Poor Harold. Can't get no respect.

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Postby PyroDan » July 14th, 2011, 3:37 am

jillybee72 wrote:Many people who think Harold is too structured only learned the training wheels Harold and never took it out for a real spin. The Opening/1A 1B 1C/Game/2A 2B 2C/Game/3A 3B 3C is for beginners. Open her up and see what she can do! Weave a much more intriguing pattern why don'tcha? These are the elements, yes, opening/games/scenes, but anything can happen from there. Which is pretty much what Alex said up dere.


Good call JB.

The Harold is what you make of it, that is often why it is considered the grand dad of longform. The structure was created to teach performers, used to shortform games, how to make improv more of a theatrical product, rather than silly (but enjoyable) short games.

Learning the training wheels version teaches all the really great skills improvisors can pick up (Thanks Jastro) Falling in love with a particular form can make anything feel contrived and old after time. I like Shakespeare, doesn't mean I want to do back to back performances for the rest of my performing career. Hell even the RSC does Ibsen, and Pinter from time to time.

I like it, because it forces those doing it to do something more than a montage or marginally related scenes. It is a challenge to the improvisor and the group, that can have a real sense of where things are going, but yet still have the wonderful mess of a group working their way through it.
The list of valuable lessons along that path are too numerous to list.

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Postby York99 » July 14th, 2011, 8:37 am

Kayla wrote:Also, In the Fall 2010 Harold thread, Jon Bolden posed a really great question regarding the creation of a Harold class. I haven't been around long enough to know what happened with that. Are there plans for any 16-week Harold courses for improvisers who don't want to or can't afford to pay to start over at Level One at another theater in anticipation of a Harold level?

And if there isn't, there should be. Surely there are 7 other people beside myself who would be interested in paying for and committing to this.


We have been working on enhancing the ColdTowne Conservatory. One idea we are working on would be post-graduate masters tracks. Since there is SO much to learn in improv and there are many things that we can only introduce even in a 6-level training program, we want to have separate programs that can focus on specific skills, forms, etc.

Keep an eye out for that!
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Postby bradisntclever » July 14th, 2011, 8:56 am

Kayla wrote:Yeah, 16 weeks seems like it might be tough logistically. I just threw that number out there because it seemed to be the consensus in the old threads of the amount of time "needed" to teach it. I'd personally be excited for any class no matter the length!


Regarding 16 weeks, at the time of that thread last year, I was in the Level 4/Harold class Arthur was teaching. All eight weeks went well, and all that jazz, but we could have easily spent twice as long, if not longer, on it.
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Postby trabka » July 14th, 2011, 9:05 am

bradisntclever wrote:
Kayla wrote:Yeah, 16 weeks seems like it might be tough logistically. I just threw that number out there because it seemed to be the consensus in the old threads of the amount of time "needed" to teach it. I'd personally be excited for any class no matter the length!


Regarding 16 weeks, at the time of that thread last year, I was in the Level 4/Harold class Arthur was teaching. It went well, and all that jazz, but we could have easily spent twice as long, if not longer, on it.


Yeah, if I recall correctly from the emails before we realized that no one's availability matched, the plan was going to work on the Harold indefinitely based on the fact that a few of us were in the throes of an 8 week class and had the impression we were just scratching the surface (turns out we were).

Justin, if that Improv Masters program thing comes to fruition you can just go ahead and put me on the roster for the Deconstruction class whenever that happens.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » July 14th, 2011, 9:08 am

to the point of audience perception, i remember reading through the Out of Bounds program last year and reading every single troupe bio during an extended layover in Phoenix. the amount of troupes who described themselves as "doing a Harold" or "modified Harold" or "deconstructed Harold" got me thinking..."well, what the fuck does that mean to an audience?" it's a very jargon term without a whole lot of use outside improvisors discussing improv with improvisors. and i started wondering, what other words do we use to describe our forms and formats that just fade into white noise and babble to an audience? they can probably figure out "narrative" pretty easily if they ever took an English class, and i'd imagine most can make the cognitive leap in the difference between shortform and longform (though if you mentioned them out of context of one another, you might get a "dog who's just been shown a card trick" look). but what does "organic" mean to them, beyond thinking you perform at a farmer's market? could you succinctly explain to them the difference between a "game" in a Harold and a "game" in Maestro? i sometimes wonder if it's off putting to an audience, or if they feel like we're talking in some strange ancient coded language that they too could be initiated into...

but then i think of family and friends whom i've known for years, who have come and seen shows and discussed them with me, and how they'll still say how much they enjoyed my "skits" and tell people i do stand up. and i realize it's probably not even worth worrying about. :P

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Postby Jastroch » July 14th, 2011, 9:19 am

REDACTED, cause never mind.
Last edited by Jastroch on July 14th, 2011, 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby erikamay » July 14th, 2011, 10:00 am

here is the team "the reckoning" performing a harold, for anyone who is interested:

part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpRBSVXmcNI

part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0H-TjNDu ... re=related
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » July 14th, 2011, 10:09 am

Jastroch wrote:
Alex B wrote:And Kaci's point is right on. Audiences don't really care about improv nerd terminological distinctions. Audiences want fun, entertaining, interesting performances. If they aren't benighted audiences, maybe they want--oh god--emotional and intellectual stimulation too. And, hey, mutatis mutandis for performers. (Light bulb!)


