Last week CUarts brought Improv Everywhere’s “MP3 Experiment” to campus for one fun, sun-sizzling Friday afternoon. Participants who had RSVP’d for the event received an email the day before the event with instructions and a link to download a MP3 that would lead the “experiment.” The instructions told participants to wear a green, blue, red, or yellow shirt and to come prepared with an uninflated balloon. They were to download the MP3 and sync up with an atomic clock so that everyone could hit play at the same time.
When I arrived at the scene to hit play I had only done my part of my assignment: I had downloaded the MP3 and was in a green shirt, but I had no balloon and was counting on my phone’s clock to do just fine, despite it being a few seconds off. The first problem was solved almost immediately upon arriving to the scene. I saw a friend who I did not know would be participating and asked her if she had a balloon. She told me I was lucky as she had only one spare left; she had already given out others to other friends who came ill-prepared. This began perhaps my favorite part of the whole experience: a genuine camaraderie among Columbia students that one does not always feel on campus.
When my phone’s clock showed noon – I hit play. A funny voice spoke to me though, within a minute I realized the phone strategy hadn’t been the best one – I was not quite in sync with other participants. I quickly found a friend and synced up to her time on the MP3. My iPod did not cooperate throughout the experience so I had to do this syncing a few times throughout the “experiment”. After the first time though I was not able to find a friend so I asked participants I didn’t know. People were eager to help adding to the feeling of camaraderie.
The first ten minutes or so of the “experiment” made me a bit disappointed that it wasn’t situated in a more prime location for random traffic. When we were asked to look around the space (Ancel Plaza) to see who we thought was participating, it was pretty obvious that everyone in the space was, except those who had gathered specifically to watch the proceedings and a select few passersby. Participant Diana Levy also remarked that just about everyone in the area was also participating, but also said “In the first ten minutes I really liked the silly parts – well all of it was silly – but the creative parts where we were asked to point to Nicaragua or hug and animal.” Highlighting how fun it could be when there were random passersby was the moment when we were asked to form a line behind someone we believed not part of the “experiment”. Another participant, Dan Aprahamian, spoke of this moment, “Following people around was super fun. I was in a line of people that followed this one lady, and she didn’t notice for a while. When she turned around and saw a line of people following her, she went ‘…are they following me?'”
After the first ten minutes the experience became more playful than I expected it to. Highlights included a human dart game and human twister. Aprahamian said of those two components, “The bullseye was weird, but kinda cool. Especially the human Twister game. But I will say that it felt less improv-ey and more just fun.” That was a sentiment I felt as well: the whole thing was a lot of fun, but not totally what I expected from a group called Improv Everywhere.
The whole thing ended with the most epic of Epic Battles. We were told to inflate our balloons and then to march towards each other until we were instructed to battle, and die in as epic of a style we could. The dying was perhaps the most improv-y and for me, also the most fun part of the experience. The whole bit ended with a slow motion celebration and our induction into Improv Everywhere heaven.
Overall it was a pretty great event with a few flaws mostly regarding location. “It was AWESOME!” Aprahamian said of the experience, remarking, “All of it was quite exhausting out in the sun, but it was definitely worth it.”
Cody Holliday Haefner
Arts Initiative Student Associate
Columbia College ’12