Effective Harold Work: Catching Our Stride

Sticks Author: Steve

Has there been floundering? Maybe. Has Steve been a little harsh and overanalytical? Perhaps. Why am I using the annoying rhetorical question thing? Because I am not a good writer.

The truth. That’s right! Now comes the truth. Everything that I have written or said before was a lie. Or was it?

The truth is that we’ve done incredibly well learning the Harold. To go from a basic understanding of the structure to where we are now is pretty nutso. Chris M and I started talking about trying this in August. He made it happen by September. Since then, we’ve done hundreds of scenes together and reviewed, rewound and rebuked ourselves. We’ve laughed, chortled and snickered. We’ve eaten. We’ve drinkened.

And dang! We’ve gotten better. Structural issues are rare. Scenes are stronger. Flow is better.

This Sunday we had a breakthrough. A really-seriously-yowza-we’ve-done-it 3 hours. There are a few reasons why:

  1. Speed. We aimed for roughly a 25 to 30 minute performance. This meant that each scene had to happen much faster as we’d been averaging 45 to 50 minutes per Harold before.
  2. Focus. We love to time dash, but because of the speed, we could not afford to dash too far away from the first grounding initiation. This meant that characters and relationships had to be established faster and held. We believe that this will limit audience confusion.
  3. Jokes. Instead of time dashing into completely new scenes with new central characters, we opted to do quick tag edits that drew attention and the funny from the main scene. A quick edit to take the audience to the point in time that the main character just referenced. A joke. And then right back out and into the main scene again.
  4. Group games that are scenes. We’ve struggled here for a while, but something about the speed of everything brought success. Instead of trying to have everyone on stage right at the start of the group game, we let a scene happen and the players filled in.

We also had an audience member! My wife. And she thought we were funny and that most things made sense. This is very important for us as we anticipate performing in front of people who are not familiar with the structure of a Harold.

There is still concern in the group (Allison is right!) about abandoning what we’ve worked hard on so far. We do not want to move so quickly that there are no characters built, that there isn’t a sense of the relationship and that things don’t breathe a bit. Since we were moving quickly, we actually got through two full Harolds and the second was far stronger than the first. We believe that by continuing to focus on strong (but fast) scenes, we will truly find the formula.

We are almost ready.

Leave a comment


  1. Jesse

     /  April 12, 2011

    It also helped a lot to have an audience member. While she’s totally biased, hearing her feedback and knowing she’s not in the midst of the actual stuggle makes her comments so very valuable.

  2. Chris

     /  April 12, 2011

    Ummm no mention of my “Portman-esce” physical transformation in a f*&^ing cobra!!!Really!

  3. Kevin P

     /  April 12, 2011

    Wow, makes me want to meet you. Do you come to Hartford for the improv mixer nights?


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