How To Own Your Own Harold – Group Mind

Sticks Author: Steve

When I was a small child, my Nana would tell me stories.  These were mostly stories she had heard during her days as a gypsy – haunting, vaguely European tales with harsh lessons involving witches, children, Baba Yaga and other wise crones with swollen, arthritic joints and plastic rain hats.  She would sit in a shadowy corner, knit with needles made from the bones of large birds of prey, and I would settle deeply into my Super Friends wolf skin duvet while servants tended the embers of a smoky fire.  She would start.

“This one,” she would always cackle.  “This one is for you and for all the scamps like you.  For all you pilferers of window sill pies, you stealers of paw paws, you trespassers of corn fields…”

My wizened, whiskered Nana, like most gypsies, liked copper pots, wooden beads, Woodstock and allegory.  Her tales always had a lesson and it was usually this one:

You think you know what you are talking about, but you don’t know what you are talking about and we’re all getting really sick of you and your know-it-all bullshit and we want to challenge you, you dicky little bastard and aren’t there like a million ways to do The Harold anyway and let’s do that now.  God!

Admittedly, I don’t actually have a gypsy Nana.  And admittedlier, nobody thinks I’m dicky.  Right?


This is the normal way groups learn to do stuff together – with different approaches and opinions.

Have I mentioned that we’re trying to teach ourselves this thing called The Harold?  Yes?  Well, it’s true.  We are all friends and have grown up together, married one another, and performed with each other for years, years, years.  We spend time together.  We vacation together.  We drink together.  We share clothes.  We love each other.  Learning to do this improv thing was a choice we all made together after Chris M suggested it.  He’s our leader, has the most experience and I’m the guy who thinks he knows the rules to put in place because I read Truth In Comedy.  Twice!

We are doing really well.  Really well.  Our first rehearsal for The Harold was in September 2010.  We can do Harolds now.  Real Harolds.  And now it’s time to push on some of the rules that have been put in place to try and get better.  The whole group is feeling it and driving it now.

Our first change?  Group games.  We can do them, but it’s just one of those things that I think seasoned improv people understand when they are watching it.  But I’ve been to a few Harolds now with noobies and they don’t understand what the hell is going on with that.  So… we’re pulling an idea from Truth In Comedy and going with mini monologues instead.  We prefer opening with a monologist and it’s a group strength.  Last week we went with an opening monologist and then 2 or 3 mini monologues in place of the group game.

Worked great.  We’ll stick with it for now.

So what next?  This group now knows what they’re doing and they want to try and do things now in different ways.  Do we need so many rules around who the main characters are and how many times that actor can be a main character across the beats?  Do we need to stick draconianly to “he/she who initiates becomes a main character”?  Should we always try and move blazingly fast?  All rules I introduced to (theoretically) ensure clarity, but do we need them any longer?

“Perhaps.  Perhaps not,” my Nana would say.  “But let the group decide Mr. Smartypants or Baba Yaga will eat you.”

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