I never once thought I could shed my fur, my skin, and my muscles, becoming completely a skeleton out in the wild, or at least in the middle of a park. But that’s exactly what happened. Not only did I shed my outer physical layers, but I shed the insecurities I have about my own body and my deep-rooted beliefs of my lack of confidence to become the best full-bodied skeleton I could be. ghost party
That’s just one activity I encountered during Picnic Party: Ghost Party, a family-friendly immersive silent disco (aka Picnic Party) created by Annie Lesser through her immersive company, ABC Project. During the 40-minute event, audiences – which range between 1 individual and up to 12 maximum – wear headphones and listen to the same audio, with aural prompts or visual cues encouraging each guest to spread positivity to other members via different activities – including starting a conga line, giving out hugs, and dancing like nobody’s watching. To top off the experience, this specific installment of Picnic Party features music, affirmations, and ideas that all relate to the spirit of Halloween. Since everything during Picnic Party: Ghost Party is voluntary and set in an extremely safe space, each audience member is only required to do whatever activities they feel comfortable with, and there’s no shame in not following the prompts provided through the headphones. I first discovered Picnic Party through the Hollywood Fringe Festival, and this spooky, Halloween edition popped up at the place where the original premiered: De Longre Park. While Picnic Party: Ghost Party is a special event for the Halloween season, Picnic Party seems to be an upcoming series with different themes that follow the same basic set-up: a group immersive experience with positive affirmations. What sets this experience apart from Lesser’s many other immersive productions is its family-friendly take on the spooky elements of Halloween, creating a safe space for not only adults, but for younger children as well.
Picnic Party: Ghost Party relies heavily on positive affirmations and each audience member’s individual willingness to give and take, quite literally. What is very prominent in this experience is that Lesser, who narrates in between songs and gets audience members engaged, has created a soundtrack that exhibits both self-awareness and the power of play. For example, my favorite activity during the Party was when a spooky, yet fun version of “Dem Bones” played, and we were prompted to strip ourselves of anything holding us down – our fur, our skin, and even our own insecurities – along with the music in an ultimately freeform manner. Throughout this specific song, Lesser guided us to let go of the elements that weigh us down, “in order to shed our fears about ourselves,” which really resonated with me.
I truly believe this entire Picnic Party series is aimed at invoking a change in each individual’s way of thinking about their surroundings as well as his/her own way of thinking about themselves in order to create a more positive, pleasant outlook that reaches far beyond the event itself. Though on the surface it’s a bunch of people silently jamming out while park onlookers have no idea what’s going on, this whole project goes far beyond that of “just a” silent disco – it’s meant to evoke inspiration and ways for strategically retraining one’s brain toward acceptance of himself.
An otherwise incredibly positive and fantastic experience, one key factor that is vital to its success is the audience. While audience participation is not required, the more the group interacts, the better the experience tends to be. If the audience is interacting with each other, they won’t end up feeling as self-conscious because everyone is being silly and having fun together. It’s especially difficult being in a group full of strangers and silently gauging their comfort levels with dancing, eye contact, and more, but reiterating throughout that this Picnic Party is a safe space would ultimately add to the comfort level of the experience. The participants would feel more inclined to act just as silly as everyone else knowing they are in safe hands. That’s not to say that an individual can’t create his/her own experience – in fact, that is exactly what audience members should do. Keeping the audience engaged and feeling safe while maintaining tight transitions can only make Picnic Party: Ghost Party even more successful and positive.
Interestingly enough, having the experience take place in a public park makes it rather unique because you never know exactly what experience you will get. During my experience, a park-goer unleashed his dog while were passing around a ball, and the dog ran over to play, furthering the positivity and spontaneity of the experience. We seamlessly took the incident in stride and turned a small, unplanned incident into a highlight of the event.
Picnic Party: Ghost Party packs a punch with its deeper aims at self-awareness, self-consciousness, and ultimately, self-love, despite its minimalist elements: the audience, headphones, and an open park, with a few other activities and elements sprinkled in to help layer the experience. A fun time for sure, this event creates a whole new world of positive affirmation whenever I come across any iteration of Picnic Party, and my day is better because of it. As soon as I let loose and let my spirit move me, I could feel my inner demons releasing themselves from within, headed toward the light to enjoy their own Ghost Party. All I ask is that you take from the experience what you put in, and most importantly: Be positive and have fun. That’s all I needed to enjoy my experience with Picnic Party: Ghost Party.
Picnic Party: Ghost Party has concluded its two-day run, but you can find more information on Annie Lesser and her ABC Project on their website, Instagram, and Facebook page. Check out our Event Guide for more Halloween and immersive entertainment throughout the year.
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