Don’t Judge a Book…

by Maddie Pinney

Ian George is defying gender roles–inside and out of costume

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Ian George playing Frank-N-Furter sensually sings to the innocent newlyweds, Brad and Janet, after they arrive at his castle, The Frankenstein.

“Don’t get strung out by the way I look, don’t judge a book by its cover,” is sexually sung in the beginning lines of “Sweet Transvestite” by Frank-N-Furter, the sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania who bears a glittered black corset, fishnet tights and shimmering red lips with no apprehension. Don’t judge a book by its cover is right. When I first saw Ian George, a junior studying middle school education, at a Rocky Horror Picture Show rehearsal, he stood tall wearing a plain Ohio University hoodie with plain blue jeans and black Nike shoes. It was hard to imagine him turning in those black Nikes for a pair of black stilettos to transform into Tim Curry’s cult classic character, Frank-N-Furter.

First-time director Kelly Bergenstein, a sophomore studying psychology and pre-law, agreed that he was not the type to be pegged as flamboyant enough to play a transvestite. But George came to auditions to win the role.

This intriguing dichotomy of a square-looking guy playing the role of the over-sexual, ornate character led me to meet up with him the day of their first show that played Wednesday Oct. 29 at the Union Bar & Grill. Again he showed up wearing his plain gray hoodie, but hiding underneath it was a whole host of quirks and commodities. George has  always been a lover of theatre and wanted to be in the Lost Flamingo Company, the only student-run theatre organization on campus, but never had the chance freshman or sophomore year. Better late than never, he thought to himself. The Rocky Horror Picture show seemed to be the perfect fit because he loves Tim Curry. George modestly admitted he only got the role because he looks like Curry, and since he’s seen the movie he knew the songs Bergenstein picked during casting. It seemed that George got the role for more than just knowing the lines and looking the part.

“He is fantastic, honestly I could not have found somebody who could play this part better than him,”Bergenstein said. It seems George’s love of acting is why he fits the role so perfectly.

“The one thing about me and acting is that I love being a new person and being someone I’m not, but also being a part of me, because every character you are is a little bit part of yourself that you’re just over exaggerating, so I’m guessing there is a part of me that wants to be a transvestite, because I love playing him,” he said so confidently that it made me giddy with the idea that people aren’t always as they seem. I wondered if his parents and friends were as surprised as I was. It came as no surprise to his parents because ever since he was a kid he loved playing quirky roles. One year for Halloween his parents bought him a skin-tight metallic costume that was accompanied by a crown and scepter his dad made. George called himself King Zesfraud, gay leader of some faraway planet. George’s peculiarity is hidden behind his introverted personality.

“My friends all know how weird I am, I can get very weird. If you don’t know me, I’m a lot more closed off, I’m a very introverted person although some things may suggest otherwise,” he said. Again, another unexpected turn in the psyche of Ian George, an introvert willing to get up on stage dressed as a full-fledged transvestite. George says that playing this role isn’t unfamiliar to him because of King Zesfraud. He then added another facet of his personality that threw me for another loop–he dressed up in women’s clothes as a kid because he thought they were cute.

“Like, skirts–don’t even get me started on skirts,” he said.

“Everyone thinks it’s really funny a straight man is playing the most sexually active person in the show. To me I feel like I’m more atone to my feminine side anyways. I hate sports, I hate men–I don’t hate men, I just feel like a lot of men are ass***es and douches, I would rather stick around and hang out with women, but at the same point, I find men super attractive, but I would never get with them. I think Neil Patrick Harris is a hot stud, but anyways, I find women way more attractive, and I am dating one.”

Although he seems comfortable in his own skin and about the show, he was worried about the orgy scene when the cast kisses members of the audience, because he thought it might make his girlfriend jealous. She said she was fine with it, “But still, when someone says they’re fine with it you gotta be a little bit on the edge–sometimes, just sometimes.”

It was the day of the show. Feelings, apprehensions?

“I love it, there are people who get high off of sports or roller coasters or scary things. I can’t do scary things. Things that pop out–no thank you. Sports, I hate them. Roller coasters, sure they’re exciting, but this is where I get my high: Acting. I love that nervous feeling before you go on and act. Being someone else is so amazing, I just want it to be tonight already.”

Rocky Horror could be described as Disneyland except everyone is drunk and naked. It’s this big phenomena in which everyone can get involved and be really weird for one night of the year. The only thing Bergenstein said the cast needed to keep in mind was they shouldn’t get too drunk to do their job–and here comes the last curve ball of the Ian George phenomena: He’s never been drunk. He promised his girlfriend that they could get drunk together for the first time, and he hasn’t even been around that many drunk people before. That was about to change when he strutted his stuff at the show that night.

So, here’s this nice guy who has never been drunk and is a loyal and considerate boyfriend with a feminine side. The kind of guy who would rather trick-or-treat than party at HallOUween playing Frank-N-Furter. The mad scientist, obsessed with sex and prepared to have an orgy with Brad and Janet, the recently engaged virgin couple who stumbled upon his castle, and willing to murder and even perform cannibalism. So how does Ian George turn into Frank-N-Furter? Let alone in front of an audience yelling vulgar call backs like,

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Preparing for dress rehearsal, Caroline Breshnahan, who plays Magenta, paints George’s face with makeup to solidify his transvestite character.

 

“Sing it asshole, it’s a musical!”

“Hey Brad, are you gay?”

“Shit, it was just a question”

“Fuck off!”

“Hey Brad, show us how a butterfly masturbates!”

 

It’s the costume. After he found it, everything seemed to piece together and Frank-N-Furter came alive.

“It just clicked, Bergenstein said.“He had everything down, every mannerism from the movie, and once we started doing costume rehearsals he just turned into Tim Curry. It was amazing, it was magic.” Walking into the Union, I was immediately submerged into the Rocky madness, dim, dark, red lights, the ensemble walking around with fishnets and bare butt cheeks, drunk men in corsets and women in bras, all ready to interact with the cast and have an uninhibited evening of strange sex scenes and songs.

The beginning bass started to strum, strum, strum and Ian George, or, should I say Frank-N-Furter, emerged onto the stage, strutting in his stilettos and shaking his hips with every sweet-transexual-from-Transylvania cell in his body, singing “Don’t get strung out by the way that I look/don’t judge a book by its cover.”

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