This is one of those games that is a monster to explain but once you do it on stage once it’s fine. I think it’s called Henry because it’s a bit like a short-form version of a Harold.

5 actors sat on stage across the back of the stage, they stand up in pairs to play each scene on the stage. Let’s call the actors A, B, C, D, E.

They are given the made up name of a small town by the audience, and the population of that town. All the scenes then take place in different locations in that same made up small town.

The first scene is actors A and B, in a location within the small town given by the audience, for instance “bakers”.
The second scene is actors B and C, also with location given by audience, for instance “museum”.
3rd scene is actors C and D, for instance “dragon’s cave”.
4th scene is actors D and E, for instance “corner shop”.
5th scene is actors E and A, for instance “local football club”.

Once each location has been visited once we then start again and revisit each location, but it’s moved on in time.

Then we go back around for one last round.

Each actor plays one character, but in two different locations. So the baker from scene 1 is still a baker at the museum, they might be having a day off with their family.

1st round of scenes is about defining character and relationship in the scenes.
2nd round we escalate whatever happened in the 1st round of scenes.
3rd round we end each scene, either by making connections across scenes or resolving.

Teaching Purpose

It’s a fun way to end a workshop as it uses lots of different improv skills in one game. It’s also good for teaching character, relationship, escalating, reincorporation, listening and making connections.

Additional Tips for Playing

On the first round of scenes focus on building character and relationship and who/what/where, don’t worry about connecting scenes at the start.

Listen to all the scenes, not just your own.

Escalate something from the first scene in your second scene.

Let connections appear naturally.

The Origin Story!

This is super exciting because we only just found out! Many thanks to Michael Gellman!

Henry was invented 30 plus years ago in a Workshop in Chicago by Michael Gellman of Second City and Process Theatre in Canada:

“The first time we tried it the suggestion for an actual small town (population under 1,000) was Henry, Illinois.  After it was over we needed a name for our new performance structure.  One of the students suggested we call it Henry then another person said “Yeah, Henry son of Harold.  The name stuck.”

You can also read about it in a book about Improvised One Act Plays: Process An Improviser’s Journey – Scruggs / Gellman Northwestern University Press – 2008.

Michael later came over to the UK to teach with The Maydays and The Nursery and The Henry has now spread into the wider UK improv scene!

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