Dashing, falling, dancing — Bryant Park was awash with adults playing a children’s game last night.

In celebration of Bryant Park’s major revitalization project that took place twenty years ago, the park hosted a 400-person game of musical chairs for adults.

The prize? The first place winner would have his/her name engraved onto one of the green bistro chairs at the park in addition to going home with a chair from the park and a gift card to the Bryant Park Grill.

According to the event coordinator, Susie Sigel, the idea for musical chairs came about because “Bryant Park is a place you can just come and enjoy. The chair is an icon.”

To accommodate a game of musical chairs with hundreds of people, the staff assigned approximately twenty people per circle of chairs. Then, after over fifteen rounds, the last person standing from each circle would head over to the winner’s circle.

Participants eagerly waiting for the game to begin

Watching the game unfold was almost like watching an accelerated version of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.”  The easygoing participants were the first to go. In the initial rounds, if two people ended up in the same seat, one would concede defeat without any prompting. However, as the number of people declined, standstills between two people sitting in one chair occurred, neither one willing to give up.  As a result, the referee was frequently called over to circles to conduct a coin toss.

So what did it take to win? The model participant possessed strategic skills, luck, and will. At some circles, contestants set a quick pace but at others, people moved steadily and made sure to scurry past the gaps between the chairs. However, with the DJ playing ’90s hits —    a definite crowd-pleaser —  many people fell into the beat of the music while playing the game.

The Winner’s Circle

Nevertheless, over an hour later, the victor emerged:

Winner: Matinah Payne-Yehudah

During the game, spectators wrapped around the lawn and eagerly watched participants clash against each other in order to claim a seat.    Cheers, boos, and shouts of advice saturated the air.   When it came to the final round, former players and onlookers immediately flooded the lawn to encircle the remaining contestants.   People chose favorites and energetically rooted for them.

Despite the reputation of New Yorkers as having no time to spare, hordes of people stopped by to take photos and watch the proceedings.   The same is true for the Solstice in Times Square: Athleta Mind Over Madness Yoga.   Regardless of the usual chaos in Times Square, bystanders still chose to take a few minutes and ponder why people would practice yoga in 90-degree Fahrenheit weather.

Why do so many New Yorkers decide to become involved in events such as these?   Perhaps it’s the chance to meet new people and relate over a shared and slightly bizarre experience.   According to Charlie Todd, the founder of Improv Everywhere, he decided to launch his “prank collective” because he hopes to “bring excitement to otherwise unexciting locales and give strangers a unique experience and a great story to tell”¦it [a prank] can simply be about making someone laugh, smile, or stop to notice the world around them.”   Although New York is a city with millions of people, how regularly do we interact with the multitude of fellow New Yorkers?   Events like musical chairs in Bryant Park or yoga in Times Square offer a small change to one’s daily routine and a chance to have fun with fellow urbanites.

Interested in learning more about Improv Everywhere? Check out our past coverage:

2012 No Pants Subway Ride
Improv Everywhere: No pants subway rides, Best Buy takeovers and freezing Grand Central

Get in touch with the author at @iyisak