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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

The Stage

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

Important things:

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

Anchor scenes

Find love

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?

Third Beat

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

Group Game

Avoid arguments

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.