CARROLLTON, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – After city officials dimmed the proverbial – and literal – lights on a planned production of “The Rocky Horror Show,” private investors and a supportive public at large rallied together to give the show a second chance at life.
Initially set to open last year during Halloween weekend, the production was brought to a screeching halt after Carrollton officials got hold of rehearsal footage showing the cast performance of “Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me,” one of the more popular songs from the show.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mayor Wayne Garner was taken aback by the sexual overtones of the clip, and did not anticipate the adult nature of “The Rocky Horror Show.”
He reportedly termed what he saw as “very offensive,” and subsequently banned the production from the city-managed performance space.
“The Rocky Horror Show” – and the cult classic movie it inspired, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” – has a passionate fan base that has grown since the show’s first performances in the summer of 1973.
Often times, people will show up to productions of “The Rocky Horror Show” in costumes that emulate those of the main characters, and join in the fun through raucous and occasionally raunchy audience participation.
The production does not deny its adult undertones, mostly sexual in nature – nor has it reportedly ever attempted to do so.
“They thought it was too risqué, and rather than talking about it with us, or trying to get things changed, they cancelled the show,” director Michelle Rougier told CBS Atlanta.
A viral blitz of media coverage and a grassroots effort were essentially borne out of the cancellation, with thousands offering words – and dollars – of support toward getting the production back on its feet after the setback.
“Don’t Dream It, Be It! Fight Censorship & Fund Rocky Horror!” is splashed across the top of the Kickstarter page, which also shows that 84 donors rallied to raise $5,319 for the production.
The show will now up in the Townsend Center for the Performing Arts at the University of West Georgia. And those involved in getting the show off the ground couldn’t be happier, especially for the sake of cultivating growing talent.
“It’s all about these young people, and nurturing them,” Melanie Hopkins, costumer and backer of the show, told CBS Atlanta. “The talent – oh my gosh, I’ve never seen so much talent in one room in all my life … or enthusiasm.”
The production itself, and the ensuing controversy, have sparked something of a local debate regarding the necessity of censorship in the name of family and community morals.
Not everyone is a proponent of the public availability of certain kinds of content as sexual morality is an especially hot-button issue for supporters of such initiatives.
Those staunchly opposed to the use of censorship as a means of public protection, however, feel that this situation serves as an example of the negative attributes inherent in such actions.
“The Rocky Horror Show is not obscenity – because it has serious artistic and other value,” First Amendment Scholar David L. Hudson Jr. told CBS Atlanta.
Hudson, who works with the First Amendment Center, said that such acts of censorship go against the nation’s founding principles.
“The First Amendment protects a great deal of expression that government officials might find offensive,” he said. “In fact, the (Supreme) Court has explained that ‘a bedrock principle’ of the First Amendment is the protection of material that might be offensive or disagreeable to some.”
Crew members feel such actions have potentially detrimental effects on the development of a community, and that ticket sales should serve as the opposition’s form of protest.
“I don’t believe in keeping a community safe via censoring it,” Rougier said. “That’s like telling a child (not to) go out to the deep end, rather than going out with them and teaching them how to swim.”
Added Hudson, “As the (Supreme) Court also said, ‘One man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.’”
Vulgar display or valid art, the show will play to audiences throughout the first weekend of February. Those involved in the production see the run as simply the realization of an eventuality.
“We never really accepted the fact that we weren’t going to do the show,” Rougier said, adding that after the city announced the show’s cancellation and restricted their access to the community theater stage, the cast finished rehearsal on top of a local parking deck after discussing the events that had transpired.
“We never stopped rehearsing,” she added, expressing her pride in the cast and crew. “We knew the show would go on.”
Calls made by CBS Atlanta to Mayor Wayne Garner were not immediately returned.