BWW Interview: Ryan Boyles, Lindsay Bretz, Mamie Covell, And Brian Viera of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center
It's time to do the Time Warp again, with The Rocky Horror Show at HMAC! This cult classic has become a favorite for local theatres around the Halloween season. This is the 10th anniversary for the show at HMAC, and this final season for Rocky Horror at the theatre will not disappoint. The cast includes a talented group of HMAC veterans and new-comers, who are all passionate about sharing this unique theatre experience with their audiences. The show will run through November 3rd. For those who already love the show or who are curious to learn more, BroadwayWorld had an extraordinary opportunity to speak with four of the cast members of this production of The Rocky Horror Show at HMAC-veterans Ryan Boyles (Frank N. Furter) and Lindsay Bretz (Magenta), and new-comers Brian Viera (Rocky) and Mamie Covell (phantom).
BWW: Tell us a little about yourself.
Boyles: I have been involved in theatre since playing the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz in 2nd grade. I love all aspects of the arts from performing to directing. In addition to a job working in health insurance, I have also worked for the past 15 years in schools as the performing arts director. I currently reside in Mt. Holly Springs with my wife Sherry and our son Evan.
Bretz: I've always loved music. Theatre entered my life when I was in 6th grade and has been one of my passions ever since. Performing makes me feel so alive. Most recently, producing, directing, and choreographing has heightened that feeling. My main goal in this industry is for everyone to work together and to help people realize their talents. One of the reasons I love HMAC so much and have done so many shows here is because of their enormous support of the arts. I currently live in Lancaster with my three kitties and manage/serve at The Belvedere Inn. I also work at the Central Market on the weekends and teach private voice.
Covell: My name is Mamie Covell, and this is my first time performing at HMAC. I was recently seen in Genesius Theatre's production of Fun Home as Medium Alison, and also portrayed Veronica Sawyer in Heathers: The Musical last spring. I grew up doing theatre, and the stage will always be a place to call home. I am so excited to experience a production at HMAC!
Viera: My name is Brian Viera, and I'm playing Rocky, in The Rocky Horror Show. I've been acting since my freshman year at Millersville University. I've done several shows in multiple theaters across PA, and have a brief 2-year stint as a professional actor working out of Philadelphia and New York.
BWW: If you've performed in The Rocky Horror Show before, what characters have you played, and what do you love about the show?
Boyles: I have donned the heels of Dr. Frank N. Furter in every production of Rocky Horror I have been in. I remember the first time I was involved with the stage show I was sure I was going to be cast as Brad. That was just the typical type of role I had always played. When I was offered the role of Frank, I was surprised and excited. What a chance to totally break out of what had always been my typical role-the all-American good guy. It was and continues to be invigorating to take on such an iconic role in the pop culture scene. The excitement, energy, callbacks, music, and overall experience....there is so much to love about the show. It is pure fun entertainment.
Bretz: I have played four roles in this show: Eddie, Columbia, Magenta and Janet. I've also produced, directed and choreographed. I don't think there's enough room here to say how much this show means to me. From the moment I saw the show live, I wanted to be a part of it...and once I was, I became hooked. I found some of the best friends in my life from this show, fell in love during this show, went through heartbreak during this show, and created some of the most amazing memories during this show.
BWW: If this is your first time doing The Rocky Horror Show, why did you decide to do this show?
Covell: I knew a few members of the cast from other Theatre projects, and when the opportunity came up I was quick to say yes! Rocky Horror has always been on my Bucket List as an actor. The show is such a unique and exciting cult classic, Ive always wanted to be a part of it.
Viera: I was actually approached by the director, who knew I was an actor with a little bit of singing talent. I'm always up for an opportunity to portray a new role, especially when it's a comedy like this one. I have not done the show before, but I'm glad to have this opportunity. I love the interaction between the audience and the show itself, almost as if Rocky Horror pokes fun at conventional theater where the rules tell you to "be quiet, sit still, be nice." I think it's a clever spin that the audience is allowed to be "rude" during the show, like how best friends get along by making fun of each other. I believe this is what makes the show spectacular.
BWW: This is the 10th anniversary and final year for The Rocky Horror Show at HMAC. HMAC is a great venue for The Rocky Horror Show-if you've performed at HMAC before, what is your favorite thing about the space? If this is your first time at HMAC, what have you enjoyed about doing The Rocky Horror Show at HMAC?
Boyles: When we first did the show at HMAC, we performed in the downstairs venue - Stage on Herr. The rest of HMAC did not exist in its current state yet. That environment was great. The audience was right in the middle of the action. The crowds were right there with us and engaged every step of the way. When HMAC got to expand and created the Capital Room, we moved to the upstairs venue. It was exciting to expand the production and see what a new space had to offer. With the move, we still have the tight audience engagement, but it has taken on a whole "rock concert" vibe which just takes the show to a whole other level of excitement. The crowds at HMAC have always been so excited and know exactly how they are a critical part of the show with their participation/callbacks.
Bretz: HMAC is truly one of the coolest spaces I've ever performed in. It's edgy and different-it has character. That is the most important part. It's not your everyday theatre, and that's what makes it unique. When I do shows at HMAC I can invite everyone I know, not just "theatre-goers." There's rotating artwork on the walls, bars to grab drinks at, a restaurant for food...it really has it all.
Covell: This is my first time at HMAC. The space has a very tight-knit artistic community surrounding it. There are so many projects and events happening at every moment within the building, it is beautiful to see. I enjoy the welcoming attitude of the cast. Many members of our cast have been doing this for years, so it was a bit intimidating to come in as a rookie. The craziness and wit of this group of talented people made me feel very at home. I'm so glad to share their stage.
