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Fear Experiment (FE) is a unique, fun way to create community, push oneself, learn something new, and laugh. A lot. Strangers come together to learn an art-form, rehearse for three months, and then are rockstars for a night, in front of 700+ at the Park West. For people not looking to be the next Baryshnikov or Tina Fey but looking to challenge themselves, meet others, and have a consistent source of laughter and support!
The criteria to participate?
- You have to sign up solo
- Your inner-you should be saying “You want me to do what?!”
FE is for complete newbies, for folks who’ve taken a class or two, for folks who majored in the art-form in college — basically, it doesn’t matter your experience level; what matters is your interest in being a part of an awesome community and that something about the experience instills a bit ‘o fear in you (the time commitment, the signing up solo, the social aspect, the performance, the being photographed and splashed all over the internet…).
Because when you challenge yourself to do something scary, beautiful things result!
To learn about applying, head to “Apply” below | To buy tickets for the upcoming show, head to “Tickets” below
On Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook? #FearExperiment
Fear Experiment Trailer
Fear Experiment on ABC-TV
Fear Experiment Seven (Storytelling, A Capella, & Stepping)
Friday, November 21st at 8pm
The Park West, 322 W. Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL
FE8 – dance and improv – is January 2015 through March 2015. You can apply for one or both, and will be selected for one art-form. Attending an info session is mandatory to apply and they run though the Fall. Sign up for an info session here.
On December 7, 2009, Saya sent out the following email to about fifty select people:
“As you may know, I try to do things that scare and challenge me, and have a To-Do List that encompasses many of these ideas. I’ve come up with my next stupid, er, amazing, idea, that’ll fulfill #3 on my list, and guess what? It involves you! Here’s the gist: A group of fun people, many of whom don’t know each other, with no dance skills, will work with a choreographer over a few months to learn dance routines to popular songs, culminating in a performance for friends in a theater.”
And thus a dance experiment was born.
Saya hired a choreographer [and pretended she knew what she was talking about during the interview]. She rented out a dance studio [and pretended she knew the answers to questions about mirrors, dimensions, and floor types]. She scoured the city for a performance venue [and pretended she knew the meanings of words such as "proscenium" and "thrust"]. Seventeen non-dancers rehearsed for four hours a week, for three months. And in April 2010, they performed in front of three hundred and fifty people.
In October 2010, Saya sent out an email to those interested in Dance Experiment Two and over the next month selected the next batch and, ridiculously, sent out “Sorry I don’t have a spot for you, hopefully next time!” notices. In January 2011, a new batch of twenty-one non-dancers began rehearsals. Two weeks later, sad that she wasn’t participating yet so completely energized and excited by the newbies, she formed Improv Experiment so that she too could partake. Same gist – people who don’t know each other and who are “bad” and scared to do something, practice a skill with a teacher and then perform it on stage. She couldn’t believe it, but again, she had to create a wait list and send out “Sorry!” notices. Then she concocted the idea to combine Dance Experiment (DE) and Improv Experiment (IE).
And thus fear experiment was born.
“When I filled out the application in hopes of being selected for Improv Experiment, I simply thought it would be scary and fun to learn and perform improv comedy. That’s it. By the end of it all I realized I had learned so much more; about myself, about friendships, and about how incredible it is to laugh myself silly twice a week.”
“I’d probably rank my experience in FE as one of the top five best experiences of my life. It’s very rare to meet so many amazing, adventurous, open-minded, and accepting people when you’re an adult.”
“All of you wonderful, positive people came into my life at the most perfect time and I now can’t even imagine life without all of you.”
“My mother, after the show: ‘Did you take a pill? Are you on drugs?’
Me: ‘What? No! I mean, I took an Allegra earlier . . . ?’
Mother: ‘Well, I just have never seen you so happy. I figured you were on some magical upper.’
There you have it. FE has made me so happy my own mother thinks I’m dabbling in illegal drugs.”
“Participating in FE was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Saya has a gift for bringing diverse communities of people together and her talent for this was on display throughout the how FE process. Working with complete strangers toward a common goal—the big show—was the perfect starting place for personal growth and building deep personal relationships. I am a better person for having gone through FE.”
“One of the great things about FE was that, while scary to put on a show for such a large crowd, it was structured in such a way that it was impossible to fail. Going in we knew that we didn’t really know what we were doing, but everyone knew it, and was supportive, and that’s what made it so easy to put on a great show regardless.”
“Fear Experiment was a complete adrenaline rush! I felt like nothing could go wrong, and was on a complete ‘dancer’s high’ the night of the show.”
“My new mantra when facing a difficult situation is, ‘I performed improv in front of 700 people, I can do this.’”
“The best thing about Fear Experiment is that it introduced me to an incredible group of strangers who quickly became friends. Our ages spanned nearly four decades and our occupations were all over the board, including an accountant, professor, zoologist, photographer, social worker and lawyer. It is not a stretch to say that most of us might never have crossed paths if not for Fear Experiment.”
FROM AUDIENCE MEMBERS
“It was the best evening out I’ve had in a long time and I would recommend the show to anyone! I left feeling warm-hearted and inspired!”
“Because of you and Dance Experiment I was inspired to do something that scares the shit out of me! I played softball last night in a co-ed league and just ordered a meal outside and ate by myself!!!”
“I have to admit that watching my daughter take part in the Fear Experiment was a real experience for me. I am so proud of her for taking on something so outside her comfort zone. Standing up on stage and doing improv would never have occurred to me when I was her age and I honestly wish I lived closer to the city so I could try it now.”
