Rocky Horror Shadowcasting w/ Midnight Insanity

Shadowcast (aka Shadow Cast) is a term that emerged in the late 1980s to describe the performers and performances that grew around The Rocky Horror Picture Show. More than costume dress-up or Audience Participation, a Shadowcast acts along with the film when it is played in a theater with screen-accurate costumes, sets and props.

The Rocky Horror Preservation Foundation.
Paco Erskine as Riff Raff. Read his credits at

PE: Rocky Horror started in London as a play… Lou Adler bought the rights & started the Los Angeles production before turning it into a film. The movie came out in ’75 & sort of flopped; two hours couldn’t capture people the same way a theatrical experience did. It had perfect songs, costumes, & actors, but it just wasn’t picking up any steam. Then they started showing it at midnight & the cool kids started coming out dressed up. It’s been running nonstop for 48 years, making it the longest-running movie in history.

By Lauren Everett for People Like Us: The Cult of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The shadowcasting basically started in New York; a couple of regulars went up on stage one day & started acting out scenes. Eventually, casts were formed where people would come in costume & perform the whole show. They brought the play atmosphere back… It was the foundation of a movie with audience participation. Rocky Horror became a safe haven for you to be who you really want to be & was very open to the LGBTQ+ community. This was the ’70s; there wasn’t really a place like that beforehand. You had all these personalities & backgrounds coming together for one common love.

There’s even a cast in Israel, which is great because the country’s very strict. Males can’t join the cast because they’d be in drag; it’s considered very taboo & sort of a crime. It might be a little blasé after almost 50 years strong here, but backward countries in regards to women’s or gay rights can look to us as examples.

The opening number’s lips belong to Patricia Quinn, Magenta’s actress in the film.

To the average person, when you mention Rocky Horror, the lips logo comes to mind. When I was a kid, that’s all I really knew about it. One day I met a couple of girls who took me to my first showing; it was a sensory overload… People yelling at the screen & average Rocky craziness. I took acting classes & learned how Rocky casts imitate characters. When I’m not performing, I’m contributing to decompressing the audience through callbacks. People have tough work weeks & want to yell at their boss or whatever… I don’t really have that because I can watch Rocky Horror while howling for a couple of hours. It’s about making the audience laugh.

Kristine Houston, founding member (pictured left) taken in 1996 at the Four Queens Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

KH: Rocky played a big part in mainstreaming the gay & lesbian community at the time. I think people have this idea that Rocky is all about sex, but it’s not. It’s about being yourself; being honest & comfortable with who you are.

Still from the original home of Midnight Insanity, the Balboa Theater. Courtesy of the Orange County Register.

I started Midnight Insanity with friends in 1988. We had a fourth-generation VHS from Japan… The sound was five seconds off from the picture & the color was so messed up that Janet’s white sweater was green. That was how we studied it. If you wanted to see details, you had to go to another screening to catch the two-second clip where they show the costume piece you’re replicating, or which way they turn for a scene… While the crowd’s going wild, of course.

Still from a Rocky Horror shadowcast at the Balboa Theater in 1988.

I’ve been on stage when our reel broke & you could see the celluloid burning across the screen. We had a song we’d sing whenever the film broke (Little Bunny Frou Frou), which was often. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, just like anything else.

BTS photograph from set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Gifted to Midnight Insanity by Elizabeth West, shot by Mick Rock.

In any given year, a Rocky cast gains & loses members. People age out, change jobs, etc. In a normal time period, members get pulled from the audience… ‘This is fun, I’ll try being a part of it.’ With COVID, we were closed for a year & a half, so we lost people as normal but couldn’t gain as normal. We’re almost starting from scratch. It’s been a challenge, but I couldn’t tell you how proud I am of the cast members who’ve stepped up for our first show back. These are the powerhouses who jumped on stage, some for the first time, with a week’s notice.

IC: When I was 16, I got out of the mental hospital & saw the show here. I saw Audrey perform as Frank right after I came out as bisexual; I wanted to be that, I needed to be that. I sensed a community that could understand me. The purpose is to have fun & express yourself in ways that traditional society might not subscribe to. I can really be myself on stage… I aim to be the person who the last Frank was for me. I’m in school to be a psychologist because I want to help people, but I feel like I’m already doing that here.

Dallas Small center-stage as Rocky.

DS: I saw it here in Long Beach when I was 13 & moved to Georgia for a couple of years shortly after. None of my friends really related to me, so Rocky was like my little secret. I caught a shadowcast the first Halloween I was back… In the iconography, I saw parts of myself & parts I wanted to be. I wanted to get closer to it, to honor it. It meant & still means so much to me. I joined Midnight Insanity to keep up the tradition. It’s a great feeling to be on a team where everybody’s working hard; we all make these shows happen together. I love being able to live a fantasy on the weekends & I’ve learned a lot about being a person from acting. The first-time thrill from watching the movie on its own is brought back in every performance.

Indiana Jones (Yes, that is his legal name) as Brad.

IJ: I grew up in a very conservative family. An ex-girlfriend took me to see Midnight Insanity for the first time, a couple friends joined us… Someone knew the Janet & they crawled over the seats to give my cousin a lapdance (haha). I fell in love. I didn’t really know what my friends would think about the gayness involved, but I figured this would be a good way to gauge it. I brought my best friend to his first showing who said it was one of the coolest experiences he’d had. I wanted to be on tech, but I walked into rehearsal & they told me I had to be Brad… It was terrifying… I actually called my mom after: ‘The worst thing possible happened…’ (haha). But I loved performing.

Gwyn Houston (Kristine’s daughter) as Janet.

GH: I came to cast during one of the lulls where we needed more people… My mom pushed me to join (haha). I love Halloween so any excuse to dress up is up my alley. I’m usually on tech & audience praise for the actors is praise on my work as well. I love being able to make people happy. There’s something missing when you watch the movie by itself; a shadowcast brings Rocky to life. I’ve gone to plays where that audience dynamic is missing… We get in the aisles & bring a real experience to the theater, to create a space where people can’t be in their heads. It’s a break from reality.

All photos from Midnight Insanity’s first night back courtesy of Eric Clark.

Catch Midnight Insanity at The Art Theatre of Long Beach this Saturday 1/15/22 (Currently postponed until mid-February due to the Omicron variant):

Interested in joining cast? More Midnight Insanity at:


By Hector Zaldivar

Professional magician. @hexzald