Indiana Jones and the Alley of Doom

August 27, 2011

Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy ends up fleeing from a mammoth boulder?

Now imagine that scene with you in it, only instead of running through an ancient crumbling temple, you’re racing down an alley in DC. The boulder? An enormous zorb disguised like a boulder. (Don’t worry: You’ll still get to wear the hat.)

Can you see yourself in this picture?

That’s right folks! The DC Awesome grant for August goes to the Laurenellen McCann for her project: Indiana Jones and the Alley of Doom!

She had us with the title, but we asked Laurenellen to go ahead and explain the project in more detail:

The Alley of Doom is a pop-up experience that’s one part theme park, one part guerrilla theatre, and one part pure, geeky wish-fulfillment.

Cameras will be set up along the course to capture the action so that, after you run, you’ll no longer have to just *imagine* yourself in the scene: You’ll be in it. All video will be edited into personalized segments that will be loaded onto YouTube (and the Alley of Doom website), and folks who give their email address when they run will get their race sent to them directly.

Who can play? Anyone. Everyone. Kids. Old people. Not old people. People with canes. People on bikes. People who know the Indiana Jones theme song by heart. People who have no idea what the heck is going on and are just passing by and get dragged in by a friend/child. Mayor Gray. Anyone.

The point of this project is to provide good, clean, weird fun in an under-utilized urban space. You can enjoy spending a few minutes getting dressed up, pretending to steal a golden statue, and being chased by a giant bouldery ball even if you have no idea Indiana Jones exists. Heck, you don’t even have to like Indiana Jones to play the game. The point is that you have an opportunity to play at all.

What does winning the Awesome Foundation DC grant mean to you? How will you use the grant?

I’ll be honest with you: The Alley of Doom is a silly project — but it’s a silly project with a civic heart. The fact that anyone else besides me not only sees that, but is literally invested in helping me move from talk to action is incredible.

Without the support of the Awesome Foundation one of the critical components of this project — the boulder — would basically be unobtainable. In order to do Doom right (and without a track), you need a faux-boulder that meets certain size, shape, weight, and control requirements. The best thing I’ve found that can do all this is a zorb*, an inflatable globe that a person rides inside. (It’s part of some popular sports in New Zealand, but is just “catching on” in the States.) Needless to say, getting a grip on the boulder-age could easily have been a barrier to ever completing the project at all. Now we just need an alley…and maybe John Williams to come perform the soundtrack live.

What sort of impact do you hope The Alley of Doom will have in DC, and how does winning the Awesome grant help?

DC may not be as buttoned up as some would have you think, but there still seems to be less of the spontaneous energy here than that’s found in other cities. For example, there’s no need to have a “Keep DC Weird” movement because DC isn’t weird…in that way.

With the help of the Awesome Foundation, I’m taking my first shot at contributing to the informal movement to “Get DC Weird.” I don’t actually believe that bunch of people dressing up like Indiana Jones and running around the city will magically foster civic life and community, but I do believe there’s value in creating the kind of public events I want to see more of in this city.

I hope its joyful weirdness is contagious.

What other support do you need? How can people get in touch to support you?

There’s a few different ways that people can get involved in the project if they’re looking to do more than just run. DC folk are encouraged to get in touch if they’ve got set decoration skills and/or have access to whips/Indiana Jones hats. I’d like to put as much of the funding as possible into buying the zorb and providing some safety measures (mats?), so borrowing key props would be a major help. Also, most, but not all of the costs of this project are covered by the Awesome Foundation grant, so small funders looking to get a lot of bang from their $5 shouldn’t be shy.

If any of the above sounds like you or if you’re interested in supporting this project with your time, Canon 5D, or uncanny resemblance to Indiana Jones, send me email me at with ALLEY OF DOOM in the subject line. (Be sure it’s in all caps so it reads like you’re yelling.)

You can follow @AlleyofDoom on Twitter for updates.

Laurenellen also offered some great advice to other people thinking about applying for an Awesome Foundation grant:

Don’t overthink it. If you have a crazy idea and you can sit down and write out the less crazy parts — the budget, the steps to implementation, why it should actually come to be — then you should apply. I waited months before applying not because I didn’t have the Alley of Doom mapped out, but because I was nervous. The application instructions make you think that you need to be at your most clever and snarky in writing — don’t let that psych you out. If your idea really is capital-a Awesome and you actually want to see it come to life, take a chance.