The Mp3 Experiment is Improv Everywhere’s first mission to take place inside an actual theatre. As its name suggests, it’s really more of an experiment that a mission. Our typical audiences are made up of unsuspecting members of the public. In this case our crowd was comprised of about 70 very suspecting folks who paid $8 to come out to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and be a part of the experiment. Like most Improv Everywhere missions, our goal with The Mp3 Experiment was to give folks something to smile about.
Agent Todd and Agent Walker collaborated to create a 27 minute Mp3 file. The Mp3 was a mixture of music and instructions from a voice (Agent Todd’s voice put through a sound effect filter). Audience members downloaded the Mp3 in advance, transferred it to their portable Mp3 players (or burned it to a disc for their portable CD players), and brought it with them to the theatre. Audience members were told not to listen to the track in advance. At the top of the show, a video projection instructed the crowd to press play simultaneously.
We’ve edited the original 27-minute track down to an 8-minute sample version for your listening pleasure. This sample track removes the songs and cuts down the instructions to the bare essentials. It’s about 7 MB. Download it here.
“Why don’t we all get on stage?”
“Why don’t we stretch for a bit?”
Stage right looks as stage left is told a secret
Stage left watches as stage right is told a secret
Group Photo as taken by the tallest person in the room
Santa passes the Chelsea gay bar Rawhide
Santa reaches McManus bar
Mp3 Experiment participants drink together until late into the night
Back at the UCB Theatre, Agent Baer surveys the wreckage.
Sound designer Agent Walker chats with light designer Agent Baer
“Really I just have to say that I had a blast on Saturday night. You have just scratched the surface of all the different things that can be done in this way too. I hope to see another one of these in the years to come.”
“This show was a blast even for someone who’s CD player kept just stopping. I spent most of the show thinking, `I guess it’s time to dance/high-five/hug, etc.’ I listened to it all this morning and I’d say I kept along pretty well. My favorite part was when the MP3 stopped and Santa came and took us to McManus. I was like the grumpy kid who stopped believing and found out magic was real.
- The first 7 minutes when I was involved
- Hearing bits and pieces people singing along
- The cheer when Santa arrived
- Following Santa and seeing the reactions, one of which was `Merry Fucking Christmas’
- Santa’s directions and interactions with the passersby `Good, good, good, bad, good’
“The Mp3 Experiment was an absolute blast. I had no idea what to expect. If you told me that morning that I would be on the UCB stage at midnight blowing bubbles, dancing and hitting balloons around, I would have said, `OK.’ But if you told me I would be doing it while the world around me was in complete silence, I would have said, `You so crazy…I think I wanna have yo baby!’
One of my favorite parts was when my friend and I took our headphones off and just looked around at a crowd of dancing idiots with no music. All you could hear were lots of giggles and the shuffling of feet. I can’t wait for the next Mp3 Experiment!!!”
“The show was a lot of fun & definitely an innovative idea in theater. I think it could be expanded and be very successful. It was a nice change from a movie or regular theater.”
“The mp3 Experiment was a transcendent experience. The show is exhilarating, mysterious, and constantly hilarious. One of my favorite nights at the UCB Theatre.”
“I was having so much fun dancing to The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” it didn’t occur to me that, to the unplugged observer, we were all dancing in silence.”
“Such a great experience. My favorite parts were when it was clear some people were more ahead than others in the mp3. For example when we were all standing still onstage waiting for the next directions and someone suddenly started dancing and we had to wait a bit to realize what the hell he was doing.”
“This was so awesome.”
“Ridiculously fun, inspiring, other superlatives. Here’s to mp3 Experiment v 2.0.”
“In almost all of my tech experiences, light and sound cues are lines said by a cast member or a certain action. This show was all based on time. And the really interesting thing, for me anyway, was knowing that if I started my mp3 even a second late, all the light cues would be off for the audience/cast. At one point in the show, I removed my own headphones and went only off my time index. It was truly enjoyable to watch people blowing up balloons and trying to keep them up in the air as long as possible.
As I’ve mentioned to Agent Todd, the truly inspiring thing about this show was the turn out. The stage was packed! Certain effects were lost simply by the amount of bodies dancing around or hugging.
I was very pleased to be a part of it.”
-Pat Baer, Light Designer for The Mp3 Experiment
“My favorite part of the show was the part where half of the audience listened to a secret. Somehow this was twice as interesting as when the entire audience was doing the same thing. It was also really interesting when the tall guy was having trouble with the camera – what would happen if he didn’t accomplish this in time? Ah, the suspense! I really enjoyed participating in this show, and I hope that you do it again.”
“I have to say that The Mp3 Experiment was ridiculous fun, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it. There were times when I felt so happy during it that I giggled like a little schoolboy. The concept is amazing, and I hope and pray that you do more of these in the future.”
“It was an amazing show, fun, positive and very cool and modern. It made me feel part of a generation; there is no way that this show could have happened even 2 years ago! What a great way to end 2004.”
We have also toured The Mp3 Experiment around the world to places like Berlin, Germany and Adelaide, Australia. If you’re part of an organization (festival, university, arts group) that is interested in commissioning an Mp3 Experiment, get in touch via our contact form.