I guess what I'm saying is that different people like different things. Sure, everyone loves fun. But I can tell you I personally enjoyed watching long form more than short form and watching shows that follow the game versus the plot as an audience member.

That's not meant to cast dispersion on the fine work anyone does in narrative, it's just what gets my synapses going and has since before I started improvising.

Whether we're talking about the Harold specifically, I think shows that there are real differences stylistically across improv schools and that those differences might appeal more to some people than others. I don't understand what's so controversial about that?


i don't think there should be anything, i agree completely. personally, i prefer longform and story...but i like being in a city and a scene where i can go see shows in multiple styles and a variety of backgrounds and philosophies. and even better where those different styles aren't just muscling up against each other, but collaborating and sythesizing and occasionally creating something awesome and new that's never been seen before.

some audiences are discerning and know specifically what they like. some just know they like improv. some want to laugh and heard good stuff. Allah loves wondrous variety. ;)

EDIT: Crap, do i have to redact all that now?

erikamay wrote:here is the team "the reckoning" performing a harold, for anyone who is interested:

part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpRBSVXmcNI

part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0H-TjNDu ... re=related


they're amazing. one of the troupes who redeemed my faith in the Harold. ;)
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Postby Brad Hawkins » July 14th, 2011, 10:52 am

jillybee72 wrote:Many people who think Harold is too structured only learned the training wheels Harold and never took it out for a real spin. The Opening/1A 1B 1C/Game/2A 2B 2C/Game/3A 3B 3C is for beginners. Open her up and see what she can do! Weave a much more intriguing pattern why don'tcha? These are the elements, yes, opening/games/scenes, but anything can happen from there. Which is pretty much what Alex said up dere.


OK, clearly I have been laboring under a misconception, because I thought "Harold" was simply a term for what you just described... i.e. the Opening/1A 1B 1C/... etc format. Since that's clearly wrong, what IS a Harold?
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Postby Roy Janik » July 14th, 2011, 11:10 am

Brad Hawkins wrote:OK, clearly I have been laboring under a misconception, because I thought "Harold" was simply a term for what you just described... i.e. the Opening/1A 1B 1C/... etc format. Since that's clearly wrong, what IS a Harold?


Brad, like Jill touched on, the current way of thinking about it is that that structure is the starting point, the "training wheels" Harold. As you build it into your muscle memory and the beats of the form become second nature, you can free yourself up to adapt, adjust, and riff on the format as the moment and the show inspire you to.

So even though for a given show your Harold team might wind up doing something that doesn't resemble that structure, the sensibility, the techniques and even the way in which you modified the format in the moment are all informed by that training.

And just to try and bridge any perceived gaps, it's exactly the same way with narrative or any other format. There's a basic structure to story telling, in that a story has a beginning, middle, and end... but if you're all on the same page and the story demands it, the first scene might be the 'end' of the story.

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Postby Jastroch » July 14th, 2011, 11:23 am

Roy hit it on the head.

The Harold is about more than the three beat structure the same way good story telling is about more than a Hero Quest.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » July 14th, 2011, 11:30 am

Jastroch wrote:Roy hit it on the head.

The Harold is about more than the three beat structure the same way good story telling is about more than a Hero Quest.

OK, so what IS it?
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Postby B. Tribe » July 14th, 2011, 11:33 am

Roy Janik wrote:
Brad Hawkins wrote:OK, clearly I have been laboring under a misconception, because I thought "Harold" was simply a term for what you just described... i.e. the Opening/1A 1B 1C/... etc format. Since that's clearly wrong, what IS a Harold?


Brad, like Jill touched on, the current way of thinking about it is that that structure is the starting point, the "training wheels" Harold. As you build it into your muscle memory and the beats of the form become second nature, you can free yourself up to adapt, adjust, and riff on the format as the moment and the show inspire you to.


But is it really a Harold anymore or a montage or a shared world montage or a callback heavy show or a show with organic influences? I never understood the 'take the training wheels off' statement since (to me) removing the structure means it's not a Harold.

An analogy would be poetry. You can use a rhyme scheme to give you structure. There are a lot of different rhyme schemes to play with. So let's use ABCABCABC rhyming since it syncs up with The Harold pretty well. You write a bunch of poems in that structure, then start writing free verse with some ABCABCABC elements. So are you still writing ABCABCABC? I say no!

I've had a couple times in rehearsal where coaches have said 'You all just did a Harold' even though we weren't doing a Harold at all. I accept it as a compliment but in my head I'm like "No, I didn't. I did something COOL but it's wasn't a Harold".
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » July 14th, 2011, 11:39 am

Brad Hawkins wrote:
Jastroch wrote:Roy hit it on the head.

The Harold is about more than the three beat structure the same way good story telling is about more than a Hero Quest.

OK, so what IS it?


unfortunately, no one can be TOLD what the Harold is. you have to experience it for yourself...
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Postby Jastroch » July 14th, 2011, 11:50 am

Brad Hawkins wrote:
Jastroch wrote:Roy hit it on the head.

The Harold is about more than the three beat structure the same way good story telling is about more than a Hero Quest.

OK, so what IS it?


A Harold is an improv show where scenes, characters and relationships are connected by themes, ideas and organic games rather than by story and plot. A Harold starts with some kind of game (or pattern) based opening that deconstructs the suggestion and is punctuated by group games that inform the overall tone, structure and themes of the show.

In a Harold, there's much more focus on deconstructing and unpacking the suggestion.
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