Ashleigh Prince spoke with Melissa Perreira from the Teseracte Players of Boston about the Rocky Horror Picture Show, shadowcasting, her role and more! Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Ashleigh: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. This is Ashleigh Prince. And I’m so, so excited to welcome Melissa Perreira to the show today to talk about the Rocky Horror Picture Show coming to The Hanover Theatre on June 17, with a live shadowcast featuring the Teseracte Players of Boston. Good morning, Melissa.
Melissa: Good morning.
Ashleigh: I’m so happy to have you here as a longtime Rocky Horror fan. As soon as I heard that we were getting this, and it was coming so soon, I was absolutely thrilled and was texting all of my musical theater friends. So, I know we’re all very excited to have you on our mainstage.
Melissa: We are so excited to come to The Hanover. We love a beautiful theater. And we love coming into an area that hasn’t had Rocky in so long.
Ashleigh: I know. I think the gentleman that played Brad came here and did a live watching of Rocky Horror. I want to say that was maybe 2016 or so, maybe 2017. I think that was the last taste of Rocky Horror that we’ve had in the building.
Melissa: Oh, wow. I mean, it’s hard to follow Barry, but we’ll try our best.
Ashleigh: I have complete faith in you. I’ve seen that people really love you on social media. I’ve seen your sold-out shows, particularly in Salem, on Halloween. I think I actually might have seen you guys before and I remember having a really great time. So, Worcester, look out, because this show is going to be incredible. Now, if we have anyone that’s listening today that has absolutely no idea what Rocky Horror is all about, can you give them a brief synopsis without giving too much away?
Melissa: Oh, gosh. Well, it’s a musical, first of all, so get ready for some singing. But basically, what we’re looking at is the age-old story of small-town kids accidentally getting lost on a road trip, meeting some aliens, debauchery. I think that sums it up.
Ashleigh: All right. Yeah. When I was showing one of my former roommates Rocky Horror for the first time, she ended up being very surprised that people that have seen Rocky Horror and love it so much have a tradition to sing and dance along with the show. I think that she was waiting for a very tame movie-watching evening. I said, “Oh, no.”
Melissa: No, no, no, that’s not what we do.
Ashleigh: That is not what we do. Especially if you are such a big fan of the soundtrack and the movie itself. I mean, it features our beloved Tim Curry, I’m obsessed with that man! And he’s just so fantastic in this movie. And honestly, it’s such a piece of, like, pivotal pop culture. I know it started off as kind of a cult classic, but I really feel like it would be difficult for me to find someone that’s never seen Rocky Horror in this building.
Melissa: Yes. It is, I agree. It is such a pivotal, like, rite of passage. Even to just see it when it used to play on VH1…I don’t even know if that’s still a channel. But it is. It’s a weird, encapsulated moment that we’ve managed to carry on for almost fifty years.
Ashleigh: Now, do you remember what your first introduction to Rocky Horror was?
Melissa: So, low-key, absolutely a VH1 moment, and then I rented it on VHS, like, every weekend of my middle school-aged life and made all of my friends watch it. And then, as a tender sixteen-year-old, I went to a shadowcast in Danvers, Massachusetts, at the now-defunct Hollywood Hits. And I actually saw the cast that I am in and is performing at The Hanover, the Teseracte Players!
Ashleigh: Oh, that’s awesome!
Melissa: Yeah, it’s like this very precious full circle moment. Me and two of my best friends and another friend joined. We didn’t do stage work right away; a little too young. But we just loved it so much. The experience really is something that’s crafted from when you walk into the theater doors through when you’re leaving for the night, and it really stuck with me. And it was something that I wanted to be a part of.
Ashleigh: Yeah. And, I’m wondering what it’s like, when you’re a part of a shadowcast, you’re obviously getting all this wonderful energy from people that absolutely adore the material. What is that like for people to be so excited to be there and interact with you and kind of encourage you on as you’re going through every scene? People get so involved, and there are, of course, the props. And people get very committed when they’re attending a show like this. So, what is that like?
