Streetfilms: Street Theater & Public Parody as Effective Advocacy!
If you're having trouble garnering public attention for one of your advocacy initatives, one thing you should consider is performing some crafty, quirky street theater or parody. Both equally enlighten, and if done intelligently, lead to action.
Streetfilms has been around quite a few good ones over the years. One of the earliest is the above 2002 video I participated in and shot was our car-free Prospect Park Theater protest! We had a nice group of advocates show up in cardboard automobiles. Then Brooklyn T.A. Chair (and future Streetsblog founder) Aaron Naparstek was the creative force behind the action and also supporting us at the rally? Our then-Councilmember and future Mayor Bill de Blasio!
Soon after Mayor Bloomberg and then NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan pedestrianized parts of Times Square, the tabloids and tv stations were running amok with stories about how "controversial" it was. We decided we needed to point out how ridiculous these assertions were. Enter Veronica Moss, a character invented earlier to make fun of the fictional A.U.T.O. lobby. This time we brought her to Times Square. The results are hysterical, mainly because behind that wig is the ultra-talented comedian and newest star of Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon!
This is from the 2008 Javits NYC Auto Show and it's absolutely hilarious. We captured this demonstration from Transportation Alternatives & Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Rev Billy presided over the mock marriage of Lady Liberty (Karla Quintero) and Mr. Transit (Noah Budnick) as attendees watched on. Just about every shot in this Streetfilm (from Elizabeth Press) is priceless so watch it to the very end.
I've had my share of making myself look a little foolish to make a point. One came early in Streetfilms when I wanted to make the point that traffic calming and bicycle accommodation in Portland, Orgeon was so good, that it brought the legendary Sasquatch out of hiding! Yes, that's me as "Clarence the Traffic Calming Sasquatch" in this vid made with Dan Kaufman. It's production occurred when Dan called one day during my visit and said he had a big foot costume at his house. Less than an hour thru the magic of improv, we had our video.
In many cities, there's a "Bike Party" movement that has the traditional critical mass morphing in to something more celebratory and less confrontational. Having ridden enough times during both, it basically just seems like a re-branding to allow fun bike riding in a large group. "Bike Party" seems to always have a theme, although many critical masses have as well. The Bike Party from D.C. was a toga ride. And as you can see from the footage, it was plenty of fun.