When I went to the very first Power Hour of Fun in 2014 at the Museum of Art and History, I had no idea what I was in for—but then, neither did the rest of the world.
At the time, it was just a secret plan for a totally unique interactive social experience brewing in the mind of the MAH’s “Community Catalyst” Elise Granata. That night, though, it became real.
Oh man, so real. I can sort of generally describe the experience by saying that Granata leads the proceedings from up on stage, giving a new prompt for the crowd to follow every 60 seconds. These prompts range from making a particular motion to interacting with other crowd members—and the more ridiculous they get, the more sublime the experience. With 60 different prompts over 60 minutes, the pace gets both frenetic and hilarious, and so—in honor of the next Power Hour of Fun coming up at the MAH on Thursday, Nov. 29—I tried to recreate a bit of that feeling via a rapid-fire interview with Granata in which I like to think we tapped into the true spirit of the Power Hour. Hold on tight.
Why power? ELISE GRANATA: Because we all have it and when used correctly, it can be superglue between strangers. Why hour? That’s all the time we need to get weird. And have fun. And maybe make a few new friends.
Why random prompts? Unprompted, I don’t know if people would invent secret handshakes with each other like they do at Power Hour. Why crazy random prompts? One hundred people in a room need permission to yell at the top of their lungs and give each other sharpie tattoos. Favorite crazy random prompt? “Greet a stranger like you’re old friends.” Craziest random prompt ever? Group flossing.
Who needs power hour? Everyone who needs to get out of their head and into social bungee jumping. Who does power hour need? Everyone who is willing to say “I can do anything for a minute.” How’d you think of this? Riffed off of the power hour drinking game and made it a sober (if you want it to be) social experience. How did the first time go for you? It was for my 23rd birthday—so beyond my wildest dreams.
What did you learn the first time? We humans need very little coaxing to be able to slow dance with a stranger or tell someone the last time you cried. What was better the second time? I removed a minute ranking how much we resented our fathers. Why is a minute ideal? You can do anything for a minute. What’s an ideal minute? Being prompted to talk about chips to the sounds of Salt-N-Pepa. What minutes are less than ideal? Every minute you’re not at Power Hour. Duh.
Did you enjoy the break? No. I was too excited to come back. What do you do if the energy is lagging? Become a cheerleader on jet fuel. Why is it good for social people? It is so much less boring than a happy hour. Why is it good for shy people? Everyone is out of their element, so it is fantastic cover to be out of yours, too. Why is it in a museum? It is the perfect venue for connecting with something unfamiliar. Do you ever feel silly? Always. Why is good to feel silly? It is proof of resilience from your weird day, days, year, or years.
How do you pick the music? I hear it playing in Trader Joe’s and think “oh, this would be perfect for 100 people to catwalk to.” How does the music pick you? Whitney Houston whispered to me as a newborn baby in 1991 and told me one day I would use “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” to help strangers have fun.
How do you feel afterward? Like I just went to a pep rally at a dance club in rock ’n’ roll heaven and the french fries were free. What’s the best compliment you’ve gotten? “My girlfriend and I started dating because of this.” What’s the weirdest suggestion you’ve gotten? Blindfolded baked potato eating contest. When you wave your hands in the air, do you care? No, and neither should you.
The Power Hour of Fun will happen on Thursday, Nov 29 at the Museum of Art and History, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz. Warm-up games and mingling begin at 7 p.m., Power Hour begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5-$10; go to powerhouroffun.com for more information and to buy tickets.