Drag theater company debuts in Rock Springs with performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”

A growing theater scene in Rock Springs creates a safe space for people of all backgrounds.
Kenny McCormack, who also goes by Starling, stars as Frank-N-Furter in a shadow cast performance of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" on Oct. 21 and 22. (Basham Photography)

When 26-year-old theater director Kenny McCormack moved in 2020 to Rock Springs, three hours south of Jackson Hole, they didn’t quite know what to do. McCormack uses they/them pronouns. They said there were few opportunities, so they asked, “Why not make my own with the community that’s come to love me and support me and be so kind to me?”

Two years later, their dream of creating an inclusive theater company has finally come to fruition. On Friday, Oct. 21, McCormack’s theater, The Starling Company, opens with a shadow cast performance of the cult classic, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” 

A shadow cast is an ensemble of artists that acts out a movie while it is playing, dancing and singing live. The trend started in the early 1980s and has become the most common way that audiences experience “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in theaters.

The shadow cast in this production includes local high school and college students, as well as parents, grandparents and a drag queen named Tara Lipsyncki from Salt Lake City.

One local actor who got involved is 54-year-old retired police officer Tim Robinson. Robinson landed the lead role of Rocky. He doesn’t exactly fit the mold of who one might imagine in a musical comedy about trans aliens. Still, he embraced the role – despite some physical discomfort with his costume.

The first try on of pantyhose was terrible,” Robinson said. “Ripped the hell out of them. I had no clue. The heels …They hurt my toes. I got a blister.” 

It wasn’t just the costumes that were a new experience for Robinson. He said that being a police officer was often a lonely job and that being part of this cast has given him a new community of friends. 

The best thing is I’ve met 20 people that I probably wouldn’t have ever met in my normal pre-retirement life,” he explained.

Rock Springs has a history as a roughneck sort of place. It was settled in the late 1800s when people emigrated from all over the world to work in the Union Pacific Coal Mines and soon after became a place where outlaw gangs would pass through – including the bank robber “Butch” Cassidy. (Cassidy worked in Rock Springs as a butcher, where he acquired the name “Butch.”) 

Rock Springs isn’t exactly known as a hub for the LGBTQIA+ community – but that’s why McCormack said theater is so important. They want to create a safe space for diverse audiences and actors to feel valued, appreciated, seen and heard. 

“I really hope to amplify marginalized voices in this small community,” they said. “Rural communities like this have been left behind by society, just to put it blatantly and that’s why there is this fear, because people like me aren’t here …  But if we create this representation and this exposure, that fear and that ignorance goes away. We have a chance to be stronger as a community and get better as a community. And the arts just happen to be a great medium for that.”

More information on The Starling Company can be found on their Facebook page. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” opens at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21 at the Broadway Theater in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

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About Emily Cohen

Emily has served as executive director of KHOL since June 2019. She has a background in ecological design and urban planning and has worked as a teacher on the US-Mexico border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, as a policy wonk in Washington, DC and as a land use planner in Wyoming. She enjoys getting away from the operations side of radio to produce original stories about arts and culture in Jackson.

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