Melissa: Honestly, if I could just say it in one word, it’s wild. It’s this beautiful relationship that you build with the audience. What we try to do, and a lot of casts around here, you’ll see us milling around the lobby, maybe interacting with you guys in the aisles before we actually start the show. We really want to start that connection as soon as possible, whether we’re in costume, or it’s our tech people, just to bring you in and familiarize you, because we want you to feel as safe and excited as we are about being there. And then, once that is fostered a little bit, when you’re onstage, it blows you away. The more people really feed into that, and feel that safety and excitement, you’ve created a different kind of experience for them. And that energy just feeds you through the show. I mean, I’m thirty-seven; I am too old to be up that late! But that’s what gets me through.
Ashleigh: Yeah, there’s nothing more exciting than attending the late-night showing, though.
Melissa: Yes, there is something very magical about a midnight viewing.
Ashleigh: It just makes it even more special. The vibe is definitely different than your standard showing. That’s so fun. I can’t wait to see you here, live and in-person in Worcester. So, I’m wondering for you, what do you think is the moment in the show that people go absolutely nuts for? Like, it’s the biggest part of the night?
Melissa: Oh, that is a very easy answer for me. When Frank (Dr. Frank-N-Furter) comes out for the first time and is prancing up to his throne and throws his cape off. That pop, that feedback from the audience. As someone who’s played Frank before, that is the moment that carries you through the show. People go ape for it.
Ashleigh: Wow. Okay, that answer honestly surprises me and doesn’t surprise me at the same time. I thought maybe you would say the Time Warp, because people know it so well. But that makes total sense, when Tim Curry just makes that reveal, and then you have Frank-N-Furter in front of you? Like, yes! And if that Frank is working it, which they usually are, and they time it perfectly with the screen? It’s art. And I’m sure that there are people listening that have seen Rocky Horror before but haven’t seen it with a shadowcast. So, could you explain that a little bit for our listeners?
Melissa: Yes. So, a quick background: Rocky, almost fifty years old, came out in theaters. People started dressing up to attend the movie. And then very organically, people started getting up and walking, dancing along with the movie and mouthing the words. And they would maybe not do it for the whole movie, but for certain scenes. And that’s really where it started. From that emerged actual groups of people that would get together and put it on in a theater. So what we are doing is we are in costumes that are reminiscent or very accurate costumes for the characters that we are playing. And we are actually lip-synching and doing all of the movements and all of the dances along with it. We’ll have set pieces that’ll help us do that. Props that’ll help us do that. But that’s what shadowcasting is. It is physically acting it out without sound in front of an audience.
Ashleigh: I think part of my very early introductions to the shadowcasting of Rocky Horror, because I was familiar with the film, but I hadn’t seen a shadowcast before. I was watching “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and they take Charlie to see it for the very first time. And he’s in the front row with the shadowcast, and the person that’s playing Frank plops right down in his lap. And I was like, “Oh, my God, what is this, I need to know! What is happening, this seems awesome.” And I remember, from that moment on, being like, “I need to see this ASAP.”
Melissa: And there’s a whole era of people that that is their introduction to it, and I’m so thankful for it. Because I feel like we kind of ride on this little wave of sometimes Rocky is super, super popular and very much at the forefront of the culture, and then it kind of dips a little bit. You know, like fashion right now; we’re in a 90’s revival. So that movie coming out and having those scenes really helped bring a whole new era of people in to see it and into shadowcasting in general.
Ashleigh: Yeah. And I think Rocky Horror in general, from what I’ve heard from a lot of people, is that it made them feel safe. It gave them this affirmation to just be who they are. Like, ‘don’t dream it, be it.’ It gave them permission to be their authentic self.
Melissa: Yes. And that is something that we’ve all been fortunate to embrace in the casts, coast to coast, worldwide.
Shadowcasting is actually an international sensation, but that is what we all take to heart every time that we get up there on that stage. This is our place to be ourselves. Maybe you can’t do this every day, but it’s an opportunity for you to show a different side of yourself in a space that you feel safe and comfortable.Melissa Perreira
Ashleigh: Yeah. When you come to Worcester, what role will you be playing?
