Hangin' with Harold Workshop Notes
For those of you who missed it, we recently had an awesome “Hangin’ with Harold” intensive workshop with Kristin Hensley (UCB, i.O., Second City, WestSide Comedy Theater). Below are our notes from the class which will be of value to anyone currently performing – or learning to perform – Harolds at LMA or elsewhere.
Basic Harold Structure:
3 Scenes with 3 Beats plus 3 Group Games
Stay in the “Parabola of Power” (front and centre stage)
Put your chairs up front and close to the audience
Don’t hang back against the wall
Play down and out… avoid profile and never have your back to stage
Are for finding ideas, energy and inspiration
What can you latch on to?
Physicalise the opening – commit with your body
Follow the follower
Find a theme and follow it thematically for your game
Keep theme simple and clear – and specific
Take the suggestions that get you excited
Make them about relationship
First Beats – Longest Beat of the Harold
Relationships – the nuggets of your scene are how you feel about a person. The rest will take care of itself
Character POV – come in with someone you know for now
Define: Who / What / Where
Don’t play drunk or stoned
Let the first best breathe and help define the scene – take your time
Don’t say it, play it
Play hurt more than angry – conflict will reveal itself
Give yourself time to discover things. Breathe
Always play opposition (Betty Crocker = evil gang of grandmas)
Play what’s right for you
Be on the lookout for the second beat
Don’t ask questions. Make statements – if you ask one, rephrase it immediately after
Make bold, strong choices to make your parter feel secure and look good
Always play to make your partner look good / validate them
Specificity add details get laughs and give your partner things to run with
Call backs are great
Groundlings teach that good, strong characters will drive your scenes forward
If you play at level 10 you will no longer have the capacity to listen. Play a character but keep it grounded and not wacky.
Its not always necessary to make an emotional choice immediately – but it can help
Don’t cross gender – You should be able to play masculine as a female or feminine as a man and you will get more laughs. Besides visually everyone can see your gender, so don’t make the audience work so hard.
Don’t cross gender Pt. 2 – You play for the audience and your team. The team is with you, but the audience needs to be buy in so make it easy for them
Give each other everything they need – gifts galore
Know when to lead and know when you follow. Let go and push forward.
There’s 2 languages on stage: Actor to Actor and Character to Character
Always be looking for things to initiate a second beat
Once the shiny object reveals itself – chase it
Edit. Edit. Edit. Whenever the crowd is laughing or your teammate is dying
Play in broad strokes. You get more character choices that way. Playing yourself is too complex. So keep it simple.
Tone and emotion of the scene need to be clear
Play the easy game. It has the highest probability of success. Keep it simple – one word.
You always have everything you need to contribute and always will – especially if you stay observant
You have an obligation to look after your team. If need be, take a bullet. Ask – what does this scene need? Be actively, physically listening
Ask yourself, if this is true, what else is true
When you see a good scene happening – ask how you can see more of it
Learn to let go of your ideas if they’re not getting a response or the response you want
Once the shiny object reveals itself – chase it
Always be asking yourself how you can help
This is where you build the platform for the rest of the show – so be detailed and specific
Use metaphor, parallels, for openings and games so you can pull an emotional choice instead of a random object that caries no value.
Invocation is a good opening
Trust your impulses
Stay close together – physically – keep the space intimate
If you are thinking about plot you are no longer thinking in the moment. Stop thinking and engage back into listening and wait for an impulse.
Second Beat (not group game / not opening)
Time dash – go back/forward in time to explore relationships/characters
Use agreement scenes
Build on the world you see your partners performing
Its a more colourful representation of the first beat
Build on the best thing from the first beat and run with it (Most likely following a strong character)
Keep it fun and playful
Find the shiny objects and build/chase the funny (could be characters or world)
If you’re playing the same character again, you have to maintain the previous thematic line
If we are seeing a “world” from the first beat, everyone should help support that world. (Build the scene, with specifics) For example: If first beat was a young man, Andrew, and his elderly boss Lee, and Andrew asks for a promotion and expects rejection but is met with earnest love instead. Take us to that world in another beat. Maybe follow the old boss Lee and see what his world looks like at home. Or see what it looks like when he was a child? Or what his world looks like when he is no longer the boss?
Worlds collide here
Make decisions about who you are and stick with them
These can/should be short – can even be a short form game – often they only need to be 1 minute long
Never invent new characters, instead, bring back the characters we’ve already seen
This is the time to wrap up what’s been seen thematically and scenically
You don’t have to “Yes” everything, but you do have to build and build and build
It’s a palate cleanser
Build a world or sing / do a musical
Group games are just that. A game. Keep it simple. There are so many you can look them up on line. Easy, fun, palette cleansers that should have a trace of the theme or suggestion if possible but mostly it should help us to shake the dust off and get us ready for the third beat.