rocky Horror fans. The group provides an inclusive environment where people can express themselves and promote body positivity. Riley Watkins, a performer who has been in multiple Rocky Horror shadow casts, said the role of Columbia has made her more confident.
“She’s someone I never thought I would have the confidence to play before, but once I got the costume, the wig, and the makeup down, it’s something that I really loved,” Watkins says.
Frankie’s Fishnets regularly performs at FilmBar and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema locations in Tempe and Chandler as the movie plays on the screen. Before each show, cast members go out into the crowd and mark willing audience members as “virgins.” These individuals are “sacrificed” before the start of the film.
The group first performed in a small 48-seat theater in downtown Mesa. Over the years, it has done events such as Mad Monster Party and Phoenix Fan Fusion. At one time, it did a monthly night at the Arizona Event Center.
The group is made up of 15 to 16 core members from different backgrounds that have become an extended family. Some members come from acting backgrounds, while others hadn't performed before joining the troupe.
For some members, performing is a family affair. Debbie Adams, a cast member training for the role of Magenta, and her daughter Zoe Adams, who plays Eddie and Dr. Scott, both joined at the same time. Debbie saw the movie when she was a teenager. She took her daughter to see the film one Halloween night when she was 14.
Many cast members play multiple characters and step in to set up, sell prop bags, or assist with lighting. From the start, Proctor wanted to create a group where everyone contributes.
“We just encourage the team effort, helping each other. Everybody is on everybody’s side. We are all there for Rocky Horror. We’re all there to put on the best show that we can possibly can,” Proctor says.
The members are drawn to the movie for different reasons. For many of them, seeing the movie isn't just a stationary experience. The crowd often gets involved in the show.
“For me, that’s extremely important, that there’s that connection. That’s really what they are there for,” Proctor says.
The movie appealed to Ethan Valentine, who regularly plays Dr. Frank-N-Furter. He remembers being drawn by "the mystery of going out after midnight, all of these people in these crazy costumes and makeup and sex everywhere.” He tries to bring a certain essence to the character.
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“You have to have an air of nonchalance while also being the most extra thing in the room,” Valentine says.
Gender-bending has always a part of the group’s performances. Some cast members, including longtime performer Jackie Chikos, play both male and female roles.
“It is a lot of fun to gender-bend the characters," Chikos says. "It gives you a lot of freedom. I joined ... because it got to be Halloween every weekend."
Frankie’s Fishnets are scheduled to perform on Saturday, October 26, and Sunday, October 27, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Chandler and Friday, November 1, and Saturday, November 2, at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Tempe. Tickets are available via the theater chain's website.