I can remember first hearing about the Rocky Horror Picture Show as a kid. My parents had a copy on VHS. I would try to stealthily creep down the stairs to catch a glimpse of the movie I was forbidden to watch. I remember sneaking around the corner and listening to the songs, just out of my parents’ sight. Although I didn’t quite understand all of it, their laughter suggested it was something I could not miss. Of course, as soon as I was old enough to watch it, I did and became an instant fan!
For those who may be unfamiliar, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a quirky cult classic that debuted in 1975 on film and was based upon a 1973 musical production. Pardon the pun, but to say it had a rocky start is an understatement. The story line centers upon a young couple in need of assistance. They find their way to a creepy castle and are greeted by an oddball ensemble of attendees at a convention led by the mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter, originally played by Tim Curry . Dr. Frank- N-Furter describes himself as a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.” Seduction, murder, hilarity and mayhem ensue as the couple discovers that Dr. Frank-N-Furter is not quite of this world and nothing in the castle is like anything they have ever encountered before.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show | #TBT Trailer: Fasten your garter belt and come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab! It’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show Special Edition, a screamingly funny, sinfully twisted salute to sci-fi, horror, B-movies and rock music, all rolled into one deliciously decadent morsel.
Upon release “The Rock Horror Picture Show” was considered an epic fail. However, it was given new life when it was shown as a “midnight movie” as a promotional ploy at New York’s Waverly Theater (now called the IFC Center). Fans began to watch the film regularly and by regularly, I mean every single week! It wasn’t long before the regular audience began to organically interact with the film by dressing as the characters, shouting out lines, singing along and bringing props to the theater. It became an underground classic with showings all over the country and was known for the antics of the audience during the show. It is now considered the longest running movie in theaters. A live interactive theater viewing of the show is an absolute blast, but be prepared to be sprayed with water and surrounded by rambunctious behavior and raucous laughter. Leave the kids at home; the content is explicit.
Now if this isn’t enough to strike up your curiosity, here’s an added gem; “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be rebooted featuring none other than the fabulous Emmy-nominated Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N- Furter. Cox is a transsexual actress who shot to fame in her role as ‘Sophia Burset’ on the hit Netflix series “Orange is The New Black.” Since launching her acting career into the stratosphere, Cox has made a name for herself as an advocate, sought after-speaker and fashionista. And while some are critical about Cox’s ability to pull off the character, I believe she will do a fantastic job.
I am so excited that the news is out. I am so honored to be a part of the Rocky Horror legacy…. https://t.co/5guzt7WTyd
The reboot will be airing on Fox in the fall of 2016. If you haven’t seen the movie before, be sure to watch a copy of the original for comparison. And for those die-hard fans, this may be the perfect opportunity to throw an outrageous watch party. You and your guests will be doing the “Time Warp” again in no time!
We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Playwright, educator, opera singer, and Queen, Mfoniso Udofia has two plays running at New York Theatre Workshop. *pause* TWO PLAYS. In the SAME season!?!? *ends congratulatory gasp* Sojourners and Her Portmanteau are performed in repertory, as two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle. Admittedly, before researching each show, I didn’t know the definition of either word; and in the spirit of keeping it consistent with the honesty, I didn’t like either play. I loved them.
Minimalism seems to be the name of the game these days. I sat down to a completely black stage, sans a multimedia display lodged on the ceiling at a 45-degree angle. Clutching my all white program and bobbing my head to the ‘70s pop rock pre-show music, I prepared my heart for the story of Sojourners, well at least that was the plan. The stage begins to rotate and we meet Abasiama (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Ukpong (Hubert Point-Du Jour), Nigerian expatriates sojourning in Houston, Texas with the plan to start a family, earn their degrees, and go back to Nigeria until life happens.
