We are about to perform a series of scenes loosely associated to one theme. May I get a general theme please.
The Harold is a series of scenes that are connected by a common general theme. The audience does not participate further with suggestions, and all 11 to 12 scenes are based on the chosen theme. The format was created by Del Close in the last millennium. The Harold is best described in Mr. Close’s book Truth In Comedy.
Setting Up a Harold
The theme must be acquired very carefully, and should be as broad as possible. Nouns are generally discouraged. For instance, the suggestion ‘toothbrush’ could be wrangled to the theme of ‘cleaning’. This would allow for all kinds of cleaning to take place: cleansing of souls, janitorial jobs, erasing disks, etc.
The Most Common Format
The Harold is laid out as 3 sets of 3 scenes. Any number of improvisers will start riffing off of the theme as a group. This initial handle could be free associations, a group song, or any other rapid exploration of ideas around the theme. 3 scenes follow. These scenes are not related to each other, but they are informed by the theme. Once these three scenes are completed another predetermined handle is played. This cycle is repeated 3 times in total so that 9 open scenes are completed. By the last round of scenes one hopes that the stories are starting to weave. The scenes do not have to culminate in a climactic ending.
Besides the set up of a Harold, the next most important technical item are the transitions. In a Harold the open scenes are not called by a technical booth or a logical ending as provided by a handle. The open scenes that take place in the Harold do not follow the standard arc of an open scene (using neither STEPS nor 1-2-3-4). The transitions in the Harold are typically called wipes.
The wipe, or termination of the open scene, is determined by the offstage members of the ensemble. When a wipe occurs the next open scene seamlessly starts. No dead stage please.
- clap – offstage clap terminates the scene
- front wipe – offstage players walk between the improvisers and the audience.
- tap out – offstage improvisers shoulder tap on stage players, replacing them
- ass wipe – loud obnoxious solitary player interrupts a perfectly good scene.
- technical – lights dim, or chime sounds from tech booth
- director cut – ensemble coach calls a new scene
- Monoscene – A Harold that takes place in one environment.
- French Harold – A Harold that takes place in one environment.
- Blind Harold – Participants are seated and blindfolded in the dark.
- The Bat – Unblindfolded Harold in the dark.
- Armando – Scenes are interceded by true story monologues from a designated monologist.
- Sybil – A Harold performed by a single performer.
- The Narce – A Harold performed by a single performer.
- Triple Play – 3 by 3 scenes with no interceding handles.