Hello, my name is Gypsy, and I'd like to ask a question.

Gypsy

Queen of Questions
#1
I've thought about it, and maybe the best way for me to accomplish what I want (learn by asking questions) is to have my own thread here. That way, I can read the other threads, and if I have a question, I can find *this* thread, and ask it here. The thread will get bumped to the top, someone will see it, and if they're willing to answer questions, they can. Those of you who have no desire to deal with such basic questions never need click the link. My questions won't be cluttering up the discussions in the other threads, or accidentally throwing them off topic.

Make sense?

Any question I pose will be sincere. I do not want to taint the atomosphere here, that's why this is my first post in this forum, seven months after discovering this site - and I'm nervous about the reaction to it. Please, if my presence here bothers you, don't yell at me in this particular forum. PM me, email me, post it in the off topic - but don't let my presence here ruin the vibe of this forum.

If you don't want to answer my questions, I'll understand. I know they'll all be quite beneath every single one of you. You're all seniors in high school (or above) and I'm in kindergarten. I'm aware of that. I still want to learn.

To any and all who choose to answer the various questions I will ask (and I AM a question asker), I thank you. Your time honestly is appreciated, whether the answer be five paragraphs or two sentences.

If anyone has a better suggestion than my having my own thread for asking questions, please let me know. I want to ask, understand, and learn - but I also want to make it as simple and pain free for those who would teach me as humanly possible.

Thanks,
Gypsy
 

MarkOn10th

What do I do?
#4
The Harold is an improvised "form" developed by the late Del Close in Chicago. The from uses a suggestion from the audience to inspire the actors to perform three scenes of two/three improvisors that can develop in many ways along with two "group games" interspersed through out the 25-40 minute performance. Group games can take on many forms and generally speaking no two games are ever alike. They differ from the scenework in that all players normally contribute to the group game, whereas the scenes may sometimes only include two actors (though not necesarily).

It is called a Harold for precisely the same reason George Harrison called the Beatle's mop top hair cuts "Arthur". Seriously.

I think it is a popular format for improv students to learn due to it's emphasis on scenework and group mind.

If at all possible you should get yourself to Chicago, New York, LA or an improv festival to catch a Harold or ten for yourself.
 

Gypsy

Queen of Questions
#5
How would what happens on "Whose line is it, anyway" be defined? I see many different things happen on that show, but I have no idea what definition to give any particular thing they do.

Does this question have people rolling their eyes?
 

mullaney

IRC Administrator
Staff member
#6
The hardest question of all. :)

Harold is a loose structure developed primarily by Del Close with the help of Charna Halpern (and many others). I will try to describe how one looks on stage.

Suggestion
First a team of players, usually 7-10 people, go on stage and get a single suggestion from the audience. It can be anything, a word, a phrase, an idea, a song lyric, a line of poetry, a question to explore, anything.

Opening
Before the players start improvising scenes, typically they do an opening. The simplest opening is a "pattern game" where players use word associations to develop a web of ideas from the first suggestion. For instance, if the suggestion is "dog", the pattern game might be something like: cat, bird, feather, quill, constitution, strength, muscle, bully, weakling, nerd, geek, computer, animation, cartoon, Snoopy, dog.

Each word is said by a different person in response to the last word said. An informal goal is to circle back around to the original word, although that is not necessary.

At the end of the opening, you have a whole set of words and/or ideas which can then inspire scenes.

First Beats
Now the first beats begins. The players create a few improvised scenes inspired by the opening. For instance, perhaps the first scene would be at the signing of the constitution. The second scene be about a bully and a weakling. And the third about a computer geek and his animated dog.

At the beginning the scenes should be completely unrelated, except that they are all inspired by something in the opening. Typically each scene involved only 2-3 people in the first beats.

Group Game
The group game is something that involves everyone in the team. It could be a group scene, a song, or any number of other things. Perhaps most of the players play different dogs at the pet store behind cages, and one player plays a little kid trying to decide which pet they want. (This is probably a separate question.)

Second Beats
The players revisit each of the scenes again, usually in the same order. They change things about the situation to heighten some aspect of it that they find interesting (this is usually referred to as the "game of the scene", again another question).

