This story might be apocryphal, but I stumbled upon the origin of the word “beats” in regards to dramatic writing.
When I first took sketch classes at UCB, and the term “beat” was used to explain hitting the game of the scene, I assumed that the etymology of the word was music-based. Comedy sketches are like songs after all. The good ones are 2 to 5 minutes long. A beat, I thought, resembles the hook.
But today I was Googling “Unit of Action,” and I found several accounts claiming that the word “beat” comes from a misunderstanding. Stanislavski was giving a presentation on his acting method to a group of U.S. theatre students. To describe a unit of action in dramatic writing, he used the word “bits.” But due to his thick Russian accent, it sounded like beats.
So the “bits” that you do at McManus are closely related to the “beats” you write in your scenes.