June 22 2011 12:00 AM

The audience calls the shots in ’The Digitizer,’ Lansing Media/Theatre Project’s interactive farce


While the age of the Choose Your Own
Adventure book may have passed, today’s technology is helping bring the
same concept to local theater.

This weekend, the Lansing Media/Theatre
Project will bring a digital twist to its comedic routine at the
Riverwalk Theatre. In its production of “The Digitizer,” LMTP will mix
traditional acting with video and video game effects and animations, as
well as interactive programs that will allow the audience to impact the
course of the fun.

The show follows the exploits of Dr. Bob,
his assistant, and an indignant robot as they unveil a new invention,
the titular digitizer. Naturally, the unveiling doesn’t go exactly as
planned, and comedy ensues.

Like most Choose Your Own Adventure
works, there is a set script. Faced with a choice between two endings,
the audience will decide which path the show heads down. Those with
iPhones, iPads and iTouches are encouraged to bring them along to vote
on the conclusion. 

But that doesn’t mean those without handheld devices can’t affect the action in the show, too.

Dennis Corsi, who is playing Dr. Bob’s
assistant, said the show uses camera and audio tracking technology to
keep the audience involved. Through body movements and vocalization, the
crowd will impact the show’s outcome.

In other words, the louder the crowd is, the more stake they’ll have in the ending.

“For example, one thing we have is a
beach ball,” Corsi said. “It’s tossed around the audience. We have a
computer program tracking the beach ball, so depending on where they
toss it will affect what’s going on on the screen.”

The performance grew out of an ongoing
education effort the LMTP has run since it was founded last year. Begun
by Michigan State University Professor Alison Dobbins, it is a
collaboration between MSU and Riverwalk. Having hosted workshops and
seminars in the Lansing area about the integration of theater and new
media, the LMTP sees this as a culmination of its efforts.

In doing so, “The Digitizer” has brought
together more than just actors. According to Corsi, the show’s also
united video game designers and 3D modelers — different fields on the
MSU campus that aren’t often associated with theater.

“It’s a lot about experimentation,” Corsi said. “We’re seeing what limits we can push and what we can do.”

’The Digitizer’
Lansing Media/Theatre Project
7 p.m. Friday, June 24 and 3 p.m. Saturday, June 25
Riverwalk Theatre,
228 Museum Dr., Lansing
$7 adults, $5 children