The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

SMU students take the stage in DTC’s “Rocky Horror”


“Rocky Horror Picture Show” premieres at the Dallas Theater Center next Thursday, and two SMU senior theatre students will be dancing along the stars. Ryan Patrick McLaughlin and Ian Stack chatted with The Daily Campus about pink lederhosen, sexual impulses and rivers of sweat.

Daily Campus: What does “Rocky Horror Show” mean to you?

Ryan Patrick McLaughlin: I think it means a whole bunch of things to me because I grew up watching the movie and doing the ‘Time Warp’ in my living room. Then, when I was far too young, I went to one of the midnight premieres. Now that I’m a more grown human, it means all sorts of other things as well. So, it’s all the fun of my childhood and the weird quirky wonderful stuff that’s in the movie, but also—and this is something that our director Joel Ferrell talks about—it creates this really incredible safe space for people who are “othered” in some way. And I think that’s really important.

Ian Stack: My mom told me when I told her that I was cast in this, “Oh that’s one that you’ve always wanted to do!” …But besides wanting to be in it for me, I find it interesting that we’re doing it now because if you look back in the 60s, the things that were taboo then are still pretty taboo now. And I think that’s pretty crazy that in 40 years we haven’t really changed anything. I think the ‘Rocky Horror’ of our generation is the Lady Gaga ‘Born This Way’ era, so for me it’s been fun to bring those people to ‘Rocky Horror’ because I think they’re kind of the same story.

DC: What roles do you play?

Stack: I play one of the phantoms, an ensemble Transylvanian. I’m an amalgamation of weird things that don’t fit together. Like, I am a feminine soldier who has some blue skin and really likes shaking his ass.

McLaughlin: And I’m a little German boy who wears, as I like to call them, pink hot-pants lederhosen. Fun is an insufficient word for that.

DC: What’s your favorite part about your role? What are you most excited about?

Stack: My favorite part is getting to release every sexual, crazy impulse I have.

McLaughlin: (laughs) Of course that’s your favorite part!

Stack: And there can be no judgment. If I want to shake what my momma and daddy gave me then I get to do that.

McLaughlin: One of the things I’m most excited about is that there is so much audience participation with this movie, as a cult classic with the midnight premiers, and for me that is totally married to the work [at DTC]. Is that going to happen at the Dallas Theatre Center? The answer is YES. I am so over-the-moon excited to see how that manifests each night differently with different people, with people who haven’t seen it since 1980 but remember everything, people who still go to [the midnight premieres] to this day and people who have never seen ‘Rocky Horror’ in any way whatsoever. It’s going to be great. It exploits that which theater has to offer which is unique, which is that we are in the room with you.

DC: How is going to be different than the movie?

Stack: One of the ways it’s going to be different is that there really is no escaping our involvement with you because the stage is essentially in the round. There are people sitting onstage, and then there’s a big thrust into the audience. The only way you’re going to be able to avoid contact with us is if you’re high in the balconies.

McLaughlin: And even there, there are ladders! The other thing that Joel Ferrell says about how it’s different is, “The movie can’t talk back. We can.” And each night is going to be different. Each audience is different and each performer is different in terms of what they’re bringing into the room as well, so it’s a really unique and exciting theatrical event because it’s live.

Stack: One of the things I’m most excited about too is that we have a couple Friday night midnight performances, so just the crowd that that is going to bring out is going to be very [exciting]…I mean, we have no idea what’s going to happen, which is really kind of exciting.

DC: Are you encouraging people to dress up?

Stack: I mean, hell, we may pull someone onstage, because if someone were dressed up enough, I’d want everyone to see it.

DC: What parts of the show should SMU students be most excited about coming to see?

McLaughlin: If you want the answer to that question, you should come see the show.

Stack: Most people know what it is already, and it’s not often done by a big Equity regional theater on the scale it’s being done.

McLaughlin: I guess what I would say to an SMU student is, “This is going to be an incredibly fun evening of theater. You will come, you will laugh, you will sing along, you will leave and you will have had an incredible 90 minutes of your life.