Charming and handsome, Ukpong becomes defined by his leather jacket, shoulder work and shimmy which match the fascination and yearning for freedom that illuminates his eyes every time he talks of peace, protest, and Prince–all shaping his view of 1970s America, and consequently, the American Dream. But does leather compensate for grit? Is a movement or vibe really a panacea for disappointment, aimlessness, and a need to find yourself? Abasiama enters the play pregnant, purposed, and outfitted in pieces of Nigerian garb, grounded in duty showing a stark contrast to Ukpong who floats in desire. What’s lost in your household is found elsewhere, and this is when we start to see, and root for, Abasiama’s transformation from timid to tenacious.
Enter Moxie (Lakisha May), a colorful prostitute turned protector and friend. There is a mutual respect despite great differences between her and Abasiama, with their love for one another creating moments that make you believe in the beauty of humanity. Enter Disciple (Chinaza Uche), another warm and determined hearted immigrant who has come to the United States to study, rounding out the timely additions of love, support, and security when Abasiama needed them the most.
Through and through this is Abasiama’s story and she glows. Her kindness, her sisterhood, her strength, her worthiness, and the realization of her American Dream, guide her decisions—which is the catalyst behind the entire Ufot Cycle.
Her “portmanteau”, or red suitcase, makes a return as 30 years have passed. Abasiama now has two daughters, one raised in America and the other who has come from Nigeria to reconnect with her family.
This is a good moment to mention that each story is informed by the other, but can certainly stand alone on substance, content, and the amazing direction of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. The staging is exciting and deliberate, while minimal, putting the full focus on the tension and growth to be expected of a family reunited after a substantial amount of time and distance.
Chinasa Ogbuagu returns to the stage, this time as the American-born daughter, Adiagha Ufot, Adepero Oduye as Iniabasi Ekpeyoung (Ukpong and Abasiama’s daughter), and Jenny Jules as the mother, Abasiama Ufot.
Seated on a couch in Adiagha’s small New York Apartment, no amount of preparation readies your mind and spirit to form the words to make up for 30 years of life, connection, and memories missed. We’re taken on a ride of resentment, hurt, love, and forgiveness, as the portmanteau is literally unpacked. We watch the teeter-tottering between offense and defense as one sister tries to assimilate into American culture, and the other attempts, albeit stubbornly, to fall in formation in honoring a family she shares blood with, but little time or tangible history.
It’s powerful to see a story of history and continuing a legacy despite lost time, faulty promises, and difficult choices explored with an all-woman cast as far too often the idea of legacy is framed in patriarchy. Jules admirably takes Abasiama through the fire to heal, to feel, and to fix her family. The narrative allows us to empathize and understand the struggle that comes with upholding family values versus cultivating a space to achieve personal dreams and happiness.
Her Portmanteau (and Sojourners) is written in a way that finds your soul, gently massaging it with humor, while leaving it with very real questions. I’ve never felt a greater need to binge read nine stories and simultaneously study the story of my own family tree. I left changed. I left wrapped in the strength of my mom and my mom’s- mom’s sacrifice. I left pensive and with seeds of future forgiveness planted. I left changed.
For capturing our hearts with wit and with truth. For putting Black women at the center of a poignant narrative. For unapologetically telling a story you haven’t seen told and telling it in the way you want it to be told.
We thank you Mfoniso. We thank you.
Have you seen the #duetplays? Sound off in the comments below![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
Last winter, we reported on Sojourners by playwright Mfoniso Udofia, a new play about a Nigerian family who has come to America with the goal of earning a college education, starting a family, and returning to Nigeria. But not without the twists and turns that come along with every plan that seems straightforward.
Thanks to New York Theatre Workshop, we get to relive this moment and continue the dialogue, decades later, with Her Portmanteau. Performed in repertory, these two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, chronicle the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family.
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar directs the two-part story in association with The Playwrights Realm, who premiered Sojourners last winter in a limited engagement world premiere production. Her Portmanteau also received the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award grant.
As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, we have an exclusive deal for our Broadway Black readers!
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price!
Yes. That’s two shows for one price! The discount code BWYBLACK will take 50% off tickets to ANY performance(s) if purchased by May 15th!
Go ahead and grab your tickets. We have ours!
Sojourners and Her Portmanteau plays at NYTW until June 4th.