Alison Dobbins
(517) 884-7792


Integrated Media Performance Design

Curriculum Vitae


Alison Dobbins is a Professor of Integrated Performance Media design at Michigan State University. She is a media designer focused on integrating elements of dance, media, music, theatre, and computer science in performance.

She is the project director and creator of Theatre Engine: an interdisciplinary project focused on exploring audience engagement in dance through the use of mobile applications. Collaborators on this project are from MSU College of Engineering & Computer Science, Brigham Young University, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, Colby College, University of Oregon, and St. Olaf College.  She is a co-principle investigator on Dancing Computer; an interdisciplinary project focused on developing methods to teach dance and computer literacy to elementary school students. A partnership between the Department of Theatre, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, and the College of Education at Michigan State University.

Alison is the author of Projection Design for Theatre and Live Performance: Principles of Media Design (2021) available through Taylor & Francis Books.



ranchOut is an interactive dance performance project performed in the Horticultural Gardens of Michigan State University in May 2022.  This project investigates the nature of tree communication and community, embodying the science of tree communication and symbiosis with mycorrhiza through dance and music.  This interdisciplinary art project explores art as a way of knowing in the engagement with the environment.  Collaboration with 4-H Children’s Garden, Horticulture Garden, Citizen Scholars, Honors College, Department of Theatre, Department of Forestry, Department of Art, Art History and Design, Lyman Briggs College and the College of Music.  Performed May 3rd and 4th, 2022

Theatre Engine

Beginning in 2010, Theatre Engine has been mash-up of live dance, electronic music, mobile phones, and the audience. The actions and choices of each participant are an integral part of the performance – a unique theatrical experience, unlike anything seen before.

Theatre Engine focuses on relationship building through purposeful play; utilizing cellphones to facilitate performer-to-performer, performer-to-audience, and audience-to-audience dance exchanges. The performance goal is to lead the audience to full dance participation as a community. The technology provides a communication bridge for those hesitant to engage in partner and group activities; immersing individuals in group play by stepping them through a series of interactions with the dance performers including wordplay, imitation, drumming, controlling lights, and culminating in an invitation to move.

Dancing Computer

Dancing Computer is a project to teach dance and computer literacy to elementary school children. Students ‘dance’ computer programs, learning both dance terminology and concepts of coding such as sequencing and conditionals. Theatre is used to create a fun and engaging learning environment as children become a computer.

Dancing Computer aims to teach computer programming by teaching students first to read code before they write it. This is a revolutionary approach – the norm being to start students off in writing code. Furthermore, Dancing Computer  appeals to a wide range of learning styles as the students learn through visual, verbal, and kinetic methods. It also teaches dance literacy to students through easy to understand step-by-step instructions given on a mobile device. This familiar interface makes the dancing seem less scary or foreign.

Combining computer and dance literacy brings the arts and STEM technology together and showcases the value of STEAM based learning.

Awards and Honors


Performing Arts and Healthcare
This course focuses on concepts of performance and right-brain activities to explore a traditionally left-brain topic; engaging students to play, perform, dance, and discuss the art and social side of medicine.
Students create dance and drama therapeutic activities for residents at area retirement homes and after school programs for elementary students. This multigenerational learning is made possible through the Center for Service Learning and the expertise of Happendance.

Compositing and Special Effects
This course is taught both in the Theatre and Media & Information Departments at MSU. These courses examine storytelling through animation and special effects. Collaborations with acting and film classes provide material for students to composite using green screen techniques, mattes, motion tracking and their imagination.
Students create short films with Lansing area high school students through REACH Studio Art Center. This multigenerational learning is made possible through the Center for Service Learning.

Projection Design
Projection Design is the intersection of video, game creation, and theatre. Students in my undergraduate Projection Design courses come from many different majors in the University including music, engineering, computer science, telecommunications, theatre, art, and psychology. Students create work for various applications on campus including the fascia of the Breslin Basketball Arena and off-campus at local galleries.
The focus of these courses includes media design approaches, media engineering and interactive cueing systems (Isadora, Modul8, Resolume), timeline cueing systems (Watchout, Hippo), linear cueing systems (QLab), and projection mapping (MadMapper, VPT).


Charles B. Owen, Alison Dobbins, Lisa Rebenitsch, (2014) “Integrating the Audience Into a Theatre Performance Using Mobile Devices,” International Journal of Pervasive Computing and Communications, Vol. 10 Iss: 1, pp. 4 – 26. Paper placed second at the International Conference on Advancements in Mobile Computing and Multimedia, Vienna, Austria, December 2013.

