The clip embedded below shows the 1A, 2A and 3A scenes from a Harold in succession. It shows how, instead of just following plot through the beats, one character’s emotional behavior – in this case, Matt Newman’s reaction to learning that people close to him are sleeping together – can be heightened through scenarios beyond the initial scene’s. It also shows how the responsibility for initiating subsequent beats is not on Matt, but on his fellow players who’ve been watching from the wings – this helps avoid rehashing the initial scene.
To learn more about the who, what and how behind heightening a scene with subsequent beats, READ THIS.
As said best in Truth in Comedy, “The Harold is like the space shuttle, incorporating all of the developments and discoveries that have gone before it into one new, superior design.” The other way around, Harold’s learnings pack in the lion’s share of what you need to know to do any other long-form, which is why The Coalition teaches students long-form improvisation formats through the lens of The Harold first.
To provide students with an example Harold (Richmond is not, after all, Chicago, New York or Los Angeles where an improviser can see a Harold every night of the week), some of The Coalition’s most experienced players came together to perform the show embedded below. For a group that had never before all done a Harold together, it’s pretty good.
Lights were pulled before we could get to the 3C scene, but several of us had one ready. That’s why improv is a great hobby for people who like to sit around in bars and talk about what they could’ve done.
Watch the Johnsons heighten the mechanics of an emotionally active first beat into a fun found-joke.
Watch as the Johnsons’ pattern recognition skills bring down the house and the lights.
A solid show from The Johnsons. They do a To The Ether Opening followed by 4 first beat scenes (though the 4th tends to have a group game quality about it) and then a run of scenes leveraging old material and focused on patterns and games.
Subsequent Beats: The stakes of one scene can be used as inspiration for initiating new scenes.
SUBSEQUENT BEATS – Two players do a scene (edited early by the teacher). These two original players go to the wings. A Player Three initiates a new scene, explicitly soliciting the participation of Player One, Player Two, Both Players One and Two, or Neither Players One nor Two.
• Put the onus on initiating subsequent beats on those standing on the wings – the players in the original scene need to be focused on the scene in play; those on the wings have the time to think up an initiation. When players from the originating scene initiate their own subsequent beats, it is too likely that they will over-prioritize plot or simply repeat what they did originally.
• Use NAMES – it’s easier to solicit the participation of Player One if you can say, “Hey, Jack…”
• Elevate the situation – Spies stealing secrets? Have mountaintop-sitting, spiritual gurus stealing life’s secrets. Have Moses steal the Commandments.
• Elevate character’s defining behaviors – Player One is an enthusiastic baseball commentator; Have him do color commentary at his accountant day job; Have him narrate as he video tapes his son’s birthday
• Elevate themes – In lifting the reactions from the originating scene’s players and situation, we give those reactions wider applicability and telegraph to our fellow players that we are heightening the theme represented in those reactions. (A sailor’s wife awaiting her husband’s return would have a great scene with a dog awaiting his master’s return from the store).
• Mapping – Lay the dynamic structure of one genre over the particulars of another genre to heighten thematic and narrative depths. Two male improvisers talk about cars or sports while really talking about women and/or sex. Play the emotional dynamic of a young man asking a father for his daughter’s hand over the particulars of a teenager asking his dad for the car keys – “Boy, what are your intentions with my sedan?”