INTERFACE: Alternate Reality

Documentation of the Work-in-Progress showing


Creative Conception John Toenjes, Chad Michael Hall, M. Anthony Reimer

Choreography Chad Michael Hall

Music John Toenjes

Mosho (LAIT-based app) programming M. Anthony Reimer

Lighting Morgan

Projections John Toenjes

Dancers UC-Irvine INTERFACE Ensemble

Showing: Claire Trevor School of the Arts Experimental Performance Lab (xMPL), UC-Irvine, February 2018


INTERFACE: Alternate Reality is a new work-in-progress that had its first incubation period during a three-week residency as a 21C Seed project at the Institute for 21st Century Creativity at the UC-Irvine Claire Trevor School of the Arts. This work builds upon our earlier works which use the LAIT mobile application system for live performance, Critical Mass and Public Figure, both of which seek to use the mobile phone as a means of increasing audience engagement with dance as an art form and theatrical experience. Alternate Reality is a work that incorporates game culture and game thinking into the conception of live dance performance. It seeks to find ways to modernize modes of performance that might be in line with a contemporary culture that is heavily influenced by first-person user interaction and competitiveness, and the goal-orientated thinking which that promotes. Many people, particularly young audiences, are used to taking an active role in the direction and outcomes of their entertainment activities. They are used to using game controllers that help them navigate these game structures. With the capabilities of our LAIT-based app, now called Mosho, we have been able to craft a live-action game structure that incorporates contemporary dance. Our experience as contemporary dance makers is that there is a lot of misunderstanding among audiences about contemporary dance. We crafted the solutions to these live-action game puzzles in such a way as to get the audience to reach some deeper level of understanding of dance, by require a concentrated observation of the dance material in order to win the game.

The live-action game paradigm of this site-specific performance required crafting a plot with a main puzzle to solve, creating clues to solving various parts of the puzzle and finding ways to unearth those clues, on multiple levels of activity. Furthermore, the puzzle and clues had to have some connection to contemporary dance, in order to promote understanding of and increased engagement in our art form.

We decided upon a plot where a ship (undefined: could be a spaceship, or a sailing vessel) had hit a maelstrom which scattered her crew into many different places and times, and now they all were existing resulting in alternate realities. The captain of the ship was looking to reunite them, and enlisted the help of the audience “players” to locate them and bring them all back to one reality. To reunite the crew, the players had to solve various puzzles that would yield clues, that would lead players to discover keywords by scanning AR target images. These words would then be used to complete phrases about "reality" which had come from three famous personages: Albert Einstein, John Lennon, and the film director Tim Burton. The audience used the Mosho app to find the various locations of the crew, to solve the puzzles that were found at each game level, to scan the AR target images to uncover the key words, and then text those key words to the captain.

Players' view of the "Crow's Nest" with live dancer and AR portal

An example of the puzzles is this one from the game location called the “Crow’s Nest.” This puzzle required the player to study the dance gestures of two characters separated by space and time into alternate realities (they danced in two different locations in the building). Each dance included part of a composite gesture that was completed by the other dancer. The player had to pick from a list of runes (line drawings) on the phone, the picture which best represented this composite gesture. So when watching each dance, players held up an iPad ‘Portal’ into the other reality, which showed an Augmented Reality (AR) video of the other dancer’s part of a dance duet. From carefully observing both the live dancer and the AR dancer, the player could decide which gesture was the one linking the two crew members (the answer is rune #3).

Phone screen with puzzle to solve to find key words

Other examples of clues to solve were: to discover the identities of crew members dancing within a portal, find those crew members dancing freely in the space, and use the “Crew Scanner” feature of the app to stun and scan them and get them to divulge the key words from their fractured memories; another was to identify the person who said some of the key words and then find a portrait gallery wherein that person’s photo was displayed and take a selfie with them; yet another was to watch a dance, which led them to a second dance, where they could solve a puzzle about the means with which the second dancer could communicate to the captain. In all there were nine separate game stations on five different levels of the building.

We intend to build on this experience to refine a concept of live-action dance theater that brings audience members together to collectively identify and observe contemporary dance structures and methods, in order to tap into a new generation of modes of thinking and behaving, and to change the paradigm of how theater might be presented to modern audiences.