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  Brattleboro Museum 2008

Vermont: Freedom and Unity (and Dominoes)

Since putting our domino toppling videos online, Steve and I have actually received several requests to travel to various locations to do our thing. Unfortunately, said locations are usually really far away. Offers have come in from California, the Dominican Republic and points in-between. So when Danny Lichtenfeld, director of the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Vermont contacted us, our thoughts were: "close enough". It's still a 300 mile, 5 hour drive, but at least we wouldn't have to check 200 pounds of dominoes and equipment into the belly of an airplane.

Mr. Lichtenfeld first found us when he and his son, who is a budding domino toppler himself, discovered some of our videos. He thought it'd be neat to create a kinetic art installation in his museum for other children to see. Anyone who knows anything about us knows that we do it all for the kids. So me, Steve and his friend Tamara packed up over 6,800 dominoes (we added light blue and pink sets since our Mario Basement course) and headed north.

Main Gallery

The museum offered us plenty of room to spread out our course. We were initially worried that the grout lines in the tile floor would cause some trouble. It turned out that a healthy coat of wax had leveled out most areas. We left the exhibits in the middle of the room where they were and worked around them. So now that the stage is set, here are some photos of the show we put on.

The BMAC itself actually began as a railroad station in 1849. As a tribute to this history, we thought it'd be nice to start our domino course with a train. After that, we try something that could be considered very risky in the domino toppling business. We deliberately stop the dominoes from falling, hoping that they'll be restarted a few seconds later.

We included an homage to the state of Vermont by planting their state flower, the red clover. There was an exhibit of mandalas at the musuem, so we attempted to create one of our own using dominoes. It's really just a recycling of the Smiley Drop stunt, but it can do other things. Why shouldn't it?

Speaking of recycled stunts, Disconnect Four makes a return appearance. This time the released checkers topple some dominoes instead of just spill onto the floor. But hold on! A brand new trick utilizing a rotating spiral makes its debut. As the hypnodisk spins, a ball dropped into the center slowly works its way out.

Steve made sure to bring his cymbals along for the ride. He built special instructions into the trail to make sure everyone would hear them. There was an alcove in the museum that we really wanted to include, but we had to climb a few steps to reach it. To solve this problem, we created a series of stair climbing levers to get up there.

The center of the alcove was dedicated to the twelve months of the year. There's icons representing January snow, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, April showers, May flowers, Father's Day, Independence Day, Summer sun, Autumn leaves, Halloween, Thanksgiving corn on the cob, and a Christmas tree to wrap up December.

Going down the stairs proved to be much easier than going up. We just sent a giant crayon tumbling down the steps. It collided with some dominoes at the bottom which twisted and turned a few more times. Finally, we expressed our thanks to the BMAC for inviting us by reproducing their logo with a mosaic consisting of 1,024 dominoes.

Showtime at the Brattleboro

We had set up all of our dominoes, double-checked that we had filled in all of our safety gaps, and felt like we had prepared for everything. We may have been mistaken.

Having an audience present when toppling a domino course was not new to us. We'd always have a small group of friends and family nearby when it came time to set things off. What was new was having over one hundred people completely surrounding the entire course. The museum wanted patrons to be able to walk completely around the dominoes as if it was any other piece of artwork on display, and by golly they did just that.

The hour before the show was scheduled to start even saw a few kids setting up a couple hundred dominoes we had set aside for them. There were a couple of times when I would have felt safer with my cat stepping over everything (rest her fluffy soul). The staff set up ropes and tape lines to help keep the audience from getting too close, and even though no one accidentally knocked anything over, Steve and I had a combined five heart attacks during this time.

Another new, yet slightly less terrifying experience was getting media attention. Zachary Stephens from the Brattleboro Reformer was present to take photos and chat with us. After watching the video of our interview, Steve and I realized we needed to work on our press relation skills. We looked strangely tired and/or apathetic. It made me think that movie stars that have to plug their movies and tell funny anecdotes on about 50 different talk shows and look peppy the whole time aren't so overpaid after all.

Finally, it was showtime! Danny Lichtenfeld introduced us and after a brief Q&A session, it was time to topple. A contest was held where the kid who came closest to guessing the number dominoes that were set up (6,842) would operate the train that started the whole thing.

The course itself had its ups and downs. All of the complex new stunts like Stop and Go, Hypnodisk and Stair Climb went off perfectly, but two dominoes got stuck on train tracks that ping-pong balls were to roll down. One other unfortunate factor that we didn't have control over was the inability to see the entire course fall from beginning to end due to the large crowd. Looking back, I'm not sure if the layout could have been changed in such a way to prevent that.

Despite a few setbacks, the audience seemed to enjoy the show and gave us an enthusiastic round of applause. The kids surprised us by offering to help clean up our mess. All in all, Steve, Tamara and I had a good time in Brattleboro. Thanks again to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center for providing a unique experience!


The same crowd that made seeing the entire course impossible also applied to filming. Please keep that in mind when you see obstructed views and awkward angles in the following clips. I guess the event was more of a "you had to be there" kind of thing.

Our own footage. After filming the first half of the course, Steve squeezed
his way through the audience to record as much as he could.

From the BMAC. Nice shots of the dominoes all set up,
great video of the logo falling, and even the clean up effort.

From the Brattleboro Reformer. Excellent photos by Zachary Stephens
and the entire finale, plus our sleepy interview!