Melissa: Alright, so, the official casting isn’t out yet. But, as a director, I do have a sneak peek. And I believe I will be playing the role of Eddie, the ex-delivery boy, played by Meat Loaf. May he rest in peace.
Ashleigh: All right! That’s a really exciting role.
Melissa: I’m going to tell you, Eddie: best four minutes in the movie sometimes. And it’s great, because it’s a lot of running around, but then you rest, which is also great when you’re in your thirties.
Ashleigh: Is that your favorite role to play? Or, you can’t pick a favorite?
Melissa: So, I am one of those weirdos who’s played almost every single role. I only have one left that I haven’t conquered and it’s Rocky Horror himself. I would say it is a tie for me, between Eddie and Brad right now. Magenta is my OG, my first role. It’s like muscle memory. I could do it in my sleep. I love her. Brad and Eddie are just very different from her and a lot more active and a lot more quirky, which I like to put my whole butt into.
Ashleigh: All right. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite. I think I have to go Magenta.
Melissa: Listen, she’s got thirteen lines, but she makes them work.
Ashleigh: Yes. She sure does.
Melissa: Well, I will say, she’s a terrible domestic though. There are a lot of cobwebs and dust in that castle.
Ashleigh: Right. Yeah, she was a little busy.
Ashleigh: Apparently. Well, too busy to attend to any of that.
Melissa: We’ll give her a pass.
Ashleigh: Yeah, I mean, it takes time to be that glamorous, so I get it.
Melissa: That’s a lot of hair.
Ashleigh: It really is, yeah. And she has a lot of scheming with Riff Raff to do, so, I get it. So, now that you’ve touched on the role that you’ll be playing, tell me a little bit about the Teseracte Players themselves.
Melissa: Oh, well, I would call the Teseracte Players my found family. And, like I said, I’ve been rolling with them since the tender age of sixteen. I had a little break for a while, but I came back because I really felt like I missed my family. And it’s a unique thing – not to shadowcast, but to Teseracte – because we are blessed, especially in eastern Mass where we have the Teseracte Players who do Salem, and we travel around, and we have the full body cast who’s in Boston every week. And we have the RKO Army who has a little bit of southern Mass, Rhode Island and Connecticut. So, we’re kind of saturated. And we started out Teseracte as a group of friends that started a Rocky Horror cast instead of a group of people that wanted to start a cast and became friends.
That has always been a guiding point for us, which I think also brings a unique flavor to it. We all genuinely love being around each other and acting onstage with each other, which is not abnormal, but I think a wonderful benefit is us being friends first, and then a cast.Melissa Perreira
Melissa: We are twenty-eight this year. So, we’ve been doing this since the 90’s and we still have people in our cast that are founding members. We have people that go back to the days of Rocky coming to Boston at the Exeter Street Playhouse. We have a gentleman who we’ve celebrated his 40th Rocky anniversary. We are really benefiting from the knowledge and experience of when Rocky really started in theaters, as well as bringing in new people. And one of the things that we tried to do with that, with bringing in new ideas, is smashing them together so we can perform Rocky Horror through the lens of the time that we’re in, which I think is really unique to Teseracte. That’s one of the things that we try to do. We continually review how we are performing, the callbacks that we use, how we’re framing the experience to make sure that it is appropriate for 2023. We started as a rolling cast, a road cast that used to travel around instead of having a home theater, and we’ve landed a few home theaters here and there. Right now, we do six months in Salem, Massachusetts, at Cinema Salem. And for June and October, we do a lot of traveling, for Pride and for Halloween months. And then we’ll do shows here and there. We didn’t have a show at our home theater in May, so we actually traveled down to New Jersey and did a crossover show with one of the casts in New Jersey, the Ordinary Kids. So, we really are built on that rolling, ‘you have a stage, we’re going to it and we’re going to light up your day,’ which is another, more unique thing that Teseracte does.
