Ottawa

Rocky Horror's back for Halloween, this time without the toast

There will be no tossing of toast or toilet paper when The Rocky Horror Picture Show returns to Ottawa's Mayfair Theatre this Halloween, and you can forget about rushing the stage to do the Time Warp again.

Mayfair presents 'non-participation just-sit-and-watch edition' of cult classic

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ottawa's Mayfair Theatre regularly showed The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This month's screenings will be the first since February 2020. (Facebook)

There will be no tossing of toast or toilet paper when The Rocky Horror Picture Show returns to Ottawa's Mayfair Theatre this Halloween, and you can forget about rushing the stage to do the Time Warp again.

Typically, audience participation is a must at one of the Mayfair's regular screenings of the campy 1975 cult classic. There's confetti, water pistols and rude words shouted out at key moments. 

But thanks to COVID-19, this is no typical year.

This year we're asking them to sit down, to not throw anything, to not yell out anything, to not dance, to not touch or salivate on us.- Sam Kellerman

Welcome to the Mayfair's "non-participation just-sit-and-watch edition" of TRHPS.

"Feel free to dress up as your favourite character, but do not bring items to be thrown in the air, don't yell call-backs at the screen, no dancing in the aisles, and wear your mask except for while seated and eating or drinking," the independent cinema warns on its website.

Still 'a ton of fun'

"We just want to make sure everyone knows it's not going to be a free-for-all," said Lee Demarbre, the Mayfair's owner and programmer. "It's still going to be a ton of fun."

Before the pandemic, the Mayfair screened TRHPS monthly, drawing sold-out audiences of devoted fans.

In past years, "the floor's covered in toilet paper and other such props. Men are wearing their girlfriend's or their sister's or their mom's underwear. People are running around having a good old time," Demarbre said.

Cinemas in Ontario were allowed to reopen in July, and earlier this month the province lifted capacity limits. Masks and proof of vaccination are still required, however, and Demarbre said the Mayfair continues to exercise extreme caution to avoid another shutdown.

This month's screening will still be 'a ton of fun' even without the usual audience participation, promised the Mayfair's owner and programmer Lee Demarbre. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Please be seated

When TRHPS is screened at the Mayfair at the end of the month, longtime "shadow cast" leader Sam Kellerman will be front and centre for the first time since February 2020, but in a much more muted role. 

In the past, the shadow cast would perform live on stage while the film rolled behind them. Audience participation was not only encouraged, but practically demanded. 

"This year we're asking them to sit down, to not throw anything, to not yell out anything, to not dance, to not touch or salivate on us, as they typically would," Kellerman said.

Sam Kellerman leads TRHPS 'shadow cast' at the Mayfair. (Facebook)

The same rules will apply to Kellerman's troupe.

"We're not allowed to dance. We're tethered to our seats," he said. "That being said, it's better than nothing."

Kellerman will introduce the film and discuss its storied history in Ottawa, then afterward he and other available cast members will participate in a Q&A session with the audience. (Demarbre likened it to "Masterpiece Theatre if it was hosted by Frank N. Furter," referring to Tim Curry's gender-bending character in the movie.)

Normally, Kellerman's troupe performs on stage while the film plays behind them. Not this year. (Petr Maur Photography/Facebook)

Kellerman said he hopes the Mayfair will soon be able to return to monthly screenings of TRHPS, along with the audience participation that makes the experience so unique.

"Hopefully sometime in 2022 we'll be able to get back into our heels and go for it," he said.

The Mayfair is screening The Rocky Horror Picture Show twice each on Oct. 30 and 31. Advance tickets are on sale through the theatre's website.

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