THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW LIVE
American Laboratory Theatre
brought audiences to their feet
in a raucous live celebration
of the 40th anniversary of
The Rocky Horror Show
in October 2015.
Executive Producer: Carolina Sa
Directed by Jesús Quintero
Produced by Julie Berreth
Photos by Dion Nizzi
Experiments in Drama
Live with American Laboratory Theatre
Story by Sandy Compton
Sandpoint Magazine 25th Anniversary Issue Winter 2015
laboratory |ˈlabrəˌtôrē|noun ( pl. -ries) a room or building equipped for scientific experiments, research, or teaching. From medieval Latin laboratorium, from Latin laborare ‘to labor.’
The American Laboratory Theater is laboring under the direction of the founder, who is exacting, demanding, nearly unreasonable. Water bottles and coffee cups are banned. “That is an unconscious thought of taking a break,” he says. “No breaks!”
“He” is Jesus Quintero. Quintero, 41; his actress wife Carolina Sa, 32; and Julie Berreth, 45 —Director of Marketing and All Things Organizational — are the core of American Laboratory Theater.
Berreth met the other two when Quintero began doing direction with Teresa Pesce and Sandpoint Onstage.
“I got involved when Thersa needed help with organization and promotion,” Berreth says. “With Onstage, and now with ALT, I’m able and combine many of my skills into one endeavor, which is very gratifying.”
ALT began in Quintero’s living room in 2005. It owns no building in which to conduct its experiments, so they take their research to the field. Parts of their International Performing Arts School summer workshops were outdoors. Last Halloween, they produced Frankenstein in Steve Holt’s Eureka Center warehouse in Sandpoint, a huge — and cold — space. It was packed.
“We had a few big radiant heaters, but it was cold,” Berreth recalled. “Still, nobody left early. People would sometimes get up and go stand near a heater, but they never took their eyes off the stage.”
I understand. Today, in the borrowed community room at Woodland Crossing Apartments in Ponderay, a dozen actors around a conglomeration of tables — Berreth included— are rehearsing music for Rocky Horror Picture Show, which they will perform this Halloween at the Panida. Even in this setting, I’m mesmerized. As they work through the score, they have my full attention. And Quintero’s, too.
“Stand up,” he says to the actor who plays “Brad,” and queues up a song from the show. “Brad” begins to sing. Ten words into it Quintero says, “No, no, no! How can I believe you if you don’t believe you? Sit down.” “Brad” sits. He picks another victim. “Stand up,” he says.
So, who is this martinet? And what is he doing in Sandpoint, Idaho?
OK. Quintero’s not really a martinet, even though he sometimes plays one at ALT. Rehearsal is at once tense and joyful. Cast members play a round robin game of “I-get-to-sing-now.” When they get to “Time Warp,” the room rocks.
Also new to American Laboratory Theatre is the venue itself. More accustomed to intimate staging and smaller casts, the troupe was at first disoriented by the proscenium arch over the large screen that faces an even larger auditorium.
“This was our biggest challenge so far,” said Quintero. “They had to reinvent themselves so their minds are in this space.
”Once the audience is in place, “Rocky Horror Show” should feel like one happy, interactive family. In movie theaters – at least in those that still allow such shenanigans – audiences pack along squirt guns, bags of burnt toast and a host of lines they use to talk back to the action on the screen. This live production will incorporate elements of that tradition – “participation kits” will be sold in the lobby, but water and food will not be allowed in the auditorium – to keep the interaction intact.
“That’s one of the main reasons I chose this piece,” said the artistic director. “This is the next step of performing arts, where you are a participant in the art.
”American Laboratory Theatre was founded on the principle that theatre should not be a mock-up of real life, but should be founded in truth, to the point where it captures life’s very essence. How does a production with so many over-the-top characters abide within that aesthetic? For one thing, the director never allows his cast to cross the line of believability, even in such unbelievable surroundings.
“I told them at the beginning, “The fun will be reserved for the audience,” Quintero said. “There is a sense of beauty and a sense of truth in theatre. If we keep ourselves in the realm of beauty with a connection to the truth, we’ll be OK.
”Conventional theatre companies often schedule a “warhorse” musical – “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music” leap to mind – as vehicles for filling seats and amazing enough money to support lesser known, and lesser attended, shows in the season. In its own way, American Laboratory Theatre is doing much the same thing with “Rocky Horror Show,” which balances the financial risks of moving to a larger venue with the potential rewards of selling more tickets to each performance.
“We, indeed, have the goal of making some money with this show,” the director said. “Our goal is to be sustainable and to grow.
”Certainly this week’s production shows growth in onstage participation. With more than 20 actors, singers and dancers, the musical represents the group’s biggest undertaking to date. Quintero, however, views it more than a numbers game that packs a lot of names into the program. For him, it’s more of a theatrical expedition – the Corps of Discovery with actors.