DC: What is it like working at a large Equity regional theater?

McLaughlin: It’s an incredible gift. The opportunity for us to be in the room is wonderful, and, specifically, this cast is so generous and so kind that it really creates a space where you can create honestly.

Stack: I can’t imagine doing this show and not having a wonderfully close and open, loving cast because we’re all touching each other and up on each other.

McLaughlin: It’s also good to walk in the room everyday and have the sense that everyone in the room knows what they’re doing. You walk into the room and you’re like, “Wow. Liz Michael is a star. She’s on ‘Friday Night Lights’. And Julie Johnson is the voice of Baby Bop in ‘Barney’; she’s a star. And you’re in the room with these people and they really know what they’re doing. Certainly as a college student, it’s exciting to be in the room and to be demanded to rise up, to walk in and really commit and really learn, and it does exactly that. It really enables you to learn from the experience.

DC: What is the hardest part for you about being in this show?

McLaughlin: Girl, I’m dancing. That’s the hardest part for me. I am dancing, I am singing and I have not really done that in the way that I’m doing it since sophomore year of high school. And there have been about six years and 55 pounds since then and till now, and that creates an incredible demand. So that’s the hardest part for me. I am a river of sweat.

Stack: I mean, yeah that’s been a hard part because we spend most of our time [at SMU] focusing on just acting, and now we’re using different muscle groups. It’s not like we’re not acting in the show, we are because you’d just be frozen and locked without the training. But everything also has to feel like it’s going crazy and out of control, but the fact is that we have to be totally in control of what we’re doing at all times because if it goes actually out of control, then we’re in a really bad dangerous spot.

McLaughlin: And it’s not fun to watch. Organized chaos is captivating. Actual chaos is frightening and not that interesting to be a part of.

Stack: ‘Time Warp’ is one of the best examples of that because it’s supposed to feel like shit’s going wild, but we have to know exactly what beat we’re on and where we’re going next, and who’s about to cross in front of us, and what part of the audience we’re serving to.

McLaughlin: And what set piece is spinning, what set piece is raising, what set piece is flying in, is flying out. And this is a really exciting thing that may be exciting for an SMU student: We have Faux Destroyer, a full on rock band and they are our orchestra. They are completely and totally a part of our world, blocked into the show. They are live, they are with us; they are a part of the acting, an extension of [the lead character] Frank N. Furter. We’ve had the musicians in the room basically since halfway through the second week of rehearsal, which is a gift that you almost never get in musicals. Frankly, you almost never get a real rock band to do your rock musical with, and you certainly never get a real rock band to do a real rock musical with where they’re in the show with you! That’s because Joel Ferrell is wonderful and really knows what he’s doing.

Stack: That’s the other thing about Joel—he’s so wonderfully specific that you never feel stifled by what he wants you to be doing. It’s very collaborative.

McLaughlin: So ‘Rocky Horror’ at the Dallas Theater Center: You have a rock band, you have a cult classic and you have shit flying around all the time with people in pink lederhosen who are also painted blue. Like, I mean, what more could you ask for from an evening in the theater?

Stack: We’re marrying the stage version, a rock concert and the movie, so there’s also a camera onstage a lot of the time. Things are captured and projected in real time.

DC: So audience members might see themselves up there?

Stack: That’s very possible, but it’s also part of the storytelling. We can get things in a more isolated room or in a car.

McLaughlin: Joel says, “We want to give people what they expect, and then we want to give them more.” And now that we’re through the whole show, I think that Joel has done a really good job at [facilitating] that.

Stack: And now we get to just polish that and fine tune it and find more sprinkles and more cherries and more whipped cream.

McLaughlin: And figure out where we can breathe.

‘Rocky Horror’ runs from Sept. 11th through Oct. 19th at DTC. Tickets for the pay-what-you-can performance on Sept. 11th go on sale on Sept. 5th at DTC’s website. See for details.

More to Discover