It has been 7 years since I got tired of waiting and did something about it. It was 2008 and I had just moved back from California. It was kind of a…sabbatical for me- so I didn’t do much, including see Rocky- despite some world-class casts out there. But I was back in KC and thinking about Rocky. I had been a regular and done a couple of shows with the Angel’s with Hard-ons cast in St Louis in the late 90’s/early 2000’s and of course had seen it in KC as well as many viewings at home. I searched the web constantly, looking to see if any Rocky casts had sprung up or regular showings.
So one day in May of 2008, I decided to take matters into my own hands. If there wasn’t a show and a cast, I would do it myself. Besides it was a great way to re-connect with the city and meet new people. I pitched the idea to my friend Carrie, who loved it and would quickly become my co-director.
Pretty soon I was emailing every theater in town trying to find a home. That was no easy task. See, I take some flak for saying so, but some theaters in town had shown Rocky in the past- but it always ends. And usually there was a catalyst for it to happen. So experience with previous casts and audiences kind of made it difficult to find a willing theater. Again, I get blasted because it seems like I am slamming everyone who did a show before me- but it’s a matter of history. Things happened during other casts runs- whether accident, purpose or audience-based. And there were horror stories, some based in reality, some not. So this all made it harder. But believe me, I appreciate what previous casts did. And I apologize to those who took offense to my statements. It wasn’t meant to be accusatory. Just stating what I had heard from theaters- bad experiences made them leery to try again. Their words- not mine.
So, while I remained hopeful, I wasn’t expecting much. Until I finally heard back from one theater that was interested. The Screenland Crossroads. They had never shown Rocky, and thrived on showing things and doing things no one else in town was doing. One meeting later, and we had a start date- July 19, 2008. And important date for me, as it was the date, 7 years earlier, which I had lost my brother. It was a chance to replace a bad anniversary with a good one.
Immediately we put out the call and very quickly we managed to put together a great cast. I had figured we’d have trouble finding a Frank and assumed I would have to play him. I needn’t have worried as we found a perfect Frank in Maria. A young actress with a bold personality and love of everything over the top.
The cast and crew rounded out with Doug S, Kenny, Nick, Jessica, Carrie, Julie, Dawn, Kirk, Wick, Will, Mary and Myself.
I wasn’t sure how many we would have for that first show, but again, I needn’t have worried. It was a resounding sell-out- we turned them away at the door. The KC star was there and covered us in a huge 3 page story in the Friday preview, which helped us out immensely moving forward.
It was the beginning of something great as we sold out more often than not and strong bonds were formed. We were becoming a family.
All was well until April of 2013, the owner of the building decided to re-evaluate and determined that they weren’t charging enough rent. The lease tripled in price and there was no way the owner of the Screenland could possibly keep it open. At the end of May, the theater would close. Rocky was without a home, and we were right back where we started 5 years earlier. No home, and theaters in town having a bad taste for Rocky.
All was not lost though. See, 5 years of sell-outs and a dedicated following come with a certain weight. We had shown that Rocky could be profitable for a theater and could be run without problems if rules were put in place and you had a great audience and dedicated cast.
The Alamo Drafthouse knew this, and was running Rocky that Halloween. When they saw how huge the turnout was, they knew we were on to something. People still wanted to see Rocky. So when I came calling, Ryan (the manager) immediately set up a meeting. It didn’t take long for us to work out a deal and a start date. February of 2014 we would be back.
It has been an adjustment going from our small independent theater to a much larger corporate owned theater. More rules, more space, more management, larger scale, etc. But it has been worth it to continue our show and bring RHPS to an even larger audience on a grander scale. And so we have grown with the theater into something larger than we ever imagined. We found a new home.
I wish to thank Patrick, Jason, Butch, Ryan and the staff of both theaters for putting up with us and giving us a chance. You allow us to do something we love, and something that has been part of my life for 7 years now.
I also cannot forget to thank my cast. We continue to add new people to the cast and I can’t tell you what it means to me that I have such a loyal and amazing group of people- people that would and have followed me into hell. I won’t bother naming names, because it would be an exercise in futility as I would forget somebody inevitably. But know that everyone that has crossed our stage has been a part of something amazing. And I cannot thank you enough for that.
Thank you to Aly and the RKO Floorshow in Joplin for being an un-ending source of support.
However, the biggest thanks goes to somebody else. It is thanks to you, the audience, that we have been fortunate to survive 2 owners and 3 managers at the Screenland, and a move to a corporate theater with a multitude of managers and projectionists. It is you who have kept us in business, making the theaters take notice and keep us performing. It is you that cheer, boo, clap and call back to the screen and make things happen every single month. You have my utmost thanks. We couldn’t do it without you.