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Photo: Rocky Horror Show performers

Erin Loury remembers trying out in fall 2005 for The Rocky Horror Show, a production put on by the Department of Theatre and Dance. (Theatre and Dance/UC Davis 2005 photo)

UC Davis Stories

Erin Loury’s story

About Erin Loury

Photo: Erin Loury

Erin Loury, ’07, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology after a busy undergraduate career.

In her four short years at UC Davis, she also earned a minor in English and participated as an exchange student twice, once for a summer of humanities courses in Scotland and then for a quarter of intensive marine and forest biology in Australia.

Loury also completed a summer internship at the Bodega Marine Laboratory.

On top of these scholastic activities, she interned for the UC Davis News Service as a writer for more than two years.

This fall, Loury will enter a research apprenticeship at the Friday Harbor Marine Lab in Washington, with hopes of starting graduate school in marine biology in winter 2008.

Auditioning for The Rocky Horror Show

When I was a second-year student, seesawing between my dreams of becoming a marine biologist and other possibilities, I decided to indulge my love of theatre by trying out for an upcoming UC Davis musical.

At the beginning of the audition, Director Glen Walford pointed to the bold letters on her oversized T-shirt and asked the group of prospective actors before her, "What does this say?"

From our horseshoe formation on the stage of the Wright Hall theatre, 60 of us chirruped in unison: "Think Big!"

The Granada artist-in-residence smiled. "Yes, I want you to start thinking very big," she said. "Think Mondavi’s Jackson Hall."

Black leather and fishnet tights

There was a momentary hush, as each of us visualized stepping onto the Mondavi Center’s stately proscenium — clad in scanty black leather and fishnet tights. That’s because we were auditioning for the quintessence of cult classics, The Rocky Horror Show.

That night I abandoned the safety and structure of my biology studies to dance in the limelight.

And though I’d toughed my way through monologues and cold readings, the huge group audition had me jittery. Should I have brought a résumé? Was I wearing the right thing?

To top it off, this was that gut-wrenching subspecies of terror: a musical audition.

A simple warm-up exercise

I barely had time to remove my shoes, and we were off and running with a simple warm-up: stepping forward from our semi-circle at random and speaking our name to the mostly empty house.

I peeked at Glen and her casting team sitting in the first few rows with their pads of paper, and realized that we were already being evaluated.

Soon we were wandering about the stage, feeding off each other’s energy, speaking the lines and contorting into the characters that were called out to us.

We were all UC Davis students, studying music, psychology and entomology by day — but in the shadowy, half-lit comfort of the stage, we transformed into aliens, vampires and sensual virgins.

Channeling her knowledge of Krebs cycle

When we were asked to imitate mad scientists, I wondered if trying to channel my knowledge of the Krebs cycle would give me an edge.

We played with projection at the front of the stage, casting our voices from deep within ourselves to the unseen audience in the very back row.

Glen urged us to infuse our voices with madness, with obsession, to explore the play’s extremes of bleakness and hope that are rather glossed over by the popular film. As I heard our voices chime out that "There’s a light over at the Frankenstein place," my spine tingled with exhilaration — I was really enjoying myself.

But lurking after some group improvisation was the dreaded vocal audition, and my stomach plummeted to my toes.

Sing only a few words

Due to our large number, each of us was asked to sing only a few words — yet as the music director made his way down our chorus line, I felt my mouth go dry.

Though it hit me at this point that I was out of my league among seasoned vocalists, that my voice was quavering and my face was flushed, somehow I pushed out the words, "Let’s do the time warp again!" And louder: "Let’s do the time warp again!"

And as I sighed with relief, I realized — it was over. Glen returned to the stage, thanking us for our enthusiasm on a Sunday evening.

I took a glance around me and saw that we were a grab bag of different ages, genders, races and majors — brought together by our desire to be part of this outrageous show.

Exposed a unique piece of ourselves

A select few from our group, and some from the night before, would advance to the next round of callbacks — for most of us, this was as far as we’d go. Yet that night we had all performed, had all exposed a unique piece of ourselves.

Glen closed by saying that the first exercise of simply saying our given name is one of the hardest we’d have to face as actors. By asserting ourselves, we’d overcome a great hurdle — because many actors use theatre to hide from themselves. We all had reason to be proud.

I left the theatre through the revolving door of my double life, returning to my bio books with slightly more spark than before.

Ribosomes could take a backseat to rock ’n’ roll. I was still riding high on the wave of transformation, of stepping into crazy shoes and becoming a liberated "Creature of the Night."

Although I didn’t make the casting cut, my friends and I had no qualms slipping into character once again when the show rolled around, donning our best gothic makeup and feather boas.

We danced in the aisles and belted out "Sweet Transvestite" from the Rocky Horror audience, under a glittering disco globe that filled the Mondavi Center with a thousand otherworldly stars.

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