Some of you might have gone to see a “Harold Team” at iO Theater and not quite understood what you were seeing. If you did ask what a Harold was then you were probably given a quick verbal description and came away understanding a little, but not fully conceptualizing the form.
The Harold was developed by Del Close with collaboration from Charna Halpern and is used by iO, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and various independent teams. This 3×3 structure is confusing to some improv students, but once you grasp the basic concept the Harold becomes second nature to many improvisors.
The illustration above (direct link) does a great job of explaining the basic concepts of a Harold. Just in case you can’t read it I’ve converted it to text below.
Suggestion (should influence the opening and the first group game)
The Opening: Used to generate ideas, build group mind, and engage the audience. Examples of group games are pattern game, sound & movement, monologues, and deconstruction.
The First Beat “Find the Game and Play it”
Use ideas explored in the opening as a jumping off point. What’s the unusual thing? Probably the key to your game. If this, then what? Minimize walk-ons to allow the scene partners to explore their game. Stay away from heavy plot and focus on “the game” or characters.
Group Game #1
Influenced by the first three scenes and the suggestion.
The Second Beat “Raise the Stakes – Expand the World”
Can be “analogous to” or “use elements” from the first beat in a way that heightens the game – not just continuing the plot.
Group Game #2
To get back on the same page with your team.
The Third Beat “Connections and Callbacks”
The shorts beat and used to end on a high note. Games are played at their most heightened. Never force a connection. Look for organic reasons for characters to meet or common themes between games. Most Harolds will end before the end of a complete third beat.
Filed under: Advice