UT Dallas is Bringing Interactive Technology to its Rocky Horror Production

UTD said it will be the first theater in Texas—and possibly the first university theater anywhere—to incorporate LED wristbands into the iconic “The Rocky Horror Show.”

Productions (and cinematic screenings, for that matter) of the iconic “The Rocky Horror Show” have long been known for audience participation. But the University of Texas at Dallas theater and dance program is taking a high-tech spin on the traditional interactive approach, bringing LED wristbands to the performance.

All audience members of the staging set to debut Halloween night in a free production will be given PixMob LED wristbands in what might be a theatrical first, according to the show’s producers.

“We will be the first theater in Texas and, I’m fairly certain, the first university theater anywhere to use them,” said Shelby Hibbs, show director and clinical assistant professor in the School of Arts and Humanities (A&H), in a UTD report.

During the onstage action, a team led by Christopher Trevino, assistant technical director in A&H, will control when the lights are activated and the color of the LED. From there, the audience will be able to use their wristbands to add to the experience.

“This is going to engage the audience. Everybody’s wristband is going to light up; they’re going to be doing the ‘Time Warp,’ and it’s going to be a big party,” Trevino said.

Although Hibbs believes the LED wristband tech is a theatrical first, the technology, which involves infrared devices that can be controlled and synchronized, has been more commonly deployed at sporting events and concerts.

Hibbs tapped Impact UTD, a campus crowdsourcing platform, to make the PixMob bracelets part of the production. Both Hibbs and Trevino thought the interactive LED bracelets would be a “perfect fit” for the musical—once the crowdsourcing project hit 87 percent of its goal, the school agreed to complete a purchase of 2,000 wristbands.

“I’m really excited about the show,” Hibbs said. “I think it’s going to be a special experience for the audience. I already know they’re going to be engaged, but allowing them to be really, truly part of the theatrical design and then having a souvenir to take home—I think it’s going to be really cool.”

“The Rocky Horror Show” began as a 1973 stage production parody tribute to bad horror and science fiction films, later becoming a cult classic when it was adapted to film in 1975 as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Audience members often attended in cosplay, with an unofficial element being added to the screenings where the audience responds to the action.

After the Halloween debut, the UTD production will continue November 1-2 and 7-9 at the University Theater. The November 9 performance will include both a regular evening show as well as a midnight performance.

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