Tulsans won't have to look very hard to see that the brick-lined streets of the so-called Brady Arts District buzz with activity.
Directly north of downtown, this haven for hipsters has always been a center for Halloween events in Tulsa, from Freaker's Ball at Cain's to the costume party at the Brady Theater. This year will be no different. Well, maybe a little different. On Sat., Oct. 31, Garage Media, in conjunction with the Brady Merchants Association and Local Art Matters, hosts "A Rocky (Horror) Halloween" with the first-ever Brady Arts Fall Festival and an outdoor performance of The Rocky Horror Show.
Consider this event the first major street party to hit the old warehouse district in a long time. From Boston to Main, and Main from Brady to just north of Cameron will be closed to accommodate all of the time-warpers and virgins (that's Rocky-speak for the uninitiated) who are expected to attend alongside those who just want to peruse the local art and enjoy the fall weather.
Adding to the fun, said Rocky producer Todd Cunningham of Garage Media, is the friendly decoration competition that took place between area merchants on Oct. 17. Gypsy Coffeehouse won this year's contest, edging out 2nd place winner Club 209 and 3rd place winner Club Majestic.
The Brady Arts Fall Festival begins Saturday's festivities with a district-wide art show at 10am. The festival features as many as 50 local artists plying their wares and showing off their works from event tents spread throughout the district.
But the arts and crafts will not be confined to just the tents. Tulsa Glassblowing Studio is offering Tulsans a chance to create their own glass pumpkins and 'witch balls'. "(Witch balls) are said to ward off evil spirits," said Ilianna Ordaz-Jeffries, an employee of TGS. Even if you don't buy the magical properties of these beautiful pieces, they would nonetheless be a festive edition to your mantle or porch during the Halloween season.
After the festival ends at 6pm, the much anticipated nocturnal celebration begins, with a Grown-Up Trick-or-Treat, which runs from 6-8pm. This event gives festival-goers a unique opportunity to sample an impressive variety of "treats" provided by the district's merchants. Although you will most likely come across candy and other delicious edibles, coupons and other goodies from local merchants (not to mention, a recyclable bag provided by your good friends at UTW) will hopefully ensure that you won't have to play any tricks on the participants.
Following the trick-or-treat, acclaimed local cover band Crossland, winner of Urban Tulsa Weekly's coveted "Absolute Best Party Cover Band" music award, comes onstage at 8pm and plays until 10.
The centerpiece of this year's celebration, however, is undoubtedly the outdoor presentation of the classic and quirky cult musical The Rocky Horror Show, the only production of the show in the area this year.
If your idea of an exciting stage show is a trip to your quiet local community theater's production of Our Town, then this probably isn't the show for you.
The Rocky Horror Show is a devilish feast for the eyes and ears, which goes well beyond the average stage show. The musical features outlandishly tailored costumes and otherworldly makeup that complement the imaginative set, while the famed soundtrack is belted out by performers, many of whom are full-fledged veterans of the Tulsa production.
Tulsa native Chad Oliverson, who has been donning the fishnets and feather boas of Dr. Frank-N-Furter since the beginning of the Tulsa production five years ago, is confident that the actors will pull off a jaw-dropping production.
"It's a mixed bag really," Oliverson said, "Some people are brand new, and some, like Carmen Garrison, who plays Janet, have been here since the beginning."
He also explained that the talent is not limited to just the actors, but rather to everyone involved in the production, from the make-up artists to the stagehands.
"I'm amazed at the talent that's been assembled, (they're) taking it to the next step of outlandishness," he said. "As an actor, I'm just one small fraction of the production, but everyone has been working together to portray the director's vision."
Like Oliverson, Cunningham is impressed by the widespread talent in the production.
"The main characters have all been in the show before," he said. There's even one actor who moved up from usher into the starring role of Brad. "He will be the best Brad that Tulsa has yet seen, but we do have a new Rocky," he said.
Cunningham won't go into much detail about this mysterious new addition other than saying, "People will be impressed."
In addition to the cast, the accompanying band that usually plays "Sweet Transvestite", "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me" and, of course, the classic "Time-Warp" will also represent T-Town with 13 members of the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra's Tulsa Rock Ensemble. The group provides brass and strings to assist in creating the musical monster that will be the Rocky Halloween Orchestra. The Orchestra is led by Jeremy Stevens, a veteran of Tulsa's Rocky production.
The Rocky Horror saga began in England 1973 as They Came from Denton High, the slightly twisted musical magnum opus of New Zealand born writer and performer Richard O'Brien. It soon flowered into the Rocky Horror Show, opening in London in the summer of the same year before crossing the pond and having its North American premiere in Los Angeles the following year.
But it is the film version of the stage show -- released two years after the first stage show -- and its subsequent cult following that has forever cemented both its cult status and its unique position on the outer fringes of popular culture.
Initially a royal flop, the film starred future Hollywood heavyweights Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick. Sarandon and Bostwick are naïve yuppies Brad and Janet who inadvertently stumble into a strange convention being held by the flamboyant, cross-dressing scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who is masterfully portrayed by Curry.
After the couples' arrival, things get a little weird, in both the film and stage versions of the show. Without ruining it, aliens, far-fetched experiments, kinky sex and enthusiastic dancing all ensue. Expectedly, the story comes to a dramatic and ridiculous end.
Although at first it failed to bring in a sizable mainstream audience, which might have been partly due to its crippling limited release as much as its controversial characters, the film soon proved that it could bring in impressive revenues as a midnight movie such as other controversial classics like John Waters' Pink Flamingos.