Another Group Game
A totally unrelated group game also inspired by the opening. Maybe this one is a reenactment of a scene from a Peanuts television special, but this time Charlie Brown stands up for himself.

Third Beats
Again we revisit all three scenes again, further heightened, but the difference this time is that we hope to find connections between the scenes. For instance, perhaps the animated dog befriends the bully and helps him pick on the weakling. Or the founding fathers add an amendment which protects the rights of animated dogs.

Hopefully the connections are more profound then this.

This is kind of a nuts and bolts type of answer to the question. Others might want to provide you with some of the philosophy behind how you perform a Harold, but I thought this kind of description might help you visualize it.

Please ask more questions about what I didn't make clear in this description.
 

MarkOn10th

What do I do?
#7
Not at all. I enjoy watching that TV show. Did you ever see the BBC version of it?

The improv amazingly displayed for all on ABC's Whose Line is labelled "Short Form" improv. We call it short form because the improvisors get a suggestion from the audience and then play a short game. Game ends. Then they get another suggestion from the audience and play a short game. then that game ends and then they go again to the audience and get another suggestion for another game.

The "Long Form" improv practiced and taught by people who hang out here (although some short formers hang here too) is less reliant on structured games and "honors" a single suggestion for the duration of the performance.

I recommend you check out Billy Merritt's Improv Party to learn more about one guys feelings about his passion for long form and its guiding priciples. Billy teaches long form and performs on the Swarm.

http://www.improvisation.ws/mb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=7576

tv tome entry on whose line. . .
 
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Gypsy

Queen of Questions
#8
Thank you both, these are very well explained answers, although I confess I'm still struggling on certain points. I'm in no rush, though.

BBC version? Do you mean the version where Drew Carey is in absence?


I understand what you said about Second Beats - and yet I'm not getting a clear visual. Specifically, the word heighten is bugging me. I understand the word, but...let me see if I'm grasping this the way I should be.

I like to ask questions.
i LIKE to ask questions.
i like to ASK questions.
i like to ask QUESTIONS.

I don't know if you'll follow what I'm meaning by that, but if my train of thought is traceable...is that what you meant by heightening different aspects of a scene? Act the same scene 'exactly' but with more emphasis on aspect A the first time, aspect B the second? Or is the same basic scenario visited, with a brand new scene coming out of it?

Gah! I'm not even making sense. I need a good mental picture, dangit.

Oh, and I CAN'T visit any of those places you mentioned. Believe me, I would if I could. Perhaps someday in the far-flung future, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. I've already decided that the next time The One and I are financially able to schedule some kind of visit, I want to plan it somewhere that we can see a show. When and if the time comes, I will be checking plugs and begging for suggestions - and possibly driving directions. *smile* That's a long way off, though.

Is there anything you know of that I could rent in a video store? Another show I could watch on TV? SOMETHING that might give me a visual answer?
 
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#9
You might enjoy the book "Truth in Comedy" for a beginning definition of Harold and some examples and definitions of heightening. It's available at many libraries and bookstores, and of course from this very website. (Click IRC store up top)
________
Nice2Naughty
 
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#10
http://www.thirteen.org/nyvoices/ check out Just for Laughs at the bottom right.

Also check out the Book
Truth In Comedy by Charna Halpern
you can buy it at the IRC store at the top right hand corner it explains the Harold it's like a manual.

Hey and, Gypsy, thanks. You made me bust out my copy of Truth in comedy which I haven't looked at in a while but should have.

I wanted to try to explain heigtening but I found my self syaing in my head "You know heightening" I hate when you can't define something so you just say the word over and over. I don't want to f*ck it up and get you more confused so I leave it to someone who is better at these things.
 
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dkois

"El Destructo"
#11
Others will have more to say about this question, but I often find the easiest way to explain heightening is to give the most cliched, over-simplified example -- the one we all try once in Level II.

Beat one: a wife leaves a husband at a critical moment in their marriage.
Beat two: the President leaves the Vice-President on the eve of war.
Beat three: an astronaut leaves another astronaut on the face of the moon.

Which is an oversimplified way of saying, heightening is the act of taking whatever was most interesting about the first beat and, yes, heightening it to a new level of interest/danger/stakes/ridiculousness.

