Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Flash Mob Rule

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Spring means that eventually the denizens of Indianapolis shed their winter coats, come out of hibernation, hit the trails and start dining alfresco in earnest.

Warmer weather also presents an opportunity for some nice outside creative engagement. The Athenaeum is already anticipating the summer solstice by adding the sign-up for its Monumental Yoga event, where folks don their lululemons, descend on the Circle, plop down yoga mats and strike sunbird poses in unison.

This got me thinking about flash mobs.

click to enlarge A flash mob doesn't require hours of preparation. The only instruction the members of the 2006 Fringe Mob got was to wear red. - COURTESY OF PRIMARY COLOURS
  • Courtesy of Primary Colours
  • A flash mob doesn't require hours of preparation. The only instruction the members of the 2006 Fringe Mob got was to wear red.

Yes, yes, I know the concept of a flash mob is kind of cheesy, especially to most of our prim, Midwestern demeanors. But just like the majority of creative endeavors, if well executed, these grand orchestrations of group expression can be quite outrageous ... and fun.

Let me give you a nice case study I helped run.

In 2006, Primary Colours talked with Pauline Moffat about ideas to collaborate in the second year of the IndyFringe Festival. When someone suggested we do a flash mob, I had to ask what the hell that was. (By definition, a flash mob is "a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.")

So on the first day of the Fringe, at high noon on the south side of the Circle, a group of people showed up. They were told only to wear red. Shortly thereafter, a red panel truck drove up Meridian Street toward them, parking across the street in front of the Indianapolis Power & Light company building. Out of the back jumped a man, smoking a cigarette and wearing a bull costume. He chased the group counterclockwise around the Circle and thus heralded the Running of the Fringe.

The next year, Primary Colours staged another flash mob, dubbed the No-test Protest. Here's what transpired.

Now keep in mind, we staged these without the help of social media.

"But that was years ago," I hear you say. "Aren't flash mobs pretty passé now?" Well, I'll reiterate that they're only past prime if they're done poorly.

An effective example occurred in January, when Young Actors Theatre executive artistic director Justin Wade enlisted his young thespians to propose to his girlfriend. The coordinated performance not only surprised his intended, Georgeanna Smith, executive artistic director at NoExit Performance, but it garnered great media for both organizations.

So I challenge arts organizations around the city to come up with a really creative flash mob. Done right, a flash mob can feature your organization out there, in public.

click to enlarge Check out the improv fun of the 2006 Fringe Mob here. - PRIMARY COLOURS
  • Primary Colours
  • Check out the improv fun of the 2006 Fringe Mob here.

Bring energy, creativity and fun to the places you stage your event. Be a joyful distraction to unwitting audience members, not a disruption. Find those places that swarm with people during conventions or sporting events and inject your art there.

Don't just invade a place where a daily audience regularly congregates. Go to a place where you can get your org out of the theaters and galleries and to new audiences. For instance, show up at noontime on IUPUI's campus rather than the Fashion Mall.

If you're, say the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra or Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, have some of your musicians show up and perform, but ask anybody to bring their old musical instruments and join in. If you're a theater group, act out something in the middle of the lunch crowd at the City Market.

If you're looking for great ideas, check out a group in New York called Improv Everywhere. They're the folks who notoriously froze in place at Grand Central Terminal, and they provide a font of really great ideas, from movie reenactments to celebrating ordinary people to food court musicals.

I really love this group and wish we had more outbursts of creativity like this generating around the streets of Indy.

So why not? What's your take on flash mobs in Indy?

-

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About The Author

Hugh Vandivier

Hugh Vandivier

Bio:
Hugh Vandivier is an online editor for Angie’s List. He’s a proud alum and volunteer for Wabash College, holds an MSJ from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and was a board member and director of grassroots arts nonprofit Primary Colours. He also interviewed Indy native Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in 2002.

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