Area residents show off improv talent

Rachel Hettrick, IV Leader Staff

Tuesday, March 13, saw the introduction of a new art form to the Illinois Valley: the “Harold.”
The Harold is a type of long form improvisation that combines scenes, games, monologues and songs to form a piece. It was introduced at an improve comedy showcase at the Hegeler-Carus Mansion in La Salle.
The showcase was at the end of a master class that Howard Johnson had been teaching to a select group of IVCC students since October.
Student David Zallis had worked with Johnson over the summer, and asked if he was interested in teaching improv to students. Johnson approached Theater Professor David Kuester and the idea of the workshop was set up.
The evening began with Johnson giving a brief lecture on the history of improvisation. It started as a theatre game directed towards children, then grew into an art form of his own. The Harold was invented by Del Close and allegedly named by his piano player. When asked what they should call this new art form, the player replied, “Call it Harold.”
The players then went on to present the Harold, going with the audience suggestion of “reunion.”
To start, some of the players presented short monologues about the theme of reunion. Then, they moved on to presenting scenes and constructing a story.
“I was amazed at the depth of the talent pool and the dedication of the students,” Johnson said.
“The ones that stuck with it were really committed to learning an art form that looks much easier than it is, and they came through with flying colors. We’ve come a long way since we started last October, and it was great to watch them progress.”
“Howard really helped us to find the improver in all of us, and every rehearsal was more like a play date than a class,” said Erich Jauch.
Johnson added, “as my old improv teacher, Del Close, once said, everyone can improvise. We go through our lives without a script, making it up as we go along. We just have to follow a prescribed set of rules to make it work on stage in performance.”