When You Assume You….

iO Summer Intensive

Week 4

Instructor- Rance Rizzutto


This week is Harold Week. This is the week where we learn the form iO is famous for, a form I’ve never done. It’s considered foundational here for other forms but at HUGE I never did one. Which everyone in my class finds very odd. In fact, I think I’d only seen one before this trip and it was long ago when I had no idea what they were doing.

By the end of this week I am supposed to be able to do the Harold in multiple ways and understand the reasons and the different options available. I’m looking forward to this so that I will have a better common basis for discussing improv forms with other people.

Rance started us out with a warm-up that had no name. First he emphasized “safety first” as our number one rule this week, but particularly during this warm-up. Then he had use walk around the stage area and decide on one person who we wanted to make eye contact with, without that person knowing. When he gave the word making eye contact with them became out number one priority. Of course, unless they happened to have picked you as well it was almost impossible. If that did happen, or you made eye contact some other way, then you were just to pick a new person. I managed to get my target to look at me after a minute, but my second one never did.

Then he would call out the name of a person in the group and suddenly we all wanted eye contact with that one person more than anything else in the world. That person picked one of us to give it to and then was not allowed to change to someone else.

This may not sound like an exciting game but it quickly grew into something out of control. We were polite to begin with, just walking around and trying to get in the way of the two people but as Rance encouraged us to take risks (while staying safe) we became more and more motivated and direct in our attempts. By the end we were tickling the “looker” to make them let go (as they were often wrapped around the main person hanging on) and dragging them away, covering their eyes with our hands to make them stop looking, while they took drastic measures to stay together, including laying on each other. And all that pushing/pulling/tickling/wiggling resulted in quite a few people going down in piles, getting picked up and removed, crawling through the group to shove themselves up through the middle, etc.

After it was over we named it Hot/Awesome. Because we were hot and it was awesome. Obviously. Rance used it as an example of several topics for the day. One, to be safe in really physical situations on the stage it is important to move slowly and in smooth motions instead of jerky, fast ones that are unpredictable to people standing over or very close to you. Two, both for safety and for scenes it is vital to keep an awareness of everything going on around the stage no matter how much we are focused on one thing that we want.

We then ran scenes. Just a montage, simple stuff. After a few minutes he stopped us and asked what we were doing. We said, running scenes. And he said something along the lines (I wish I’d written this conversation down) of, why aren’t you tagging out? Or doing other edits? Or having fun? And we said, this is the way all the other teachers have had us do this over the last three weeks. This is the way we’re supposed to do it. And he said, I never told you that.

So we did more. And we did tags and a few things. And then he stopped us and said, Are you having fun? And we weren’t. He said he could tell. And then we explained that it wasn’t that fun because of this thing and that thing we couldn’t do or had to do. Then he said, I never told you that.

And then we got irritated because he wasn’t being reasonable.

Openings came next. Rance said the purpose of an Opening is to find theme, character ideas, generate information, get group mind flowing, and teach the audience the Rule of Three (subconsciously).

Three big things to keep in mind doing Openings

  1. Explore and Exhaust. Don’t jump topics, stay with a thing until it is used up and exhausted. This takes longer than you tend to think.
  2. Energy. Be at the same level during the Opening or else going up. Never go down in energy. This can be in intensity, doesn’t have to be volume- you don’t have to scream. An energy dip in the Opening often means the group is confused/not on the same page.
  3. Be on the same page. Avoid a confrontational tone/being on opposite sides.

We then moved into a training Opening. It was structured as object-object-object. We would describe something in detail, then move to a second thing that somehow connected to the first, then to a third that connected to the second.

For example- “We see a cactus. It is green. It is tall, twice as tall as I am. It has white flowers all over it.” etc. Keep going as a group until everyone had spoken at least once, and the thing is well described. Then, “Over here” (moving to another part of the stage), “We see a horse.” Describe it an equal amount. Then something else, on another part of a stage. A cowboy, or a barn, or an airplane. Whatever. Doesn’t really matter as long as you see the connection. This teaches the audience the Rule of 3, and it give plenty of information to the group.

A theme could be pulled from it. Or specific details, like flowers and saddles. Or you could use each of those three things somehow in the first three beats. Whatever. That’s up to the group. But it’s there and available to be drawn from by everyone.

We spent the rest of the day doing Openings. Rance had us form two groups and we rotated out. However, as each group did one it was off the table and could not be repeated. That was fine until about 6 in, when he made it clear we were going to keep going. That made us panic. We were out of ideas. Each time a group got us we would look at each other with fear and confusion because it felt like there was nothing left. Yet, he only stopped us a couple of times to make us start over. We did-

  • Scenic
  • Scene Painting
  • Invocation
  • Machine
  • Tribal/Interpretive
  • Soundscape
  • Character Monologues
  • Personal Monologues

Then we started getting more creative as we got pushed out of our comfort zone-

  • Silent (we were puppets)
  • “Over Explanation” (heavily interactive with the audience)
  • Narrative, Dr. Suess style
  • Multiple Hybrids that were so far off the charts they were impossible to categorize. My favorite was either “Zip-Zap-Monologues, with Glitter” or “Misunderstanding all the suggestions, followed by jumping on a motorbike and racing until we crashed and flew off”.

The point was, we never ran out of options. And as we were pushed further and further from the standard forms we knew an interesting things developed- fun. We were all having more fun, and coming up with Openings that were more interesting and had more content. Plus, even without meaning to a lot of them had three parts. Interesting.

In all this Rance gave us a piece of advice that he says will take us far-

Make strong, clear moves. And support them. Which will be easy if they are strong and clear. Vague, weak moves are hard to support, help no one, and weaken the entire show.

Snatches from the day–

  • Give your character a want. If they get what they want, good. Celebrate, then chose a new one. If they don’t, live in that suffering reality (which is more fun than succeeding anyway).
  • Clap for each other in class, be eager to jump up, pay attention, look like you’re having fun- these are both supportive to your classmates and also good practice for auditions.
  • There is no right answer. There is one wrong answer- hesitation. Quit hesitating.
  • Everyone should join into the physical. No one should be standing around and watching the rest of the group.
  • If the audience sees or hears something- it’s real. Deal with it. And they see/hear everything.
  • Even if you don’t know what is going on and you’re lost- just say your part. And then make it right.
  • Make clear moves. Don’t hesitate. They are always the right move to make.
  • Not speaking in a group/Opening draws more focus than speaking, the audience begins to watch you and wonder when you are going to say something.
  • The first move can lead anywhere. The second move sets the pattern. The third move cements the pattern.

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