History of Rocky Horror in Pittsburgh
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been running on and off in Pittsburgh since the late '70's / early '80's. The story of Rocky in Pittsburgh is one of continuous death, rebirth, and perseverence... Like cockroaches!
Destined to be Born: 1980s - 1990
The first cast didn't have a name (unofficially, the "Cast with No Name"), performing at the King's Court Theater in Oakland. (The building now houses a T-Mobile retail store...) Drawing on the Pitt and CMU student body, the theater hosted Rocky every Friday and Saturday night.
The director was Adolph Huntermark, a member of the original New York Cast who moved to Pittsburgh in the 1980s. Under his leadership, Rocky in Pittsburgh became a legitimate phenomenon. The cast had a reputation, like many at the time, as a tight-knit group of misfits who got together to do a show and party hard.
Land of Night: 1990 - 1995
After the King's Court's closing in 1989 and Adolph's departure, the old cast gradually drifted apart. Terry Thome picked up the reigns and his cast eventually took up residence at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont. During this time, the cast changed its name to The Junior Chamber of Commerce Players, or J.C.C.P. for short. The name, as most Rocky fans are aware, comes from Janet's line "This isn't the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Brad!" just before "Sweet Transvestite."
The early '90s would be regarded as the height of Rocky's popularity in Pittsburgh; one of those "you-had-to-be-there" moments in time. It was this period that Stephen Chbosky experienced first-hand and later wrote about in his novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower(more on that later...).
Dark Refrain: 1995 - 2005
After the Hollywood Theater closed in April 1995, things became turbulent for the JCCP. They eventually found their way back to the King's Court venue (renamed The Pollenator by its new owners, the Beehive Coffee Shop, who operated it as a coffee shop/bar/performance venue). However, following a raid by the Liquor Control Board the cast was unceremoniously evicted, resulting in the loss of most of the remaining props and lots of bad feelings. This fight left the cast leadership exhausted and they entered a period of dormancy.
When they finally did get a home again, at The Squirrel Hill Theater, it too was short-lived and drama-filled. The cast lost its theater and its manager on the same night. It was one of the lowest points in cast history. However, dedicated fans persevered in holding the group together long enough for the Hollywood to reopen and the cast to re-assemble there for a second run... Before the theater was closed again in 1998 due to unpaid taxes.
The cast finally disbanded until...
I'm Going Home: 2005 - 2010
In 2005, a new shadowcast was formed in Pittsburgh and–as tradition dictates–named themselves the JCCP. They had their first performance Halloween of that year... in a backyard on the South Side to an audience of 12.
After an out-of-town engagement at the now-defunct Warner Theater in Morgantown, WV, Rocky finally returned to Pittsburgh proper with a Halloween 2007 show at the Oaks. Monthly shows there started up again in May 2008. Highlights from this period include our first Dark Knight/Batman theme show, our first April Fool's "Redux" and a certain "unplugging" incident...
After re-establishing our footing, we made a triumphant return to a reopened and newly-restored Hollywood Theater in August 2009 (but not before yeilding the stage for a spectacular alumni show).
This new generation of JCCP'ers came to love the Hollywood and called it home just as their predecessors did. Some of us started hanging out and volunteering there in our free time, and our then-president Jordan even became co-manager.
But sadly, this was not to last. [the downfall...] And the theater closed again in mid-May 2010, before we could even perform our final scheduled show. We were devastated, "homeless" and didn't perform again until 2 Halloween shows that year. ...In West Virginia.
We Are Infinite: 2011 - present
The Hollywood reopened a year later with new, local management – and a friend in a high place! South Hills native Stephen Chbosky, author/writer/director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, opted to shoot his movie's Rocky scenes at the very spot where he first saw it: The Hollywood Theater! The film's cast & crew were in attendance for our May 21st homecoming show and filming took place there on June 1st & 2nd, 2011.
