Ruhma Khan
Mercury Staff

UTD production of cult classic uses creative crowdfunding to raise money for interactive light show

The UTD’s theatre and dance programs launched a crowdfunding campaign allowing donors to flashmob friends in an effort to fund LED wristbands for the audience of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Popular at concerts, sporting events and theme parks, LED lights bracelets can be programmed to sync to the beat of the music, lighting and movement of the crowd.

The programs from the School of Arts and Humanities launched an “Impact” page with several perks available to donors in order to raise money for programmable LED wristbands to be worn by the audience during the performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show musical. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical horror comedy performance collaboration between the school’s theatre and dance programs. The musical tells the story of a couple who are stranded at the home of transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

Director of the Rocky Horror Show and theatre professor Shelby Hibbs said the idea came after their technical director Chris Trevino was introduced to the technology at SeaWorld.

“You’ve probably seen these LED wristbands at the Olympics or the NFL. (Trevino) worked with another light designer to program them for these live events at SeaWorld and the person he was working with said he could possibly hook us up with PixMob, (a company that makes LED bracelets),” Hibbs said. “Using LED wristbands is not something that’s appropriate for every theater production, but for ‘Rocky Horror,’ because the vision that I have for it is a blend of theater production and a rock concert, it fits really well.”

Hibbs said she launched the impact page after the team could not secure funding for the wristbands.

“This is a very expensive idea. We are spending $20,000 to do the show and now we’re talking about adding another $9,000 on top of that for these LED wristbands,” Hibbs said. “You can’t just go to your dean and say ‘Hey can you give me $9,000 for this idea that’s never been tried out before at a university or really any other theatre production in Texas?’”

Arts and performance junior and Rocky Horror Show cast member Samantha Kirchdorfer said audience participation is key for this particular show and the crowdfunding campaign has been set up to reflect this.

“You can come up with us on stage during the show and you can dance a time warp with us at the end. There’s one (tier) where you can be Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Hapschatt. They’re mentioned at the beginning of the show. And you can get married at the beginning of the show in a fun cameo,” Kirchdorfer said.

Hibbs said the impact page has several tiers with different perks that donors can choose from, including an ambush tier where the cast will sing and dance for a donor or someone of the donor’s choice anywhere on campus.

“Because it’s Rocky Horror and because we are theatre people I wanted to create some interesting perks. Signed posters, people love souvenirs, especially family members. We will actually sell prop packs at each performance. Usually people sell prop packs there, so I decided if you spend fifty bucks we’ll give you your own prop park for free instead of you having to purchase it there,” Hibbs said. “Rocky Horror is pretty anarchic so I thought of doing an ambush time warp or having a few actors show up and do the time warp wherever you are on campus. If you donate 35 bucks we’ll do that for you.”

One of the perks include a social media callout for donors where the cast will sing a short song, said Kirchdorfer.

“We’ve been having so much fun doing the singing videos on our Instagram page to thank people, putting names into songs and working the songs around the donors, it’s been really fun,” Kirchdorfer said. “I’m really excited to get started on the dance, people will tell us a time and place we can just time warp out of the blue and no one is going to really know except that person who claimed that tier, so I’m excited to jump on that. It’ll be good practice for the audience participation aspect of our show.”

Kirchdorfer said the cast is excited to see how the final product will come together during the performance.

“It’s a really cool opportunity and we’ve been having so much fun raising money for this show, Kirchdorfer said.“The lighting is going to be the cherry on top.”