By the end of the '70s, the film was a full-fledged cult phenomenon, playing bi-weekly to enthusiastic audiences in more than 200 theaters around the country. Audiences began to "call back" or repeat lines of the film, and ad-lib responses of their own, giving everyone in the theater an utterly new and unique movie-going experience. Some members even began to bring props to mirror the action of the film and a few went even further, actually re-enacting portions, if not all, of the film with a so-called "shadow cast."
The cult that has since grown up around Rocky has become almost as legendary as the show and film in its own right. In the Tulsa area alone, it has an estimated following of 6,000, and today, the famous (or infamous, whichever you feel is more applicable) and fiendish lips on the movie poster seem second only to the Rolling Stones logo as the preeminent labial icon of pop culture, and perhaps the all-time preeminent icon of cult kitsch.
But the Rocky Horror draw is not limited to the film alone. With major British, Australian and American theatre productions drawing huge crowds, Tulsa will only be the latest in a long line of cities to experience a live rendition that provides more than just a movie going experience with a touch of audience participation.
"This year we can include props for the audience," Oliverson said, "And though you can't throw anything at the stage, feel free to throw them (amongst yourselves)." Oliverson also said that prop bags will be provided and encourages those who have never attended a show or screening to research the call and response lines from the film, which are readily available on many Rocky fan Web sites.
In addition to those fan sites, Garage Media's Facebook page has brought interest to the upcoming production and not all of it is from the Tulsa area. "We've had an enormous response from Facebook," Cunningham said. "We got 1,700 fans in the first month and 38 percent of them are from Oklahoma City."
"The (Facebook) commercial actually made me want to see the show," local fan Bob Dodd said. He had first seen the film in college and often wondered what the live show would be like. "Stage shows are always cool," Dodd added, who is taking his son to the show, too.
But unlike traditional stage shows, which are usually confined to auditoriums and theaters, the stage for the Brady show will be set up in a vacant lot lent by Brady Theater owner Peter Mayo on Main Street just north of Cameron. This setup provides audiences with not only a view of the Tulsa skyline, but also the charm of experiencing a musical in a setting most are unfamiliar with.
Tulsa-based Omni Lighting, the same company responsible for Tulsa's Oklahoma Centennial celebration back in 2006, takes on the challenge of erecting the stage, and constructing and coordinating lighting that will be needed to illuminate the set.
But the challenges of putting on an outdoor show are not limited to those constructing the stage. The actors themselves will also have to contend with challenges unique to an outdoor performance. "It's a different ballgame altogether. I mean not only do you have to deal with nature, but also manmade sounds, (like) helicopters and ambulances," Oliverson said.
In addition to the expected auditory interferences from both man and nature, the weather brings concern for any outdoor event, especially those incumbent in our temperamental home state. "We've made arrangements to take care of the weather," said Cunningham, who is confident that it won't rain. Nonetheless, it probably wouldn't hurt to come prepared.
After the show, the best dressed "Transylvanians" compete in a costume contest, with cash prizes awarded to the lucky winners. Festival-goers also have a chance to interact with the cast members, as they visit Hunt Club, the Majestic and/or Club 209 for an informal sort of "meet and greet" following the show. How's that for audience participation?
Televised coverage of the gala event, including live shots from A Rocky Halloween, will be broadcast on both Tulsa's CW 12/19, the News on 6, as well as Up Late with Ben Sumner.
Although the event coincides with the usual Halloween happenings in the district, Oliverson is adamant that it is not stealing the thunder from other events. "We're not in competition with anyone," he said. "It's more (like) the events complement each other."
Oliverson added that everyone in Tulsa's downtown districts are working hard to bring more, bigger events to residents. "(Everybody) really wants Tulsa to make new traditions," he said, "to add life to the heart of the city."
"The bigger the event the better," Cunningham added. "If one of us wins, we all win."
He stressed the importance of the entire downtown community in bringing more exciting entertainment options to Tulsa. After witnessing the success of downtown events as a resident of Dallas, Cunningham was inspired. "Ever since I moved back to Tulsa I've wanted to bring a big street party here." It was something, Cunningham said, that was lacking in the area.
Aside from just the fans who will come to see the show or to attend the art festival, Cunningham feels many others will arrive just for the excitement of a district-wide street party.
"You have Mayfest, but you don't have a live stage show made out to be a street party," Cunningham said. "This will open the door for us to do something like this in the future."
Area hotspots will cater to the crowd. According to owner Bradley Garcia, DJs will most likely be spinning after hours at the Gypsy Coffeehouse which is staying open after hours and continuing the festivities with its own costume contest, providing treats for anyone in costume, as well as a place for festival goers to chill and sober up.
An added bonus for all you night crawlers--in addition to the full moon-- Halloween falls on the Saturday just before the first Sunday in November, which means the end of Daylight Savings Time. So the party continues for an extra hour.
Food, beverage, toilet facilities, ATMs and merchandise stands and booths will be available throughout the festival area before and during the show, providing all the ghouls, goblins and ghosts with the strength they need to party for an extra hour. 21 and over must bring ID.
Event organizers encourage festival-goers to bring blankets and folding chairs, as sitting space will only be provided for VIPs.
Everyone associated with the production is optimistic that it will be an event quite unlike anything Tulsa has previously seen. "The stage is huge, and the show is incredible," Cunningham said. "The Rocky Horror Show is fun anyway, but with the time change it will be a fun, never-ending party."
Ok, so it, might not be "never ending," but it will nonetheless be the undisputed highlight of Tulsa's Halloween season.
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