As a quirky high school student, Sam Bassett longed to find a few like-minded friends. Then the Pittsburgh native found them in Transsexual, Transylvania.
Bassett is the president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players (JCCP), a local theater group that regularly pantomimes “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on stage while the 1975 gender-bending flick dominates the Silver Screen.
“Rocky Horror is very accessible,” says Bassett. “Accessibility is important to people who are goofy or weird or questioning themselves and trying to find a place where they fit in. I was going through that ‘Who am I?’ phase. “Rocky Horror” gave me an accepting space to be weird.”
On June 4 at 11:59 p.m. inside Dormont’s Hollywood Theater, the theater company will join forces with Chocolate Covered Rocky Horror, a Black ensemble cast from Baltimore, for a Pride event celebrating diversity, sexuality and the enduring legacy of the movie. The local actors will also perform at the Dormont Spark/Pride festival on June 25.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was a box office bomb that developed a cult following after cineplexes around the world began hosting midnight screenings. Rather than sitting in silence, moviegoers began dressing like their favorite characters and interacting with the unconventional story. Audience participation is a hallmark of “Rocky Horror.”
By the late-1970s, the global phenomenon reached Pittsburgh and the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players — a name inspired by a line from the film — was formed out of that rampant fandom.
Spectators can purchase prop bags for between $3 and $5 before every screening and throw toilet paper when Brad exclaims “Great Scott!” and find good uses for party hats, newspapers and rubber gloves.
Bassett joined the theater group in 2007, making them the longest-tenured member of the shadow cast. They’ve tackled every role with glee: JCCP members will often draw character names out of a hat just before a show to keep things fresh.
“It’s exhilarating,” Bassett says. “You know everyone is yelling and screaming for you in your fishnets and corset. You feel so much confidence when you can strut around and do these things. There’s no better feeling in the world.”
Dani Mauroni joined in 2011 while still in high school.
“The JCCP basically raised me. From age 18, I’ve learned some of my most important life skills from doing this silly thing: the basics of theater, leadership and management, interpersonal communication skills, out-of-the-box thinking, how to create a safe space for creativity,” Mauroni says. “The JCCP has been the one constant throughout my entire adult life, and the people I met and the skills I acquired led me to experiences that, with no exaggeration, had a huge part in shaping the person and the performer that I am.
“Nowadays I have the privilege of stage managing for and performing with lots of extremely talented people in the city of Pittsburgh, and none of it would be possible if I hadn’t joined the JCCP.”
In 2010, Luna La Crème, a nonbinary burlesque star and drag king, started performing with the JCCP. Two years later they were an extra in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” the Pittsburgh-based coming-of-age tale by author and director Stephen Chbosky. In the film, the main characters participate in a “Rocky Horror” shadow cast filmed at the Hollywood Theater.
“I have performed at multiple cons in all-star casts and Barry Bostwick has bought a pair of pasties from me,” they say. “Rocky was and still is my gateway to glamour and such a huge part of my performance career.”
Even during the pandemic, the organization held virtual rehearsals and performances to give the cast a release during lonely days in quarantine.
If you’re 18 or older and interested in doing the “Time Warp” in front of an adoring crowd, Bassett says study the movie and contact the JCCP online to schedule an audition. The group — which has about 15 core members, 10 reserves and legions of “cast cousins” who pop in every now and then — performs monthly at the Hollywood and at other venues such as Row House Cinema in Lawrenceville. In addition to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” they parrot cult classics such as “Reefer Madness,” “Shock Treatment” and “Repo! The Genetic Opera.”
“We don’t cast by age or body type or race,” Bassett says. “We are all about making sure people feel good about their bodies. If you want to play a role, you can.”
Pittsburgh Pride Events (check the links for updates and ticket sales)
The Pittsburgh Pride Group is hosting a series of events to kick off the month-long celebration.
Too Hot for July featuring Saucy Santana: Thursday, June 2 from 5 to 11 p.m. at KLVN Coffee Lab in Larimer (6600 Hamilton Ave.)
Ball on the Bridge: Friday, June 3 from noon to 4 p.m. on the Warhol Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh
Pride on the Shore: Friday, June 3 from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Stage AE on the North Shore (400 North Shore Dr.)
Pittsburgh Pride Revolution Stand Up, Fight Back March: Saturday, June 4. Lineup is at 11 a.m. The march starts at noon at the City-County Building in Downtown Pittsburgh (414 Grant St.)
