The gaming and improv worlds collide in the interactive comedy Gauntlet.

Photo courtesy Jeannine Clarke.

How Seattle is this: Wing-It Productions has been working with Microsoft’s Kinect team and Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center to design its own exclusive video game, set to be featured in the new Jet City Improv comedy show Gauntlet. Improv by nature is already collaborative—with audience members asked to shout out verbal cues—but this interactive multimedia performance defies classification.

“It’s been a fascinating blurring of art, science, and showbiz,” said cast member Phill Arensberg, a seasoned improv comedian who has been part of Jet City since fall 2009. “What it looks like [in rehearsal] is a stage full of actors being observed by and interacting with a bunch of computer scientists. There has been a great deal of nerd bonding.”

Gauntlet centers around two geeks struggling to find harmony between their superhero virtual identities and humdrum real-life selves. The show juggles three worlds: the duo in real life, their avatars (depicted onstage by other actors in costume), and their video game characters, projected live onscreen and controlled by actors offstage using Kinect. The rest of the details will be determined on a show-by-show basis, stemming from audience suggestions and the whims of the performers.

"To me, it’s the union of two very disparate forms that harmonize very well together," Arensberg said. And as for its local flavor? "It’s very indicative of the Seattle aesthetic—a combination of creative abandon, obsessive pursuit of virtuosity, and punk rock."

Gauntlet
May 3–18, Thu & Fri at 8, Wing-It Productions, $10–$14

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