Bookmark Monday: A Harold

There is a branch of comedy theatre called improvisation comedy, improv for short. And in the improv world, there is a category called a Harold.

Actors get up onstage, without any idea whatsoever of what character they will play or what plot they will act out. They take a few random suggestions from the audience, and then without consultation with each other, put together a play from scratch.

Amazing? Yes.

Entirely random?  Not quite.

What may appear random and spontaneous is actually an art form governed by a series of rules, and all the actors must abide by those rules. One of the key rules that makes a successful improv play is agreement – characters must accept everything that happens to them, and responses must always be in the positive.

And so we find similar elements too, in Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon.

I’m not sure if the two are related, or one was an inspiration for the other.

Johnson’s Harold is delightfully imaginative and always positive.

Armed with just his trusty purple crayon, Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight, so he draws a crescent moon. He draws a path to walk on…but after a while, the path seems to lead nowhere, so he draws a shortcut.

Through a forest…but he doesn’t want it to be a big forest, so he draws just a single tree. An apple tree. That will produce red juicy apples in season. These apples should be guarded, so he draws a dragon. It’s a fierce one, so fierce it frightens even Harold himself!

Stepping back and unaware that his trembling hands are drawing an ocean behind him, Harold suddenly finds himself way into the deep. But some quick thinking saves the day (the night?) as Harold draws himself a boat. With a sail.

Saved…by quick thinking. And the moon follows along. After a while, Harold grows tired of sailing and anchors the boat to look for land.  The beach makes him think of a picnic.  So he draws a picnic, with all his favourite flavours of pie. There’s more…get yourself a copy and read on to find out the adventures of Harold.

First published in 1955, this timeless classic is simple yet exciting without being boisterous. In his own quiet manner, Harold shows adults and children alike, the marvelous stories and experiences one can create with a little imagination and a lot of clever creative thinking.

Have a couple of purple crayons handy – after reading, you might well be inspired to take off on a little walk by moonlight of your own with your child(ren). 🙂

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