Jordan's final legacy, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film, was working on Perksas a "Rocky consultant" and playing... basically himself as the Riff-Raff shadowcaster. And many JCCP'ers and their fans were involved as extras as filming continued throughout the summer. Look closely at the finished product and you can probably see us!
We were on a roll again. Our numbers were growing (enough to shadowcast Shock Treatment solo in March 2012) and we were even joined by a new stage crew to boot! We continued to perform at the Oaks for Halloween and helped students at the University of Pittsburgh with their own shadowcast performance. The weekend of Perks' wide release, Stephen Chbosky himself stopped down to pay a visit!
But... You guessed it, trouble struck again, this time handed down from the top. Througout 2012, pressure mounted from 20th Century Fox to stop showing Rocky on licensed Blu-Ray discs like we had been. And returning to 35mm was sadly not an option; the only way for the theater to show RHPS again would be through a $75,000 digital cinema projector with, of course, no financial help from the studio. Their rule went into effect January 1, 2013 and we were forced into dormancy.
We spent the first half of 2013 shdowcasting other cult films not owned by Fox: Clue, Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical, Grease (assisting with the Hollywood's own event) and Cry Baby.
The JCCP found a lot of potential in their time without the movie and just how much they could do. By Summer of 2013, they had the movie back and have been in full swing ever since! The cast continues to put on well-crafted creative shows twice a month. They also have established themselves as the only shadow cast (so far) to do an annual showing and full shadow cast of Reefer Madness: the Musical. Stronger than ever, the Junior Chamber of Commerce continues to burn like a phoenix and looks forward to the years of glitz and glam to come.
Since 2013 the JCCP has annually performed a shadowcast version of Reefer Madness: the Movie Musical, making it the only cast in the country to perform the show regularly.
Throughout the next few years the JCCP performed Rocky Horror regularly at the Hollywood, Row House Cinema, as well as bars and venues throughout Pittsburgh. They also added in Phantom of the Paradise, Clue, Shock Treatment, and other movies into the mix. The JCCP has been represented in Pride in Pittsburgh, particularly People’s Pride during Pride month. Through the summers they could be seen doing photoshoots in popular and iconic Pittsburgh places like the Point, Oakland, Market Square, and other places. The JCCP has also participated and performed in the conventions and jams held by the Rocky Horror Picture Show community throughout the years.
In 2018 the JCCP hosted the Rocky Horror Picture Show Community’s annual Convention calling it YinzCon. At YinzCon, held at the Omni William Penn in downtown Pittsburgh, there were multiple panels on Rocky related content and community, a showing of an All Star Cast of Shock Treatment, preshows from around the country, and topped off with a showing of an All Star Cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Hollywood Theater.
In 2018 The Hollywood Theater was purchased by the Theatre Historical Society of America. The JCCP continue to perform at the Hollywood Theater under this new management.
Repo! The Genetic Opera was added in to the JCCP annual performances in 2018 at Row House Cinema.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic the JCCP continued to meet online. They created virtual shows including a virtual Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast built of performers lip syncing and acting out the movie and spliced together with fellow cast mates from quarantine, a Zoom version of Repo! The Genetic Opera, a Zoom table read of Clue and The Breakfast Club and participated in the all-digital Rocky Horror Convention put on by the Tesseract Players in July of 2021.
In July of 2021 the JCCP returned to showings of Rocky Horror at The Hollywood Theater.
Currently, the JCCP performs at The Hollywood Theater monthly, though adhering to COVID-19 safety precautions. They have also started performing elsewhere in Pittsburgh including Row House Cinema and other venues.
If you would like to book the JCCP for a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show or another movie that can be shadowcasted, please check out the Contact tab. If there are questions regarding guest performances or split shows with other casts, please email us as well! We continue to perform throughout the Pittsburgh area as well as be a vocal and enthusiastic part of the worldwide Rocky Horror Picture Show community.
Special thanks to Big Tom, RockyHorror.com, Terry Thome, and many others who helped comprise this history.