Saturday, September 8, 2007

Christmas In August Debrief

Concept: Incite "spontaneous" singing amongst audience members.

Plan: Have a couple of the SFShenanigans team members start singing fairly well-known Christmas carols on the BART. Have a couple other SFShenanigans team members on the same train as "plants" to seemingly spontaneously start singing along.

Challenges: Running afoul of the law, and actually getting people to sing along.

Execution: Agent Wyrd and Agent Crook wore Santa hats and were obviously in the 'Holiday Spirit'. Agent Monster, Agent Hook, Agent Awesome, and Agent TheBeast all tried to maintain an air of indifference when boarding the same train car as Agent Wyrd and Agent Crook. The "plant" agents spaced themselves throughout the car to spread the joy. When Agent Wyrd and Agent Crook started singing, the other agents started singing along, in seemingly distracted or sheepish fashion. After one or two stops, the whole team left the car to start all over again on another train.

Mission Report from Agent TheBeast
Knowing that the BART police were probably looking for a mass of would-be carolers made the approach to the event an experience unto itself. For the first time ever, I felt like a fugitive. I scoped out the BART station entrance before walking in, I specifically skirted a couple of uniformed officers, and I was very conscious to avoid eye contact with the officers. However, all the build-up about police interference before the event turned out to be a non-issue, and we didn't once get spoken to by any official.

As the Agents assembled, we also had a member of the press join us. The SFWeekly reporter interviewed us for a while, and tagged along as an observer for several runs of caroling. (Interesting to note: most, but not all, of the SFShenanigan facts in the article were correct.)

Once we got started, it took us a couple of runs to get our system down. One stop on the BART was too short to get any crowd momentum, so we expanded to two or three stops for a given car. At the beginning we also had a tendency of clumping up on the platform to discuss the round, but this broke the illusion for anyone who was getting off the trains at the same time as us, so we worked ourselves into a practiced nonchalance...

The audience reactions are really some of the funniest things that happen. The cutest was a little girl who was hanging over her seat to watch the jolly dressed folks, and clapped her little heart out at the end of each song. And, she wasn't the only applause we got throughout the day...

Agent Monster was able to incite the following conversation during "The Twelve Days of Christmas":
Agent Monster: Do you remember these?
Tourist Wife: No, I can't get them...
Tourist Husband: [grinning] I remembered them when I was 12!

From the "bah, humbug" contingent we got these two gems: "All I can say is it's too soon for this..." and "I don't like Christmas enough for this..."

There were several people who were just happy to see the caroling happen, greeting us with "God bless you" or an appropriate "Merry Christmas".

One man tried to sum up our oddity: "Only in San Francisco..."