News Blog for Seattle's University District Neighborhood


Wing-it Productions’ play brings a new level of interactivity – through Kinect

May 7th, 2012 by master

UW News Lab

Lars Foster-Jorgensen and Trent Walkiewicz act in Wing-It Production’s new unscripted play “Gauntlet.” Photo credit Wing-It Productions.

What if you could be the “player” within a play?

Improv theater group Wing-It Productions did just that at their opening night for their new unscripted play, “Gauntlet” on Thursday, May 3.

In addition to the typical audience interaction needed in improv, a new level of virtual interaction was used for the actors. Microsoft engineers and Carnegie-Mellon graduate students collaborated with Wing-It to create an exclusive Kinect video game for the play.

In addition to the innovation’s “wow-factor,” the use of a video game in the play is vital to the story.

“Gauntlet” is about two friends who are winners at playing video games but are losers in life. Depending on audience suggestions, the plot revolves around a major life event. The video-game world almost parallels the real world, making the “audience member become lost in the show, much in the same way that video games engulf the player,” said director Andrew McMasters.

Each performance is a unique experience, just like starting a new file on a video game. The actors rotate the basic parts. “Female gamers will not be excluded,” said actors Elizabeth Westerman and Amalia Larson, who play the role of the video gamers.

Don Gillett came up with the show’s concept about six to seven years ago during the show “CUT,” which involved a green screen that the actors would interact with. Motion-capture technology has progressed enough since then, Gillett decided to create a show using Microsoft’s Kinect technology. “We were building the game while they were rehearsing it. It took about two months to make, but there was difficulty with that. Like we would have to change parts to go with what they were rehearsing,” said Gordon Jeffery, a Carnegie-Mellon graduate student.

Kinect — a motion-sensing input device by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 console and Windows PCs — is used by the actors playing the roles of the video game avatars. While these actors stand in front of the device and act out their characteristics, the video gamers use the Xbox controllers to manipulate the camera and gameplay. The need for coordination between actors is especially high with using this technology. For example, in Thursday night’s show, the video game avatars were named “Tentaculus the Octopusinator” and “Volatile Primate the Triathlete.” Tentaculus would wiggle his arms like tentacles and Volatile Primate was hunched over. These physical characteristics were reflected on the gameplay on the large screen. The accuracy of motion-capture immensely increased the humor. The video gamer who was Volatile Primate would move the character around and interact with the setting – such as killing villains or jousting. Even when the actors did not know what they were doing with the game controls, it helped with the comedy of the show and their quick wit saved any technical difficulties experienced. This made the experience uplifting and fun.

It is not only the use of technology that makes the unscripted play a success, but also the witty dialogue improvised by the actors. The ensemble made the show feel like it was actually scripted with smart conversations and character development, leading to new story directions without a bump.

You can find out more information about “Gauntlet” and order tickets at

It plays Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. from May 3 until May 19.

Tickets are $14 for adults and $10 for students, seniors and military.

→ No CommentsTags: , , ,