In the style of Harold I am used to, first-beat scenes tend to start with a period of discovery, and after something particularly interesting or unusual is recognized, this aberration becomes the focus of further exploration and heightening within the framework of the characters and environment established during the discovery period.
When Will Hines was in town this past weekend, he gave us a glimpse into the UCB style of Harold, in which much of the discovery process is front-loaded into the opening, thereby allowing first-beat scenes to jump immediately into heightening. In this sense, the front-loading effectively allows first-beat scenes to have characteristics of the second beats I am used to, albeit with at least two differences:
- There are no characters or environment from a first beat for one to call back.
- There is no corresponding first beat scene that serves as a common point of reference for heightening.
The first issue might be resolved by making an independent character choice as I typically would in first-beat scenes, but the second appears to be unique to this style of play; it is different because one must pull an idea from an opening that may have been mentioned a couple minutes ago, which is different from pulling an idea from a scene in which the unusual discovery or idea was made merely seconds ago. To address this issue, one needs to isolate the skill of discovering an interesting or unusual idea from the skill of calling it out and clearly communicating what that is to one’s scene partner.
To help us with this, Will Hines had us run through a version of the pattern game, which appears to be an augmented form of the one that Matt Besser referenced when he visited EndGames. In it, there are three groups of people: the first of generates terms, building on the last thing said as in the organic pattern game; the second pitches and clarifies ideas in full sentence form as soon as something inspires them from the terms; and the third comes up with examples and ultimately summarizes the resulting game before returning to the suggestion and cycling back through the process. It might proceed as follows:
– dried fruit
– dried up fruit
– washed up fruit
– what if you have a high school reunion, but instead of people, it’s different types of fruit?
– you mean the fruit are like people seeing each other after years, and they’ve changed?
– yeah, that’s right.
– Apple, life’s made you rotten to the core.
– yeah, I joined the vineyard, and now I’m worth $300 a bottle.
– they had to cryogenically freeze Banana after the spots appeared.
– fruit have their high school reunion
The augmented version provides something of a training-wheels approach to the pattern game, and as a team gets more adept at it, the second group and final summary would be removed so that the idea is pitched via an example that is then heightened by other team members. Likewise, distinct groups are removed and anyone can add either terms or examples. The end result is a route to get to the standard pattern game that UCB uses in its openings.
Given the ability to run through a pattern game or other opening, the remaining skill is to then communicate an idea in a scene. Will had us practice this by transitioning out of the opening into scenes. The challenge for me was that I ended up placing so much emphasis on communicating an idea in the opening line that I often didn’t give myself a character or anything else to fall back on to continue the scene easily. I suppose that just means I would need more practice to hone these skills.