Charles Owen, Laura Dillon, Alison Dobbins, Noah Keppers, Madeline Levinson and Matthew Rhodes, (2016) ” Dancing Computer: Computer Literacy though Dance,” Conference proceedings for International Conference on Advances in Mobile Computing & Multimedia, November 2016.

Dobbins, A. (2021). Projection Design for Theatre and Live PerformancePrinciples of Media Design. Routledge Focal Press.

University News

MSU Theatre Presents ‘Spring Awakening,’ a Multimedia Rock Musical Production
Published April 1, 2024 in College of Arts & Letters
Journey back to late 19th century Germany through a fusion of rock and roll, sexuality, and mortality as Michigan State University’s Department of Theatre presents Spring Awakening on April 5-7 and…Read now »
Mina Loy’s Trailblazing Feminism Takes Center Stage in World Premiere at MSU
Published November 9, 2023 in College of Arts & Letters
Photo collage of nine different people smiling and posing.
A team of interdisciplinary artists will present a cross-institutional staging of the feminist futuristic poetic dramas of Mina Loy on Thursday, Dec. 7, and Friday, Dec. 8, at the MSU Broad Art…Read now »
College Celebrates Accomplishments of 2023 Promoted Faculty
Published September 20, 2023 in College of Arts & Letters
Outdoor clock tower.
This year, 20 faculty members within the College of Arts & Letters have received promotions. The success of these individuals was celebrated during the 2023 Faculty and Staff…Read now »
BranchOut Dance Performance Encourages Audience Engagement with Natural Environment
Published May 2, 2022 in College of Arts & Letters
A new and thought-provoking dance performance project, called BranchOut, which will engage audiences with the natural environment around them while experiencing and exploring the nature of tree…Read now »
Department of Theatre Faculty Member Receives Excellence in Diversity Award
Published March 15, 2021 in College of Arts & Letters
woman wearing glasses holding up an award
Laura Scales, Academic Specialist in MSU’s Department of Theatre, was awarded the Excellence in Diversity Award (EIDA) presented by the Michigan State University Office of Inclusion and…Read now »
Integrative Arts and Humanities (IAH) Offers New and Innovative Courses
Published November 20, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
two men shaking hands in the middle of classroom
Delivering general education curriculum in the arts and humanities requires some ingenuity to put the human experience into context. Faculty and instructors who teach in MSU’s Center for…Read now »
MSU Theatre Grad Student Uses Projection Mapping to Get Out the Vote
Published October 23, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
a woman with short blond hair holds a mail in voting ballot next to images of pie and a spartan helmet
Michigan State University Department of Theatre MFA Design candidate Rose Legge is using projection mapping to cast graphic art images of voter information onto the side of the Eli and Edythe…Read now »
MSU Alumna and Faculty Collaborate on Work for Black Theatre Festival
Published October 1, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
Tracey Bonner (left) and Sandra Seaton (right) Alison Dobbins, MSU Associate Professor of Integrated Performance Media Design, recently completed the media design for the monologue, “Call Me by…Read now »
Faculty Receive Funding to Develop Open Educational Resources
Published July 9, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
a building with many windows surrounded by trees
In an effort to promote equal access to information and spaces for all, MSU Libraries have awarded nine MSU faculty members funding assistance for the creation and adaption of open education…Read now »
Alison Dobbins Named Faculty Excellence Advocate
Published January 15, 2020 in College of Arts & Letters
a woman smiling with dark hair, glasses, and a purple shirt
Associate Professor Alison Dobbins has been appointed the Faculty Excellence Advocate for the College of Arts & Letters.  Faculty Excellence Advocates are faculty members who are key…Read now »
Theatre Student Works with Professor on Interactive Musical
Published November 2, 2018 in College of Arts & Letters
Junior Theatre major Jonas Higbee has been researching interactive musicals with Associate Professor Alison Dobbins since his freshman year at Michigan State University. Their research is…Read now »
At the Forefront of a New Age in Theatre
Published September 28, 2017 in College of Arts & Letters
Students in various positions in front of bright lights while practicing for a performance.
Alison Dobbins, Associate Professor of Integrated Performance Media Design, is at the forefront of a new frontier in theatre – one that integrates digital media, lighting, and theatrical…Read now »
Creating Theatre Magic Through Digital Media
Published November 10, 2016 in College of Arts & Letters
Allison Dobbins works on cueing software for media
Professor Alison Dobbins works on cueing software for digital media on the set of The Tempest. Step inside the Michigan State University Wharton Center for Performing Arts Pasant Theatre on…Read now »
The College of Arts & Letters Funds Community Projects in Flint
Published February 11, 2015 in College of Arts & Letters
three students in a classroom
The College of Arts & Letters has funded four collaborative community projects that were proposed by CAL faculty and in which they will collaborate with Flint citizens who served on the Arts and…Read now »