Horror Business

Nothing rose-tints Matthew Yenkala's world more than that quintessential ritual for creatures of the night -- an interactive performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As the "self-appointed archivist and historian of all things Rocky in the Valley," Yenkala is proud to have an instrumental role in reviving local showings of the cult flick.

To any uninitiated "virgins" who haven't been to one of the film's notorious midnight screenings, the phenomenon combines Richard O'Brien's decadent rock 'n' roll sci-fi musical spoof with a cult of devoted audience members who sing along, shout back at the screen and wield an arsenal of kooky props. Most important, they keep coming back for more ("More! More! More!"), comparing notes on how many times they've seen it.

Sadly, for the past 16 months, there hasn't been a light over at the Frankenstein place -- Yenkala and his fellow Transylvanians had lost their regular gig at Tempe Cinemas after nearly two years of hosting Rocky Horror and simultaneous live performances from Broadway Bound & Gagged, a troupe that's acted the film at various locations for 12 years.

"We were one of the best-attended casts in the country, but through a combination of neighborhood protests and a slumping economy, we got the finger pointed at us," says Yenkala. After so many raucous Saturday nights, the theater discontinued an event that Yenkala says typically drew about 150 people a week.

It took a while to find Rocky a new home. "We were turned down by pretty much everyone in the Valley," Yenkala laments. "There weren't many options. All of the indie and little theaters have been thrown out of here."

After much searching for a venue, Yenkala scoped out the Spectrum Cinemas. He was delighted to learn that the theater's largest auditorium held 480 seats and a stage. "Of course, the light went on in my head," he says. "I went in to look at the theater, and not only is this a cavernous auditorium, but the stage is just beautiful."

Soon afterward, Yenkala's group was granted an indefinite Saturday-night run at Spectrum. It's as if Rocky Horror is finally going home: The theater was the first local venue for the film when it was a general release in 1975, and it was the early-'80s locale for midnight showings.

With so much local history, Rocky Horror screenings are sure to come with a built-in audience. Yenkala says it "tends to be a haven for all kinds of people who don't necessarily fit in easily elsewhere -- the misfits, the rebels, the loners." But even if you're one of those curious "virgins," you'll catch on quickly to doing the Time Warp. Yenkala advises, "Keep an open mind and don't be afraid -- we don't bite much unless we're asked, provoked or paid."

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig