Shadowcasting is any performance in which the cinema and live theater are combined to create a unique interactive experience. This not only encourages audience participation – it requires it. This interaction usually comes in the form of shouting out comedic lines and the use of certain props at key points in the movie. A typical shadowcast show is made of four elements.
- The Movie – broadcast on a screen behind the stage.
- The Audience – the people viewing the show.
- The Actors – the people acting out The Movie on stage.
- The Riffers – Actors in the audience, who involve The Audience in the show.
Shadowcasting has roots in the Italian street theater of the 16th century. Performers would play their roles in the street and other actors – pretending to be part of the audience- would encourage the people around them to talk back to the actors, becoming a part of the show. But despite drawing upon this long tradition of interactive theater, Shadowcasting in its’ modern form is a relatively young art.
They Came From Denton High
It all began in the early 1970’s when a young musician/actor named Richard O’Brien teamed with director Jim Sharman to create a musical tribute to classic horror movies and classic rock. Originally titled They Came From Denton High, the show was renamed The Rocky Horror Show just before its’ first preview. It opened in London in June 1973 and was an instant success. It opened in the USA nine months later, at the legendary Roxy Theater in Los Angeles. The Roxy’s owner, record producer Lou Adler, introduced the show to several executives from 20th Century Fox and convinced them that a film adaptation of Rocky Horror would be a hit.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show tells the story of Brad and Janet – a young, ordinary, healthy couple. On the way to announce their engagement to their favorite teacher, Dr. Scott, the two are waylaid by a flat tire. With a storm moving in, the two are forced to seek shelter at a nearby spooky castle, where the bizarre Dr. Frank N. Furter is hosting a party for several unconventional conventionists. What follows is a descent into decadence, as Frank violates the laws of nature and basic decency in creating the perfect man – the titular Rocky – and hijinks ensue.
The First Shadowcasts
Adler’s enthusiasm proved to be misplaced. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a commercial and critical flop, quickly pulled from the theaters and transferred to the midnight movie rotation. And then… something strange happened. An executive noticed that Rocky Horror was making more money as a midnight movie than it had as a regular release. What’s more, they had received reports of people showing up at the midnight showings dressed as characters from the movie.
These people would sing their favorite songs and dance The Time Warp in the front of the theaters. Some of them also made wisecracks about the movie, but with far greater creativity than your standard heckler. These fans would go on to form the first Shadowcasts. In time, Shadowcasts would be developed for other films that had developed a following – including the recent cult classic REPO! The Genetic Opera.
The Necromerchant’s Debt
REPO! The Genetic Opera started as a series of 10-minute operas,. One of the most popular – entitled The Necromerchant’s Debt – was performed by Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith in 1999. These operas were performed around the Los Angeles area and began acquiring a cult fan base. By 2008, after many 10-minute operas, a full length live show and an off-off Broadway extended run, the world of REPO! The Genetic Opera was filmed and released as a full-length rock opera movie.
REPO! The Genetic Opera
In the not so distant future, 2056 A.D., an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges. GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family’s mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera.
The Cult Phenomenon – The Repo! Army
While the movie release was limited, the outpouring of fan support was not. REPO! fans came to screenings of REPO! in armies, many in costume, ready to sing along with the dark, gothic, rock opera. With this came the REPO ARMY! – a nationwide group of fans with one goal; to spread the love of REPO! Soon – as with Rocky Horror before – local REPO ARMY! chapters banded together and formed shadowcasts.