Control freaks: This one is for you. Don’t Wander Off, the Theater Ninjas’ July 7-29 show, is an interactive storytelling experience that puts audience members in charge of the actors’ fate. It’s an ambitious debut to break in the nomadic group’s new permanent home in Gordon Square Arts District’s historic Courtland Building after doing pop-up shows for a decade. Audience members will follow an eccentric billionaire as he journeys into space to investigate a nebula. But as his ship breaks down, the audience helps determine the actors’ next moves. “The audience is tasked with … how do we save the people who are stranded on the planet?” says founder Jeremy Paul. He launches into three points on the geeky elements of the unique space odyssey.
Gaming Mechanics: The stakes are raised when a host leads audience members through timed puzzles and deals them cards with outcomes for the actors such as a broken leg or finding extra supplies. “If you’ve made some really bad choices, you might not have anyone left to help,” says Paul. In other words, audience members should play the game carefully because their actions might kill off a character.
Technical Wizardry: The ever-changing story gets enhanced with the appearance of lights, projected characters and images such as drones, waterfalls or explosions. Another dimension gets added with a live video feed where characters who aren’t physically present interact with audience members via the host. “Designers are usually thinking in terms of linear possibilities,” says Paul. “We have branches of different realities that can happen. It’s like parallel universes of tech that we need to plan for.”
Sci-fi Icons: The nerd factor gets boosted with thematic inspiration from Star Trek, Alien, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars and even the SyFy show The Expanse. There’s also talk of climate change, extraterrestrials and artificial intelligence. “Sci fi has always been a fantastic way to imagine what changes and what remains the same about human beings in drastically altered situations,” says Paul. “This is a show about decisions — why we make them, how we make them and living with the results.”