'Power/Trip,' 'Rocky Horror,' and Thank GOD We Can All Be In a Room Together

This past week, I had the privilege of seeing both the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama’s production of "Power/Trip" as well as Scotch 'n’ Soda’s production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" back to back. I cannot think of two shows that are more different. "Power/Trip" is an original play (this was the script’s premiere), a complex exploration of the role of faith in the American government, explored through the lens of Shakespeare’s "Richard II." "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is a cult musical from the 70s about a prim, square couple who stumble into a mansion owned by a mad, cross-dressing scientist who seduces them until they ultimately become … blasted off into space?

A review of both shows is in order. "Power/Trip" was phenomenally executed, as to be expected from productions at the School of Drama. Both written and directed by MFA student Anne Demelo, the play takes place in a community center, where members of a small American town are staging Shakespeare’s "Richard II." However, once the town’s local rich boy, named — if you can believe it — Richard, starts throwing a wrench into the rehearsal process, the line between reality, fiction, religion, and politics gets blurred until everyone is lost in the sauce ....

The play ruthlessly questioned America’s relationship to institutions of faith and power, but boy, did we have fun along the way! "Power/Trip" featured, among many things, live music (including multiple renditions of Abba’s hit single "S.O.S"), phenomenal media design (have you ever seen the clip of Nixon claiming the president is allowed to break the law? Because once you see it it cannot be unseen), and of course, beautiful performances from the entire ensemble, both in the Shakespearean scenes as well as those rooted in realism. I could highlight specific performances and design choices, but they are all my classmates, so I will settle by saying everyone was amazing. If you want to know my thoughts on anyone’s specific performance, ask me in confidence, preferably after buying me dessert, and all will be revealed ....

Across the lawn, Scotch n’ Soda’s production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was absolute madness, luv. I have to say that, in complete honesty, I did go see the 11 p.m. showing (known colloquially as the "drunk show"), and boy, did the audience live up to its nickname. However, I consider myself to be a strong enough critic to be able to be the final and most authoritative voice on any play, no matter what state of intoxication I, or others, might be in, so I’ll share my complex artistic observations here:

Darn it, this stupid little school has a stupid amount of talent. I mean … Frank-N-Furter both looked and sounded so good it was practically rude. The instrumentation was bombastic (and loud enough to sing along to!), the costuming was just as raunchy as necessary, and the performances sounded, in my artistic opinion, DUMB good. While I did have the time of my absolute little life screaming the callbacks, I almost felt rude screaming over Caroline Holmes and Charlie Botts stellar voices. More than anything, I was reminded of how fun theatre can be when those on stage are having a ball and those in the audience are right there with them.

This brings me to my final observation of the week: thank god we can see plays again. Due to the famous and critically acclaimed global pandemista of 2019, 2020, possibly 2021 … (Miss Alpha Delta Psi Corona Part Two Electric Boogaloo just will not quit!) I didn’t see a single play for a solid 18 months of my sad, long life. In these two productions, I experienced a concentrated representation of the two extremes of why I go to the theatre: first, as an intellectual challenge, a sacred experience to transform my understanding of the world around me; and second, as an immediate, visceral, brainless, and JOYFUL activity in abandoning myself in a beautiful, surreal world far from my own. And for this, I am profoundly grateful to the cast and crews of these shows: thank you so, so much for sharing your gifts.

Just kidding! I have one more observation before I close up my column. If you’re reading this, I beg you, on bended knee and with my head hung low, please please please go see plays. Even if you are not a member of the School of Drama, go see School of Drama plays. There are three coming up next month (check out the event calendar for more information!) and all three will be phenomenal, I can already tell. Also, tickets are free if you’re a student, and if anything, spending two hours in a theatre is a good, cultured excuse to procrastinate from doing your homework! Secondly, if you are someone who doesn’t usually go to see Scotch 'n’ Soda’s productions, go see Scotch 'n’ Soda’s productions. There is such a huge talent pool of artists at this school, even (and perhaps, especially?) outside of Carnegie Mellon’s big ole College of Freak Art. Take your special crush to a play, bring all your friends and yell at the actors when they mess up a line, steal props from backstage, get up on stage and start acting yourself … going to the theatre is fun, and I want every single person in the world to do it, constantly! Seeing theatre is a privilege, and I will never take it for granted ever again.

We are ALL suffering and we are ALL getting caught in the rain, and we are ALL waiting for the bus and we are ALL constantly out of breath, sweaty, and smelling horrible from walking uphill (okay maybe that’s just me).

And we should ALL go to the theatre, together.