Viera: I think, for Rocky Horror specifically, HMAC has a very loose, casual feel to it, with tables and chairs set up to be moved around in whatever way you feel, and with a bar nearby. The show just fits the theater so well.
BWW: What is your favorite thing about your character in this production of The Rocky Horror Show?
Boyles: Frank owns who he is. He is 1000% comfortable in his own skin. His larger than life personality can draw in anyone who is willing to "give themselves over." The confidence that Frank exudes in being who he is is something that I think a lot of people struggle with. While the show may be deemed "silly" or "nonsense" on many levels by many people, I think it has established itself as an opportunity for people to just let their guard down, not worry what people think, and have fun. Plus, who doesn't like the idea of playing a role where you feel like a "rock icon" for a few hours.
Bretz: My favorite thing about Magenta is that she really doesn't give a sh*t about anything except being sexy. She's a freak. And in this last production of Rocky Horror at HMAC, I am truly grateful, after 13 years of doing this, that I get to play my absolute favorite role. She starts and ends the show and only has about six lines, but they're all great. What more could one ask for?
Covell: Phantoms are very playful, I enjoy expressing that level of pure fun.
Viera: I don't have to sing much. I can carry a tune, but compared to people who are actual singers, I don't think I can compare. There's also something freeing about being exposed the way Rocky is on stage. Confidence is key, since people tend to judge the character of Rocky based almost solely on his physique.
BWW: A number of theatres, including HMAC, perform The Rocky Horror Show year after year. In your opinion, what is it about The Rocky Horror Show that keeps audiences coming back?
Boyles: Its cult status and the opportunity to participate. Since the inception of the callbacks/props, people love the opportunity to participate. Here is a show where you don't have to be quiet. Being able to talk back and throw stuff, takes this show to a place where others don't go. Also, as times change, the callbacks change, which makes for a new experience while still including the "old standards." For many, it has become a tradition. A person will come for the first time, maybe not even totally being able to comprehend exactly what happened, but they know they had fun and want to come back.
Bretz: The callbacks. The props. The inappropriateness. The sexiness. The music. What doesn't Rocky Horror have? It's a cult classic that will continue to live on for years to come.
Covell: It is a cult classic. Everyone loves an excuse to play dress up!
Viera: I think it's the audience interaction and pseudo-mockery of traditional theater that Rocky Horror brings to the table and keeps audiences coming back for more. It's fun, it's wild, it's a party.
BWW: If you could play any other character in the show, male or female, which one would you want to play and why?
Boyles: Boy, that is a tough one. Maybe when I age out of the Frank heels, I would pick the Narrator. I think it would be fun to kind of be the "puppet master" of both the cast and the audience.
Bretz: I would love to be the narrator some day because I'd love to talk back to the audience!
Viera: I really like the character Riff-Raff. While my voice doesn't allow me to portray the role as well as others, I really enjoy his creep factor and his embodiment of the classic Transylvanian Dracula butler. There's an eerie mystique that the character has that I really like.
BWW: For readers who may have never seen a live version of The Rocky Horror Show, what will they experience?
Boyles: A wild, crazy, immersive night of fun. It is impossible to really compare the Rocky experience to any other type of theatre. It really is its own breed. My only advise to a total Rocky virgin is to come opened minded and leave your inhibitions at the door.
Bretz: This is like no other theatrical experience. People are screaming and yelling and throwing things throughout the entire show, and at first it can throw people off. But once you are comfortable, it really starts to become fun. You will experience a lot of camp, amazing voices, humor, and sexiness which is a great combo!
Covell: This is a wild ride from start to finish. Get ready to laugh and call out every joke in the book!
Viera: The utter confusion of why the audience is yelling at the cast during the show. I was told nothing the first time I experienced it, and that's how I felt. Eventually, you understand, and once you get into it, it's great.
BWW: Do you think the themes about sexuality in The Rocky Horror Show are more or less subversive/revolutionary today than they were when the show first hit the stage in the 70s?
Boyles: Interestingly enough, it is probably about the same, but for different reasons. I'm sure when it originally opened, lots of heads turned when they learned that there was a musical about a transsexual alien and his minions. Back in the 70's a lot of gender identity and sexual orientation issues were deemed "taboo" and were not quite as openly prevalent or discussed as in today's world. However, today, portions of society unfortunately have such a stigma toward people, identity and sexuality. So, while these same characteristics may be more openly prevalent in our world, the stigma remains. Thus, I'm sure this show and its openness could and will still turn some heads today. The motto of the show "Don't Dream It, Be It" I think is a good one for any human to live by.
Bretz: I honestly can't say. I know I myself have become so incredibly comfortable with sexuality because of the way I was raised, my surroundings, and my involvement in the theatre...but in society in general, at least in this country, I feel like we have taken a step back in our acceptance and level of comfort with sexuality, which is so very sad.
Viera: I think that the "shock factor" of seeing men wearing women's clothes, the idea of straight and gay intercourse, and people being stripped to their underwear has faded since it was first conceived. I think that people tend to be more progressive now, so those elements may not strike them as quite as subversive as it would have at one time.
BWW: If your character were going to a costume party for Halloween, what/who would they dress up as?
Boyles: Since he is quite the diva, I think he would be a cross between David Bowie and Lady Gaga. I don't think he would want to dress up like any specific person since he is his own creation.....well, perhaps he may go as Fay Wray.
Bretz: Diana Ross.
Viera: Haha, I'm not sure...Fred Flintstone maybe?
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