Ashleigh: Yeah, and that relationship that you’re talking about? I think that makes all the difference, right? I think that some of the shows that come here, when you can tell that the cast is tight and everyone really actually genuinely enjoys spending time together, it makes it that much more magical.
Melissa: Exactly. Instinctually, because I’m friends with these wonderful folks, I know how to interact with them onstage. I know the kind of interaction that’s going to make their performance better and my performance better for the audience. So, it really does allow us to bring a different level to what we’re doing.
Ashleigh: Well, I’m wondering, what would you say to the people that are planning to come to Rocky Horror, but they’re not exactly sure what to expect and they’re getting ready? What are your recommendations for a night out seeing Rocky Horror with the Teseracte Players?
Melissa: Okay. So, first and foremost, wear something comfortable. Be comfortable. And that can be your most salacious, or maybe it’s your pajama pants and a top. Be comfortable, because if you’re not comfortable when you walk in, you’re not going to be ready for everything that’s coming at you. And what’s coming at you is, like, twenty people that are genuinely hyped to see you there, dressed as weirdo characters from this movie. And we’re going to encourage you to dance. And we’re going to encourage you to sing. And we’re going to encourage you to yell at the movie. And it’s okay if that overwhelms you. Because if it’s your first time, it’s going to overwhelm you, but just let it sink in and take that experience. And by the end, you’ll probably be yelling things too, because that’s really what it’s all about. It’s about finding yourself and finding the fun.
Ashleigh: Okay, that’s a great piece of advice. I’ve seen some really great guides online, when people are looking at how to participate in a live show. So that would be my piece of advice, maybe Googling it without reading too much. If this is your first time, don’t read too much. Leave some things to be surprised by. But there are some really great guides on, like, when to say things, and when to throw things. So, all of those things will kind of come in handy later.
Melissa: Absolutely. And don’t be surprised if you hear people yelling different things, but at the same time, because a magical thing with Rocky Horror is that you can make up your own callback lines. You can follow those guides, but a lot of callbacks are regional. So, something that we might say, as we’re walking through the audience, or we’re stationed somewhere to help with callback lines. Someone in the audience that’s seen Rocky Horror somewhere else might be saying something different because of that. So, it is very organic, but also very unique to where you are.
Ashleigh: That’s so interesting. I guess I didn’t realize that it changes regionally. That’s so cool.
Melissa: Yeah, and there are different areas in the movie that are performed a little bit differently, depending on where you are.
Ashleigh: That’s so fun! Oh my God.
Melissa: It’s so exciting to see that. Actually, there’s a Rocky Horror convention every year, and that’s really when it gets wild, because people throw props at different times than we do. And they yell different things at different times, or maybe they do different moves in a dance, and it’s so fun to see. And it just helps us be more creative when we come back home.
Ashleigh: That is so fun. Okay, everyone, fire up the group chat and get everyone rounded up for this for this amazing show. If you missed it earlier in the show, this amazing shadowcast featuring the Teseracte Players of Boston is coming and performing the Rocky Horror Picture Show on our mainstage on June 17 at 9 PM. That’s a Saturday. So, it’s a great, wonderful time for a night out, and you do not want to miss this. So, fire up the group chat, like I said, and purchase your tickets today at TheHanoverTheatre.org, or give us a call at 877.571.7469 and we’d be happy to help you get your tickets. Tickets for this particular show are only $25 which I think is an amazing deal.
Melissa: That is a good deal.
Ashleigh: Now, do you have any parting words for our audiences today, Melissa?
Melissa: I suppose, in Rocky Horror -ness, I should say: when you come, don’t dream it, be it. Just be your most authentic self. We are ready to thrill, chill and fulfill you and we can’t wait to meet you at the theater.
Ashleigh: I’m sure they’re already shivering with antici…pation! So, June 17, be there or be Janet. Get your tickets today. Thank you so much, Melissa. It has been a pleasure speaking with you.
Melissa: Oh, it’s been so lovely. Thank you for having me.
Ashleigh: And everybody else, we’ll be back next week with more Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre.