Neil Casey Advanced Study Harold Notes Day Three


I killed it in this class.

What a day.

I got up and did improv at 2:30-5:30, learned the opening for the show during that time, had a really fun set of the Bat (a harold done in the dark) and did an Invocation (Neil’s favorite opening and mine) in the dark too and then had a show for that class at 6:30 which, while I always feel like I could be better, felt great about. Then I had rehearsal afterwards. Now, soon, sleep.

Most of the notes from today are about Neil’s take on openings including his version of the invocation as well as some stuff about playing it real and not being “cute” or jokey which those of you who followed my 401 notes will remember as his pet peeves.

Neil had no negative notes for me after the show even called one of my moves “a stroke of brilliance”.

I feel exhausted and like a million fuckin’ bucks.

So here as always are my hastily written, definitely incomplete, probably somewhat inaccurate notes taken from class with Neil Casey.

Enjoy and take his invocation workshop if he ever teaches it again. I’ve learned it four different ways and any way I’ve done it, it’s always been fun.


Any opening has a lot of pros and cons, but if you’re not using it what it’s good for it’s worthless.

I think “the interview” opening has a lot of cons, but it’s the best way to get an audience on board with a long-form.

Will Hines’s Philosophy- In our upper levels when we have so much of a handle with our technique, how do we foster a sense of cooperation without singling people out?

Neil- Im going to make my case that the Invocation is best opening, lots of pros, negligible cons. Shows you how good the show is.

Interview- cons, the person can be a dud, can bullshit, be boring.

Good thing is that it is a good training wheels for an unsophisticated audience. It works as a way to show how you got your info and how were being funny of it.

You heard the story. Now here it is funnier, same as an Armando. Not reenact ing, not noble but not bad.

Pattern Game(three loop)-

Pros- group mind, a million suggestions, shows your work to the audience.

Cons- boring, fails theatrically, trained audiences deal with it


P- perspective, getting into physicality, interesting to watch, getting on the same page as humans

C- no ideas or repetitive ideas, vague or no labels, lot of time not a lot of ideas

Organic opening could be anything

(pattern, movement, could do anything)

Scene Painting

P- gets you ideas, entertaining, not as many ideas

C- people don’t like when we don’t use scenes we’ve created


P- like pattern game but locked in to character

C- slightly more interesting but not constricting


P- entertaining, theatrical, variable rate of return

C- pressure on one person, no group mind

Scene Deconstruction

P- scenic so helpful

C- if the scene is bad its bad

Openings are overrated, people look for perfect ones when they should just do better scenes, gel better as players and you’ll be be better as a team.


Fun to watch, we’re speaking in a weird way, more intense.

Second, commitment. Youve got to be committed, if you’re teamwork is bad or trying to be funny it comes out there

Third, come up with great ideas, not as many as PG, but we’re talking about an object, human reactions, behaviors, when we get up higher we talk about philosophies at its height. Quality ideas, demonstrates your commitment to the show, pure group mind were all getting on the same page AND it’s literal witchcraft.

Here’s my skeleton of invocation-

You are creating object on ground or in air

One specific thing, yes and every choice, building on top of each others ideas. Can’t be purple if its already red. You can dive into details like scene painting. You talk about the history and then we heighten it. One thing right in front of us, right here.

Id rather you heighten someone else’s idea than you’re own, just like a pattern game. Build on other people’s ideas rather than push your own, unless something really resonates with you.

tennis ball to truth warmup- big idea based on true sounding story

When our conclusions come close to self-help maxima, we’re hitting high, but we’re not getting real enough

What is it to be punctual, for instance? The idea that you don’t want to hurt other people? That if people are late then society ends? Not eat right, “why eat right”. To not support agribusiness? What are we really talking about? When you are reducing to a cliche or platitude think about what you are talking about instead of the shorthand

Take something tangible as a suggestion (can’t invoke courage or friendship)

It is- description of particular object, physical object, don’t get carried away with scene paint. Only things immediately touching it. Close shot photo of it as guideline. Make it “the kind of thing”

You are- based on what bike it is, assuming persona of person/character, the relation to you. The more you can make it matter/give a shit, the better. Don’t be someone not intimate to it. Everyone be different characters. Don’t worry about consistently of stories, objects have long lives.

Thou art- summarize those stories, the big ways those things relate to people, a big thing (passion, lost innocence, pure pleasure).

I am- one word, biggest things

You can build the object or not if you want to do something physical

Don’t try to speak above your intelligence, speak naturally. Lose the flowery voice people sometimes do in Thou Art.

Thou-art stage could be seen as titles of scenes.

The same thing as pattern game, it’s not bad to talk about pop culture but it shouldn’t be the whole thing. Pop culture references are not three dimensional

With the It Is stage or at any point, of you stumble on something dark or terrible, explore it. It’s going to be funnier to see you sad later than if you’re not being true. Allow yourself to get in to a funny second beat of it in the actual Harold. It’s not funny unless you have the same emotional commitment as something found that’s dark and awful.

Be careful for being too funny. You can know its funny, but we can’t know it. Try for dark or emotional or what it’s really like.

The invocation gives you an opportunity for heavy commitment at the top of the show that you can maintain throughout the show.

No one wants to watch the people on stage be funny or think they are funny.

Don’t make the invocation be jokes, make things that actually matter.

The worst thing that has infected our scene here are people who think that they are funny taking this stage.

Let’s get laughs from being truthful as opposed to mastering the sitcom cadence of when to laugh, a silly voice or demeanor. You coming in as officer shit pants isn’t going to be why you devoted your life to this. You can get so far being funny, but you can’t do the stuff that makes your jaw drop if you’re not playing the characters and just puppeteering thing.

Nobody thinks you’re cute on stage. College improv yes. But you’re not cute and funny because you’re grown ups on stage. You can get laughs by being silly, but let it not be the trend.

I don’t think any audience wants to see you be cute or precious but they want to see you be good

The sad thing is it does fly, because people get laughs get on teams but then that becomes the paradigm. Meaning someone gets on a team who is “funny” and then we laugh at them because they are on a team and then they are considered funny and then they are. Which’ll kill us.

I’d rather you err on the side of melodrama, playing the characters who care too much about scenes, rather than characters who are aware of how funny they are.

This is everybody right now, the whole scene, you’re all funny enough that you could get on a team right now and students would laugh but that doesn’t matter because you saw something great which is why you got into improv but you will not create something great if you can’t play truthfully.

Commit and be more vulnerable or be such a great puppet master that you can’t see the strings, which may end up being the same thing.

The point of the invocation is not necessarily to grab game but also tone, people want to see things that hit from the opening hit in the piece.

Walk-ons are great when helping a game but not as a left turn.

You can get away with a goofball group game if you’re doing good grounded scenes, in fact it can be a nice break.

e.g.: You can have the coke if you ran a mile today.

What we hear in our openings should resonate into our shows.

You can take from “it is” as well. You can do a shitty invocation and have a fine pattern game out of it.

The point of the invocation is to find strong character choices, play the sort of person who believes the things they say about that object.

Pre-packaged justifications based on strong things we’ve built off the opening.

Me doing something weird is ok but only becomes funny once we justify.

When you say “I’m not letting go” be the person who is not letting go. Infuse as much emotion as you can.

Initiate what was fun in the second beat at the expense of every thing else. Some parts of a scene will be better than others, initiate what was fun, what people laughed at, what you enjoyed.

The whole trick is playing grounded while an exemplifying a crazy characteristic, without us all seeing its really funny, betraying that you know what you are doing.

I know that you’re funny enough to make these moves but don’t make them do broadly that I see the man behind the curtain and I see him congratulate himself.

Compliment yourself and others offstage.

My overall note, play good games, get there faster. But you did find funny things organically so that’s great.

Find commitment in the invocation, bring emotional commitment to your scenes from that and find games quickly and you’ll be doing the best improv out there, guys.

One Response to Neil Casey Advanced Study Harold Notes Day Three

  1. Harris says:

    Great as always

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