I'm glad to be taking 501 again. It was my favorite class.
I've been on a Harold team (not always the same one) for about a year and a half. We've done some good Harolds, plenty of bad Harolds, and a few that really worked. I love the feeling of satisfaction during and after a really great Harold. I would like to play my part on the team to make every Harold pop! That is one reason I'm taking 501.
I've always been rather analytical about the things I study. Ever since my first 101 class I've thought about improv, asked questions, and looked at how it all fits together. We get introspective in this class and I like it. That is another reason I'm taking 501.
Finally, one of my biggest goals from the beginning is to be a guy that everybody wants to play with and feels comfortable with. I fear that I've lost that. The more people I know and get on board with the more comfortable we will be when we play together. I'd love to take a class with everybody. That is another reason I'm taking 501.
One thing I'd really love to work on in this class is giving a Harold a theme or give it something to say. The overwhelming majority of Harolds become a series of desparate scenes related (sometimes vaguely) back to a suggestion. I want to be in more Harolds where the players are all on board with a theme and work to tell a story or promote a feeling. When Harold wins we all win!
In the second week we discussed different ways to take first beat scenes into the second beat. There are four basic tools:
1) Analogous scene: Best when the game is strong. The game is carried to the second beat and played with different characters in a different location and scenario. The idea is to play the comedic beats of the scene again with the new information. This can be done by the same two improvisers as the first beat or two different improvisers.
2) Time dash: Best when the characters are strong. The same characters revisit their scene but move forward in time to see the consequence of the first beat scene or back in time to explore context for the details of the first beat scene. This is played by the same two improvisers from the first beat.
3) Character Pull: One strong character is pulled to play the second beat. This is best when one character dominates the first beat. The idea is to see that character again in a heightened scenario. The stakes of the game can be raised or a new game can be established to play on the strenghths of the character. Think of this as playing the second beat as a tag out from the first.
4) Spread: Best when neither characters nor game are particularly strong in the first beat, but can also be used anytime. Two different improvisers play the scene (to keep from confusing with pulling character). A detail from the first beat scene is pulled and used/explored. It is very important to start with a strong initiation to let your scene partner know what is happening. Think of this as playing the second beat as a cut to from the first beat.
These can be confusing at first but come more naturally as you start to use them. After a while you gain instinct where to take a first beat scene and these formulae take a back seat to gut feeling.
Week 3. No Justin. Daniel Kirby, who taught school for 20 years in the inner city so don't even think about messing with him, was our substitute teacher. He's for real...so you better check yourself! We discussed the use of "blue" material in improv and when it is appropriate. Then we did several scenes based on a single suggestion to get our collective improv juices flowing. We then did three first beat scenes based on a suggestion and discussed how to take them into second beats. We played the best second beat to see how it went. Then we did the exercise again without the discussing in between first and second beats. It went...alright. Following a cooling break, we discussed support moves, what they are for and when they should be used. We fit in one exercise in which we did a short montage and used a lot of scene painting to support the scenes. It felt very disjointed with the barrage of scene paints but it got the idea of when to use them across.
I'm not finished with them all yet but here is a series with Will Hines discussing Harold. There is a lot of good stuff in here. Each part is around an hour long. Go to You Tube and search for "In The Moment: The Harold - Part x", where x = 1-5. I tried to post links but there weren't working for some reason. Enjoy!
Part 1 talks about the structure of the Harold, going into the whats and whys and wherefores and other such words.
Part 2 talks about the opening and the first beats of The Harold. What's a good idea to pull from the opening? What are you doing in the first beat? What is a REAL opening? Is anything real?
Part 3 goes into the first group game, second beats and second group game of The Harold. What's the point of the group game? How do you push the first beat in your second beat? What do you do in your second group game? Now with more references to the Aliens movies.
Part 4 of our series on The Harold talks about third beats, closing a show, the UCB Theatre and the skills that go into making a good Harold. Also we address how it feels to watch 6 Harolds in a row.
Part 5 of our series concludes our talks about the improv format, The Harold. We end our discussion with questions like: "Is the Harold inherently funny?" "Do you ever get frustrated with the Harold?" "Will the Amish develop their own version of Shark Tank?"
What I got most out of last week was a lot of good practice of taking 1st beats to second beats. Understanding the different tools for different scenarios (time dash/analogous/etc) makes it less nervewracking to try and create a good second beat. Really, it was an "ahah" type of class. Of course right now there is much thinking and discussion of the "Best" way to move to second beats, but with more exercising of this muscle, I think we will be able to live in the moment and let our instincts choose how to move it to second beats.
On August 2 we focused on group games. First we talked about what makes a Harold a Harold and a bit about general improv. Next, we danced around on the stage with wild abandon. Then we practiced Follow the Fool...er...follower. The idea is that no single person leads and everybody mirrors. It is good to develop a plot to the scene (yes, play plot!) that everybody can get on board with. Anybody can change the direction of the scene at any time. Then we played with some pile on scenes. A small number of players set up the game with the expectation that others will walk on to support the game. Fun was had by all.
I believe we decided to keep our showcase on 8/12 but still hold class on 8/16 since we missed a week. Just a week to play together.
We discussed our visual interpretations of Harold.
We then did some super halpful third beat exercises. We ran through three first beat scenes and collectively identified the game. Then we discussed possible second beats. We played the second beats and then moved into third beats. We discussed the most heightened version of each character in the scenes. The biggest thing I took from this exercise was that thinking about the most heightened version of each character through the Harold makes using those heightened characters for third beats easier!