Pittsburgh Pride Revolution North Side Festival: Saturday, June 4 from 1 to 8 p.m. in Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side
Head to Deutschtown for an evening of togetherness, celebration and recognition in the continued fight for equal rights for all. There will be Pride flags and koozies, reggae in the biergarten with DJ Reason and food from Veggies N’at. A portion of sales and raffle basket proceeds will be donated to the Persad Center in Lawrenceville.
The bar at 5801 Ellsworth Ave. in Shadyside is hosting the marathon Pride event to benefit the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation and other local organizations.
Pride kickoff: Featuring “RuPaul’s Drag Race” icon Ongina on Thursday, June 2 at 7 p.m.
Pride Trivia: Friday, June 3, 6 to 8 p.m.
Pride Street Party: Saturday, June 4, 4 to 9 p.m.
Pride Drag Brunch: Sunday, June 5, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Twilight Extravaganza and Street Party: Featuring “RuPaul’s Drag Race” icon Heidi N Closet on Sunday, June 5 at 6 p.m.
Community Happy Hours: Monday, June 6, through Thursday, June 9, 5 to 7 p.m.
Pride Drag Show: Hosted by Leia Way Lestat on Thursday, June 9 from 10 p.m. to midnight.
G2H2 and “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” viewing party: Hosted by Indie Skies and Luna Skye on Friday, June 10, 5:30 p.m.
Pride Street Party: Saturday, June 11, 4 p.m.
Pride Drag Brunch: Sunday, June 12, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Pride Closing Party and Tea Dance: Sunday, June 12, 3 to 8 p.m.
S&S Productions present an event filled with glitz and glamor hosted by Luna Skye and Indi Skies. There will be indoor and outdoor seating (weather permitting).
SisTers PGH, a nonprofit founded and operated by Black, Pittsburgh-grown transwomen and femmes, has been organizing the People’s Pride PGH March and Music Festival every year since 2017. This year’s festivities will be held in Swissvale, where SisTers PGH is headquartered.
A family-friendly gathering to connect and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community will be held at Allegheny Rivertrail Park in Aspinwall (285 River Ave.). Planned activities include a Drag Queen Story Time, arts and crafts, games, a history walk, a vendor fair, live music and more.
Necromancer Brewing Co. at 2257 Babcock Blvd. in Ross Township hosts a three-day Pride celebration in the brewhouse.
Thursday, June 9: This ladies and femme-identifying night will feature the release of Love Birds Bagel Kolsch, a collaboration with Pigeon Bagels. There will be music, vendors and informational booths.
Friday, June 10: Release of I Scream, You Scream Strawberry Key Lime Sour, a collaboration with Leona’s Ice Cream. Tickets to the Beer and Ice Cream sandwich pairing event are available online.
Saturday, June 11: Release of Dank & Fruit Hazy IPA, a collaboration with Valkyrie Doughnuts, along with live music, vendors and informational booths. The evening ends with a drag extravaganza from 8 to 11 p.m. (Full disclosure: I will be a vendor at this event).
Arts Out Loud is hosting a Pride celebration with an artistic flair at Ice House Studios in Lawrenceville (100 43rd St.). More than two dozen local makers and LGBTQ organizations will be on hand selling goods, presenting demonstrations and raising awareness.
Steel City Roller Derby will take over the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena at 22 Rich Hill Road in Cheswick for a Pride mixer. Doors open at 2 p.m. and tickets are $10 when purchased from a skater or $15 at the door. Kids 10 and under and junior derby skaters get in for free.
Enjoy art, crafts, zines, vintage goods, and more from a variety of Pittsburgh’s queer maker community at the WBU event venue in Spring Hill (1958 Varley St.).
After the success of last year’s inaugural event, the 2022 volunteer-run festival will continue to spotlight the safe spaces and friendly faces throughout the borough that celebrate diversity and inclusivity. There will be food and drink specials at businesses, games, vendors, live music and performances by queer artists.
Raise a glass to Pride Month on the South Side! Start at Oddballs at 1505 E. Carson St. to register and stop at participating bars lining the main drag. Tickets can be purchased online and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project.
Join Dormont Arts and the Dormont LGBTQ Community Committee, a project of the Dormont Community Development Corporation, for free art, entertainment, live music and comedy, local vendors, food purveyors and more. Read more about Dormont Spark/Pride here.
For more events, check out out Weekly Event Guides and read 15 very Pittsburgh things you’ll want to do in June.