Immersive creator Annie Lesser has produced something different this year, something positive. If you’re unfamiliar with her more recent work, her shows tend to be dark and heavy, like her highly praised A(partment 8). But this year for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, she wants to put smiles on faces and spread good vibes to all in her path – this year she wants to kill the audience with kindness in her latest piece, Picnic Party.
This show, a free immersive pop-up event at Delongpre Park in Hollywood, is just another in Lesser’s spectacular line-up of immersive experiences and a delightful addition to the Fringe Festival – though Lesser hopes to keep this high-energy show going year-round. The dates and times of the shows can only be found on the Picnic Party Instagram, but unsuspecting park goers are always offered an opportunity to join, creating a wonderful mix of tourists, spectators, Fringe fanatics, and even nearby families and children.
What starts with headsets and a guided meditation in the middle of a crowded park quickly evolves into a full-on dance party for over 30 minutes of songs curated to keep your heart rate up and the beats pumping. Overall, the show aims to make you feel good and leave you with a sweet taste in your mouth, though it doesn’t offer actual food. For those who might be a tad out of shape, you might also end the experience a little out of breath and sore, like I did. Still, it’s worth investing in the mindset of being willing to act a fool when asked, and to get comfortable being silly in front of strangers – in fact, it makes the whole event that much more enjoyable.
With only tunes flowing through your ears via headphones, and a few surprise props and good-natured challenges along the way, the simplistic spectacle could easily be mistaken for a flash mob to any outsider who happens to walk by. There’s no real narrative thread, but that’s not the point; Lesser’s intention is to keep guests engaged. In a society where heads are constantly buried in phones, this is a refreshing opportunity to stay present.
Between the moving and the shaking, the bubbles and the giggles, it’s easy to get lost in the scenic Delongpre Park during the show. Though some performances have been held in other areas, this park’s quintessential shaded paths and playground area add a nostalgic summer ambiance, distancing itself from the bumper-to-bumper traffic and congested tourist traps just blocks away. Tucked away inside a neighborhood, it’s a perfect spot to unleash your inner dancer without feeling too on display to the world.
While simplistic in set-up and design, Picnic Party can be replicated anywhere. With Lesser willing to share her playlist with anyone who asks, one could even take the spirit of the experience home with them – though it’s certainly more fun in the company of others. At its core, Picnic Party relies on humanity’s primal instincts of movement, eye contact, and other jovial reactions to keep the audience entertained and involved throughout. Humbly asking only for a participant’s time and reminding them to literally thank each other when it ends, Picnic Party is an experiment in kindness, which we all could use a little more of.
Find out more information on Picnic Party follow them on Instagram. Keep up to date with all of our Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019 coverage here. Follow our Event Guide for more news and reviews throughout the year.