“We are not working toward a show, we are working toward community,” he said. “Together, we are going on a journey.”
“Rocky Horror Show” opens this Thursday, Oct. 29 with additional performances on Oct. 30 and 31. Doors open at 7 p.m. and all shows start at 8 p.m. at the Panida Theater.
Tickets are $20 general admission, $17 for students and seniors, available exclusively in advance at www.panida.org/events or at the door. The production is not meant for younger audiences due to some explicit content.
‘Rocky Horror Show’ Musical Comes to Panida
Local cast takes on cult classic for Halloween
By David Gunter
Bonner County Daily Bee
October 25, 2015
SANDPOINT – A dark and stormy night, a young couple with car trouble and a light in the window of a creepy mansion down the road. It’s the perfect set-up for a Halloween story, right?
That’s what American Laboratory Theatre thought when it selected the cult classic, “Rocky Horror Show” as its Halloween weekend musical. The play first opened onstage in 1973 and, in 1975, the movie based on the same plot line was released. Since then, the film has attracted millions of dedicated fans who, over time, have become as much a part of the story as the actors themselves.
Those same fans will feel right at home when the maniacal Dr. Frank N. Furter and his horrific minions hit the boards in this week’s live stage production at the Panida Theater.
Last year, the theatre troupe tackled Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein as Halloween fare. That dark exploration of the human psyche was an actor’s showcase in how to slowly sip the pure nectar of drama. This year’s model takes equal parts farce and high camp and stirs them liberally with rock n’ roll to create a witch’s brew best taken in big, greedy gulps.
“ ‘Frankenstein’ was a deep research of identity,” said Jesús Quintero, artistic director for American Laboratory Theatre. This one is different – it’s an explosion.
”Especially so when the full cast takes the stage for its big musical numbers such as “The Time Warp.
”Not only is this the largest cast the group has mounted, it’s also the first time it has scheduled a major musical – though Quintero is quick to revise that description.
“The music is everything, but it’s not a musical,” he said. “It’s a show where the actors are singing and dancing.
”Well, OK, but what’s the difference?“
Singing is like talking – with music,” the artistic director said, explaining that the songs don’t interrupt the story line; they just keep it rolling in a new way. “When the actors sing, it should be treated like text. It’s an extension.”
Quintero’s actually a warm, cordial, gregarious man with a Spanish accent — he was born in Bogota, Columbia — and a huge passion for live theater, even though as a child he disliked being in front of an audience.
“But,” he says, “when my parents divorced, we had a difficult life at home. I was 14. Then, the stage provided me a possibility of having a universe where everything made sense.”
He learned to act at the Teatro Libre in Bogotá. In 2003, at age 30, he moved to the US to learn English. He didn’t plan to stay, but an episode in a café changed everything.
“My best friends in ESL class were an African man and a Japanese girl. We were eating and some people were making fun of us. I went home and wrote a play about being an immigrant in America; about determining that moment when we begin creating the filter to look at others through. I never noticed McGiver was a white guy until I moved to America. It’s the values we create that separate us. So, theater and art need to be universal.”
This play and others he wrote led him to be involved with Columbia University’s Moscow Theater in New York. When the Moscow Theater moved and became Miami Theater Center (MTC) in 2005, Quintero followed. Two years later, he met Sa.
Quintero was smitten. “I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”
At MTC, Quintero was director of the education program, rehearsal director, and dance captain. Sa was a stagehand. And she didn’t speak English. So, first, there was the language problem. He spoke English and Spanish and Sa spoke Portuguese. And then there was the other problem. As the country song goes, “they were married, but not to each other.”
It took many months to resolve the latter problem, during which he and she both continued with MTC. In the meantime, Sa moved from backstage.
“I grew up in Brazil,” Sa says. “When I was 12, I went to an audition with a friend and decided to audition, too. There was no pressure. It was just play, but I got a part. When I was 16, and looking for colleges, I said to my father I wanted to study acting. He said, ‘In Brazil, you have to be very good to be on the stage or very beautiful to be on TV. You are neither.’ My degree is in physical therapy.”
She notes this without rancor. It is a good joke to tell; that fathers don’t always know best. After Sa and Quintero met, Stephanie Anson, the director of MTC, cast her in The Clean House. Then, Anson wrote a play specifically with Sa in mind, Inanna and the Huluppu Tree. When Quintero directed The Sorrows of Young Werther, he cast her as the lead character.
They married in 2008, and when Sa became pregnant, they started looking for a new place to live and raise their children.
Quintero, “We thought about going back to New York, where I had worked, but it was too big. I started looking for jobs somewhere small.” He found one.
