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The Silent Play Experiment in LA

Aaron McHugh

I’ve slept in my bed fewer than eleven days last month. I’m a good tired, and I’m invigorated by a good story I want to tell you about a play date I had on the beach. A young woman silently motioned for us to read this one-sheet instruction, “for the next 60 minutes, we invite you to turn off your cell phone, take off your shoes, rest your voice, and return to your 7-year old self.” There were 140 of us at a corporate day retreat, type-A’s, left-brainers at the silent PLAY experiment on the beach.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw

Rescuing our fellow co-workers during the Silent Play Experiment

7-year-old playfulness

Our first game was to free our captured co-workers, buried in the sand. Their ransom payment? Turn them into art using tools, props, toys, and sand. “Words of wisdom before you begin: by design, this is a strange, unconventional and stretching experience. Feeling insecure or resistant is normal. we encourage you to quiet your inner critic and push yourself to your own degree of comfortable discomfort. the more you dive in and find the joy in the experience, the more you’ll get out of it!”

Picture your co-workers barefoot, with face paint, making sand castles, dancing to drum beats, playing charades and impromptu acting in silence. Picture Peter Pan, Wendy and the Lost Boys playing on the beach “Never grow up.” It was one of the most delightful and playful hours I’ve experienced in my business career. Here’s their tagline, “no shoes. no judgment. no voices. just Play.”

I’m so intrigued by the Silent Play experiment that I promise to track someone down for a podcast interview to share with us the story behind their original experiment. Risking further plagiarism, here is their mission statement on their website.

Put down your phone, give your voice a rest, and engage the beats of the drum

Why Play frees us to become more creative

“PLAY is a non-profit with one mission: make the world a more playful place.
we all played as children. it’s how we learn, create, and relate to others. for whatever reason, at a certain point in our lives, we decide we’re “too old,” “too cool,” “too professional,” or “too whatever” to play. we may engage in competitive sports, grab drinks with friends, go to a concert, or do any number of other recreational activities during which we’re often following a conventional script of behavior.

but for most of us, pure social and imaginative play is sorely lacking.
this kind of play is the missing piece in our technology, work, and goal-dominated existence and we create experiences to bring more of it into your life.”

Art class resumes in the sand with 140 co-workers

This summer in LA GO PLAY

Here’s how you can unhinge and detangle into your own play experiment. Detail here. “we have transformed a secret downtown warehouse into a utopian playground! come explore our majestic space in an immersive experience that will stretch your imagination, stimulate your creativity and spawn inspired social interactions – in silence.”

– Huffington Post Art Critic – James Scarborough.

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