Sometimes the interesting thing in the first beat is a relationship between two people; heightening that might mean playing out that same relationship between two different people, but in a more absurd or dangerous or interesting setting.

Sometimes the interesting thing in the first beat is the "world" the beat suggests, i.e. a world in which no one wears pants, or a world in which it is perfectly normal to stub your cigarette in people's eyes. In later beats, you might heighten that by exploring what it means to live in that world. Are eye patch salesman rich? Are people's senses of hearing extraordinarily acute? Do restaurants have "blinding" and "non-blinding" sections?

Sometimes the interesting thing in the first beat is the "game" that is being played between the two characters -- meaning (in shorthand) the interesting pattern of interaction the two improvisers developed over the course of the scene. (In a recent show I saw, the "game" of one scene was that the husband in a family confused the baby with a football, and had to rescue the baby from a couple of local football-playin' kids who were about to throw the baby on a deep post pattern.) In heightening the game, you're finding interesting new ways to play it over and over -- by changing the stakes of the scene, or the setting, or the absurdity of the situation. ("This isn't grandma! It's a ficus tree!" "Hey, you kids, stop planting that tree!")

Does this make sense?

xoxo
Dan
 

goldfish boy

Otium cum dignitate
#12
Some examples of heightening (and perhaps I'll explain them after my nap) are:

- raising the stakes (making a situation more dire or more wonderful or more risky)

- increasing specificity (you're my mom. Now we find out you're my mom and my lover. Later it turns out you're my mom, my lover and the mother of my child/brother. Oops...this is probably as much an example of "raising the stakes" as one of "increasing specificity")

- emoting more intensely

An alternative to heightening in a second beat is exploring additional aspects of the characters

(...which is increasing specificity, which is heightening. Now, whether or not I've helped you understand heightening, at least you understand why I need to take a nap. But I hope I've been somewhat helpful.)

PS. Harold: "Scenes, games and monologues in some kind of interesting pattern." - Del Close, 1993
 
#13
Originally posted by goldfish boy

PS. Harold: "Scenes, games and monologues in some kind of interesting pattern." - Del Close, 1993
oh that is sweet!
That is it.
although I think even the monologues have been kind of de-emphasized in the New York variety. . .although they still pop up.
 
#14
Whose Line originated on BBC radio, then transferred to Channel 4 television in the UK. Several years later, Hat Trick sold the format to the US. There was never a BBC TV version.
 

Gypsy

Queen of Questions
#15
Goldfish Boy: Thank you, and please go to sleep. ;)

Maddy: Thank you! I'm downloading RealPlayer so I can actually see it.

I will visit the library to find the book suggested (I'm poor, must try free before spending cash), but alas the building is closed for the day. I won't be able to even attempt the library until after my daughter's surgery and week of recuperation. But, soon. And thank you.

Dan: Your explanation went a long way to helping me understand, thank you. I'm still not as clear as I want to be though, and I fear that will remain the case until I can actually see with mine own eyes. *sigh* Hardly anyone's fault, but there you have it. This doesn't mean I won't keep looking for ways to see it without traveling, or reading what I can find. It'll eventually click, somehow.

I MUST buy a copy of TV Guide, because I have no idea when the show airs, and I want to see it again now, and not just for laughs. I used to watch it all the time, but I think watching it with a new perspective is going to be more useful than using my memory of what I've seen. (I lose track of things on TV, I really just don't watch it that much.)

I've bookmarked the journal, and I will read it from beginning to end...just not right this minute. I'd tried to read it before, but so much didn't make sense, I thought it best to try to figure out what the hell he was talking about (and this is true for a lot of other Improv journals, too) before trying again.

God, I have so many questions...I have to be careful, or I'll have everyone bouncing all over the place, trying to answer them.

Actually, this could be kind of fun. :)
 

goldfish boy

Otium cum dignitate
#16
One way in which Harold differs from "Whose Line"-style game improv is that the scenes/games on "Whose Line" are ended by someone either turning out the lights or declaring an end to the scene (I don't remember which), whereas scenes and games in Harold are ended either by transforming the scene into a different scene, or (less elegantly) by one improviser "sweeping" across the stage to start a new scene ("edit").
 

