© 2023 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

First Stage Theater Uses Virtual Stage To Put On A Choose Your Own Adventure Play

First Stage Theater
David Flores (left), Loralei Madson (center), and Eleanor Hannan (right) in Escape From Peligro Island.

While in-person theater performances haven’t happened for almost a year, First Stage theater company is getting creative with their completely digital season. They have put together a choose your own adventure play that allows audiences to decide what happens next to young hero Callaway Brown.

The play, called "Escape From Peligro Island," follows Callaway Brown, who is stranded on a desert island and needs the audience’s help to choose what happens next. Throughout the play, audience members are given the chance to vote for one of two options via their phones.

Director Jeff Frank says putting on the play has meant figuring out logistics that don’t come up in a traditional live theater performance. Each actor is in a different video panel which means Frank has to create the illusion that they are really interacting with each other.

“I sort of equate it to a living graphic novel in that there are illustrated backgrounds and moments of animation that pop in and then these actors’ sort of exist in these comic book or graphic novel panels to help tell a story,” he says.

Nadja Simmons plays Woman in the play and she says acting in a virtual space means that she has to act without the connection to the audience.

“The reason I love live theater is hearing the audience reactions, like hearing the live laughter, hearing the gasps of surprise or hearing the reactions from it and really getting the intimate interaction with them, and so not having that has definitely been a challenge,” she says.

Simmons says the choose your own adventure aspect of the play keeps her excited as she’s acting — even thought she considers it the most challenging performance of her career.

“You never know what’s going to happen next, you know, we have a script that has a million different ways we can go to complete the story that our main character Callaway goes on, and it’s just all up to the audience to tell us what to do next,” she says.

Watch the trailer for Escape From Peligro Island:


First Stage will be streaming live performances of "Escape From Peligro Island"Feb. 5 and 6, after which the videos will be made available to watch with purchase if you missed the live performance or want to see how the other stories played out.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.