Denise Neil

March 28, 2010

Flash mobsters to strike a pose, then swiftly disperse

Taylor Swift is, of course, performing inside Intrust Bank Arena on Thursday night.

Taylor Swift is, of course, performing inside Intrust Bank Arena on Thursday night.

But another, much less traditional (and much shorter) performance will be staged outside the arena before the concert starts.

Led by a couple of deep-thinking coffeehouse types, a large group of performance art appreciators are planning a "flash mob" outside the arena on Thursday night.

What's a flash mob?

A flash mob occurs when a large group of people gather in a predetermined spot, do something unusual for a few minutes, then quickly disperse. Flash mobs are often organized via social media, like Facebook or Twitter.

Flash mobs usually don't have goals beyond confusing passersby by doing something sort of fun and artsy. It's an activity that particularly appeals to thespians and improv types.

Thursday's flash mob plan developed out of a discussion group that meets Monday nights at local coffee shop Mead's Corner.

Members started talking about flash mobs, which have successfully been staged in large cities across the world, and decided it would be fun to try one.

And what better time than April Fool's Day?

Thursday's flash mobbing was organized by Mead's Corner manager Sam Connelly and Alan Ebright, leader of the Monday night discussion group.

The pair invited more than 500 people via Facebook to join in the stunt, and as of Thursday, more than 200 were either planning to participate or considering it — including groups of young actors from as far away as Hutchinson and Kansas City.

Participants will gather at Mead's Corner at 430 E. Douglas at 5:45 p.m., get some brief instructions and then walk as a group to the arena two blocks away.

They'll arrange themselves strategically around the building (being careful not to block concertgoers or stand in the streets).

At exactly 6:12, organizers will sound a yet-to-be-chosen signal, and all flash mob participants will freeze, in a variety of predetermined poses.

They'll stay motionless for exactly three minutes. Then they'll unfreeze and disperse as quickly as they gathered. (That's the plan, anyway.)

Connelly said he was surprised by how many people expressed excitement about participating in the mob. He's hopeful it can be as successful as some of the more famous flash mobs he's seen videos of online, including one in Grand Central Station in New York and one near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

"Everybody was really kind of surprised by the possibility of how big it could turn," he said. "It's not something we've seen, drama-wise, here. We're getting a lot of people who are even changing their schedules because they want to be a part of it."

Several video crews will be on site to document the mob from different angles, and Connelly's crew plans to make a video about the event.

Anyone who wants to participate is welcome, he said — even Taylor Swift concertgoers. The group intentionally planned the moment of motionlessness early enough so that ticketholders could play along.

"It's really all about creating the moment," Connelly said. "People get so stuck in their routines, and they need a moment to say, 'What is happening?' Just to take a moment to think."

If you go

april fool's day flash mob

What: A performance art event that will feature possibly hundreds of Wichitans standing motionless

Where: Outside Intrust Bank Arena before the Taylor Swift concert

When: Meet at Mead's Corner, 430 E. Douglas, at 5:45 p.m. Thursday. Freezing will happen from 6:12 to 6:15 p.m.

For more information, visit the event's Facebook page by typing "Mead's Corner" into the search field; or call 316-201-1900.

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