Gypsy

Queen of Questions
#17
Originally posted by goldfish boy
One way in which Harold differs from "Whose Line"-style game improv is that the scenes/games on "Whose Line" are ended by someone either turning out the lights or declaring an end to the scene (I don't remember which), whereas scenes and games in Harold are ended either by transforming the scene into a different scene, or (less elegantly) by one improviser "sweeping" across the stage to start a new scene ("edit").
I believe it's a timer/buzzer - not sure if I remember right, either.

That reminds me: I understand what you said about 'how' the scene is ended - but what determines when that is? Is there basically a time for the whole show, and it's anyone's guess how long each part lasts? Are the separate parts timed, and ended when that time is up? If you transform one scene into another to end a scene...how does ANY of it ever end? How do you know when it's time to go home? *smile*

Mullaney:
Your description of Harold…does it always follow this pattern? Are there always 7 parts? Do they always follow this order? Or is this a loose variance, subject to mix-up at will? (Never mind, I just re-read what goldfish boy said, and paid more attention to that quote at the end I *think* that may have answered my question. Sorry for the waste of space.)

Can the word ‘heighten’ be analogous with writing a new chapter in a book, or another book in a trilogy/series?

Dan:
Others will have more to say about this question, but I often find the easiest way to explain heightening is to give the most cliched, over-simplified example -- the one we all try once in Level II.

Beat one: a wife leaves a husband at a critical moment in their marriage.
Beat two: the President leaves the Vice-President on the eve of war.
Beat three: an astronaut leaves another astronaut on the face of the moon.


Ahhh… The heightening doesn’t just mean more closely scrutinizing a particular act or physical appearance in a scene, or even just the scene itself, but maybe just the concept of it – for your example is of analogies themselves.

Do I have that right?
 

jezebell

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
#18
Neutrino is a wonderful longform team who has videos of their shows for sale. Can anyone hook up a link? Sorry I am ignorant.
 

dkois

"El Destructo"
#19
Originally posted by Gypsy
I understand what you said about 'how' the scene is ended - but what determines when that is?
The traditional edit point is on a line that gets a big laugh. (Similar to the way that on "Whose Line," time always happens to run out right on a moment that gets a big audience reaction.) Folks on the back line do have a sense of how long the piece as a whole should be, and edit with an eye towards that as well.

I would say that quite often -- at least when I'm editing -- the edit happens about three seconds later than it should have.

How do you know when it's time to go home?
There is usually a person in the light booth watching the show who is in charge of blacking out at a good moment -- a big laugh line, a moment that brings together the piece in an interesting way, whatever.

Can the word ‘heighten’ be analogous with writing a new chapter in a book, or another book in a trilogy/series?
Sure it can, if in the new chapter whatever is unique or interesting or funny about the first chapter is exacerbated in some way.

The new chapter won't always feature the same characters as the original chapter -- i.e. it won't always be a plot-oriented continuation of Chapter One -- but it will in some way enrich the characters, situation, and/or world of Chapter One.

Ahhh… The heightening doesn’t just mean more closely scrutinizing a particular act or physical appearance in a scene, or even just the scene itself, but maybe just the concept of it – for your example is of analogies themselves.
Sure. The "concept" of the scene is basically another way of saying "What was the game of the scene? What was really going on? What was the most interesting thing?"

Originally posted by jezebell:
Neutrino is a wonderful longform team who has videos of their shows for sale.
Yeah! Someone from Neutrino, send Gypsy a tape gratis!

xoxo
Dan
 

Gypsy

Queen of Questions
#20
Please define "long form"

Is that what Harold is? Are they two words for the same thing?


Oh, and thank you for all the examples of heightening. I believe I understand it, now. Well, understand it well enough to follow what's being said about it, anyway. Well enough that, if I saw it now, I'd be able to say "Ahh, that's heightening, I know what that is."

You have no idea how much these definitions help. You also have no idea how much this all fascinates me, or how bad I want to see it in person. The more I learn, the more I understand...the more respect I come to have for it. I'd give my eyeteeth if it were possible for me to learn this stuff by taking classes.

Oh, and Maddy...that video clip you gave the link for helped. Thank you so much.
 
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