Theatre Engine
Cast and Crew

Theatre Engine: mobile applications, game development and theatre--working together to create a whole new experience for the audience.

Theatre Engine explores the use of mobile devices as a method to connect an audience to a live performance.  This project has three phases; "Dancer Toss," "Flash Mob," and "Puzzle." The performance workshop for "Dancer Toss" was held in May 2013 and tested the current progress of this multi-media collaboration between dance, music, computer, and smart phone. The performance workshop for "Flash Mob" was held in April 2014 and will be performed again at Kent State University in December 2014 and St. Olaf's College and Brigham Young University in March 2014.

Click here to see video from "Flash Mob."
Performance Dates: April 27th and April 29th 2014
RCAH Theatre, Michigan State University

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Click here to see video from "Dancer Toss."
Performance Dates: April 30th and May 2nd 2013
RCAH Theatre, Michigan State University

Detailed Project Description for Theatre Engine
In "Dancer Toss" two dancers are on stage and one runs behind a large screen upstage.  The dancer immediately appears on the large screen as an animation and runs off the large screen onto the mobile devices of the audience.  The audience members toss the dancer from cellphone to cellphone.   Music plays from the cellphone and a moving light focuses on the audience member who currently controls the dancer.  This cues the second dancer, who remains on stage, to react and interact with that audience member.

In “Flash Mob” shapes appear on the phone. Moving the phone makes the shape wiggle and dance. A corresponding shape appears on the wall of the theatre. As the phone moves the shape on the wall moves. More and more phone movement is required to make the shape move as time goes on. Eventually huge movements are required, i.e. the audience must stand, jump, dance.  Dancers arrive on stage and begin to create a dance interacting with the shapes projected on the wall as their “partner”. Everyone is dancing; audience members with their phones, dancers with the shapes, and audience members with the dancers.

In "Puzzle" a different portion of an image appears on each audience member’s phone. It is a small part of a musical instrument. Audience members must stand up and bring phones together to form a whole image. When two phones are correctly aligned a sound is heard. Once the entire image is assembled the audience members can move and wiggle the phones to make musical sounds.  Dancers arrive on stage and the image changes to large cartoon creature that the dancers interact with. Wiggling the phones can make the mouth move or the eyes blink. Groups of audience members, sharing the same creature, are now puppeteers dancing with the dancers. 

Prototype of the Phases of Theatre Engine
This video, created in 2012, shows a prototype of the intended interaction in the three sections.

Click here to view the prototype.

As each phase is developed changes occur and the incorporation of the audience (as performers) will be tested in workshops in 2014 and 2015. This project uses the creative artistry of professionals from fields as diverse as choreography and computer science.

Theatre Engine: Flashmob Creative Team

Theatre Engine: Dancer Toss Creative Team

CostumerLighting DesignerComposer

Funding Sources

Photos by Jordan Berger, Steve VanMaele and Kelly Climer (
Videos by Ryan Sundberg, Josh Rickert & Taylor Reschka