“In a world where connection is being diminished to keystrokes and thumb-type, it’s a pleasure to share in palpable connections made, and witness people living out loud.”
“My sister was in the show Saturday and I absolutely loved it! I’ve never seen her so happy and confident.”
“I didn’t know what to expect from this show. I was excited to go, but did not expect to be blown away. I have a penchant for live shows, mostly of the musical nature. I try to take in as many as possible and FE, by far, exceeded a lot professional acts I have seen in regards to OVERALL entertainment.”
“We in the audience were grinning away, not just for those of you onstage we already knew and loved, but for the great waves you were creating in the room of trust, risk in a safe and welcoming frame. Such a generous, generative atmosphere you brought us, and we ate it up. Come, see, taste and feel how good it is when we gather wanting nothing but the best for each other.”
“I think my mouth still hurts from smiling so much on Saturday!”
“Fear Experiment was such an incredible show that I was moved to tears at certain parts. I think part of why it’s such a cool thing is because every single person in that room has been or is afraid of something, and we could instantly relate to everyone on stage . . . and then were also instantly inspired by them because there they were, facing their fears, in front of a giant audience. It was such a well put-on show that I can’t wait to see (or maybe sign up for) the next one.”
“Fear Experiment is my third favorite concert . . . behind Michael Jackson and Cher.”
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR FEAR EXPERIMENT (FE)?
Check out the History section
WHAT ARE ALL THESE ACRONYMS?
- FE = Fear Experiment
- DE = Dance Experiment
- IE = Improv Experiment
- SE = Stepping Experiment
- AE = A Capella Experiment
- TE = Storytelling Experiment
- FE’r = Fear Experiment participant
If there’s a number after an acronym, that’s the round of the program, e.g. DE1 = Dance Experiment One, the first round of DE
WHEN AND WHERE DO PARTICIPANTS REHEARSE?
- Depends on the group you’re in — come to an info session to find out!
- Usually on the northside, usually one to two evenings a week
WHO ARE THE PARTICIPANTS?
Dance Experiment One (DE1) dancers were all friends of Saya’s. Now, FE’rs are friends, friends of friends, and strangers.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A PARTICIPANT?
- Adventuresome spirit
- “Bad” at the specific skill (well, it’s ok if you’re not ‘bad’ at it… even ok if you used to ‘do’ it)
- Nervousness and/or fear
- Positive, team-oriented, go-with-the-flow attitude
- Don’t know most of the other participants
- Dependable, answers communication in a timely fashion, and adheres to deadlines
- Willing to market the experience and the show to friends and contacts
- Willing to be videotaped and photographed throughout
- Overall awesomeness!
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A TEACHER?
Same answers as for in a participant (except for being bad at the skill!), plus:
- Skilled in the art form
- Able to work with a range of skill levels
- No set curriculum; fresh new ideas rather than relying on what they’ve already taught
DO PARTICIPANTS STAY IN TOUCH AFTER THE SHOW?
Yes! When the show is over, the relationships are just beginning.
ASIDE FROM FRIENDSHIPS, WHAT OTHER KINDS OF RELATIONSHIPS HAPPEN AMONG FE’RS?
- Volunteers (e.g., Habitat for Humanity leader and team member, soup kitchen servers)
- Teammates (e.g., kickball & softball)
- Teachers and students (e.g., glass-blowing class)
- Business owners and clients (e.g., realtor and home buyer, graphic designer and small-business owner)
- Pet adopters
- House sitters
- Board members
- Marathon training partners
- Church buddies
- Teachers (e.g., teaching dance to seven-year-olds)
- Business partners/mentors (e.g., baker and chef)
- Home decorators (e.g., giving appliances to a recently moved person)
WHEN DOES FE HAPPEN?
Dance + Improv
- Info Sessions/application: September–November
- Rehearsals: January–March/April
- Show: March/April
A Capella + Stepping + Storytelling
- Info Sessions/application: May–June
- Rehearsals: September–December
- Show: November/December
I’M INTERESTED IN BEING AN FE PARTICIPANT. WHAT DO I DO?
Apply or if applications are closed, sign up for the Mac ’n Cheese Productions email list to be notified when they’re open.
I’M INTERESTED IN BEING AN FE TEACHER. WHAT DO I DO?
Fill this out. We don’t currently have any open positions, but if something opens up, we’ll be in touch!
WHAT IS STEPPING?
It’s a mix of foot movements, handclaps and voice chants, historically performed by African-American Greek letter organizations but now shared by many multicultural fraternities and sororities. See an example.
WHO ARE THE KIDS IN SOME OF THE FE SHOWS?
Many FEs have a “Do Good” component, where we partner with an underserved community, such as an elementary school in a high-poverty neighborhood. We’ve also worked with organizations like Inspiration Corporation, which serves people who are homeless and unemployed.
HOW CAN I SPONSOR/PARTNER WITH FE?
Fear Experiment is an “It takes a village!” venture, as we’re all just Everyday Joes and Janes who become Temporary Rockstars. Which means we don’t have Rockstar bank accounts and thus almost everything outside of the venue [which we pay for with ticket sales] is sponsored. In addition, as part of Mac & Cheese’s mission to Do Good, we often partner with an organization that supports an under-served community.
It’s been humbling and amazing how many people are willing to donate their time and services to Fear Experiment—volunteering to do everything from printing T-shirts to designing the program to taking photographs to feeding our show participants.
How can I partner?