Quintero’s real job — when he’s not demanding excellence from his actors — is Head of the Theatre Department at Monarch School near Heron, Montana. He is also Spanish/Acting Coach at the Sandpoint Waldorf School. When he found the job at Monarch, Sa was not sure about living in such small place. “Well maybe,” she said, “if I can live in Spokane.” Finally, though, they and daughters Lis and Luna lived on campus at Monarch for two years before moving to Sandpoint.
“What surprised me in this town,” Quintero notes, “is we have so many talented people. Also, less distractions. People have more opportunity to be connected to themselves. In larger cities, I haven’t seen that.”
ALT’s mission in Sandpoint, besides working with local talent between 14 and 22 years old, is to provide an expanded view of theater while delivering a financial shot in the arm to the community. Plans for the immediate future — beyond Rocky Horror Picture Show — include A Christmas Carol, with the Monarch students, production of a play by local writer Travis Inman in the spring, and another session of the International Performing Arts School next summer.
Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. “In five years,” Quintero says, “We will have the International School running through the entire year. We will take members of the school around the world to perform. We will produce shows and continue being a laboratory for theater. Continue working in the new direction: experiential theater, where the line between performers and the audience disappears. Next year, we will have a stage where the audience will be interacting, dancing with the actors.”
And how will you invite them? I ask.
He smiles. “By seduction. Theater is a vehicle. It takes us to a place, it is a social manifestation and phenomena. To get out of the comfort zone is a must for an art that seems to be dying. The audience will participate if we provide the right environment. And we will increase the quality of life for all the participants.”
The experiment continues.
Let’s do the Time Warp… again
By Kate McAlister
October 22, 2015
From the moment the actors walked down the aisle at the Panida, I was engaged.
For me, “The Rocky Horror Show” is indeed a time warp to another great theater memory at Idaho State University in 1975. It was a different world back then, but thankfully, some things remain the same, like “The Rocky Horror Show.” The same quirky, crazy characters are all still in great form and brought to life by a very talented group of actors under the direction of Jesús Quintero.
If you are a “Rocky Horror” novice, I imagine this sounds a bit confusing, so I’ll give you the gist. A lovely, innocent couple, Brad (Michael Clarke) and Janet (Keely Gray), are forced to seek help after their car breaks down – of course in the middle of the night. The closest place with a light in the window is a creepy old castle complete with a pansexual mad scientist, Frank N. Furter (Jeremiah Campbell) and his devoted staff, Riff Raff (Eddie McDonnell), Magenta (Skye Palmer), and Columbia (Alex Cope). We can’t forget Dr. Frank N. Furter’s creation, the muscle-bound and very sexy Rocky Horror (Eric Bond). Through the chaos and confusion, Brad and Janet’s love is put to the test as they partake in Dr. Furter’s evening of revelry.
So why did Quintero choose “The Rocky Horror Show,” especially considering he did the dark and amazing “Frankenstein” last Halloween?
“When I pick as how, I try to read where we are in terms of society, in terms of the community,” he said. “I don’t think theater should do political statements, but it is indeed a political act, in terms of it does have a relationship with society. So I thought what would be important for us to think and to talk about right now, and I thought, ‘freedom’ would be a good topic. And when I thought of Halloween and Sandpoint, I wanted to have a show that gives the possibility of people to play, to experience. And then I started thinking we needed a play that also brings experiential feelings to the audience.”
This play does just that thanks to some really great acting. I was especially impressed with Jeremiah Campbell as Dr. Frank N. Furter. I have worked with Campbell in “The Mousetrap,” and the infamous “Hunt for the Pend Oreille Paddler” (you are welcome, Ben), but to see him in this part was spectacular. When he walks on stage, he is Furter. His confidence is astounding considering he’s wearing fishnets, a garter belt and a bustier. He absolutely nails the role: his voice, his movements, everything, gives Tim Curry a run for his money. I just might have a new favorite Furter.
Clarke and Gray play a convincing Brad and Janet and work well off one another. Their songs are sweet and memorable, Palmer (Magenta) and Cope (Columbia) are fun to watch, and I loved their voices. Last but not least, you really haven’t seen anything until you see Bond as Rocky Horror, complete with gold lame short shorts and nothing else. He is really fun to watch and brings a great energy to the part of Dr. Furter’s creation. Who knew Bond could sing? Everyone will after this performance.
Come experience a raucous, disorderly fun time you won’t forget, especially if you participate in the fun. Audience members are encouraged to wear costumes and interact when invited. This show uses the entire theater, including attendees, to make magic happen. And while it’s been toned down a bit, it’s still rated R, according to the Panida website.
If you don’t have tickets, you should purchase them now before they sell out. Performances are Oct. 29, 30 and 31. For those attending the Friday performance, there will be a special surprise well worth the ticket price. Tickets can be purchased online at www.panida.org and are $18.50 and $21.50. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.