[The Film Issue]

Sci-Fi Center’s shadow cast steps into the spotlight

Brain cake and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ anyone?

They’ve mastered Rocky Horror. Now, Science Fiction Double Feature is branching out with Ghostbusters and Sweeney Todd.
Photo: Adam Shane

The Molotov cocktail scene from Night of the Living Dead is scary without a bunch of zombies shambling around the movie theater, blood geysering from one the exact moment a shot rings out onscreen. But the Sci-Fi Center doesn’t want you to just sit there and watch the cult classic; it wants to transport you inside the film—complete with cake made to look like juicy brains.

George A. Romero’s genre-defining hit had never been performed by a shadow cast to the knowledge of William Powell, owner of the Sci-Fi Center. Its troupe, Science Fiction Double Feature, had done The Rocky Horror Picture Show countless times and branched out with other cult favorites like Clue and Repo! The Genetic Opera, but at this point, “any idea is open season.” Powell says that in the next year, the shadow cast will tackle John Carpenter’s alien thriller They Live, followed by Ghostbusters and Sweeney Todd. And they’ll bump up from one performance a month to two.

Powell calls the shadow cast’s work “art in motion.” If they do it right, your eyes are glued to them instead of the screen. “It’s just a reference point, just to see how dead-on the people are,” Powell says. “It’s a source of pride if you’re ever screen-accurate, which means you look, you dress and you move exactly like what’s going on behind you … step for step.”

Given the troupe’s repertoire—ranging from Rock of Ages to a musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer—and ambition to shadow more untested material, Powell hopes to launch a multiday showcase called Shadow Fest. “It’s one thing to put on your Frank-N-Furter costume and do Rocky Horror for the 50th or 60th time. … It’s another altogether to do something for the very first time,” Powell says. “‘Can we do it?’ is not really the question anymore.”

Science Fiction Double Feature Friday the 13th Part III (in 3D)/The Rocky Horror Picture Show (with live shadow cast), February 8, 8 p.m., $10, Sci-Fi Center, 600 E. Sahara Ave. #13, 792-4335.

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