Inspire Your Partner is a very important phrase. It goes hand in hand with Make Your Partner Look Good. Both of these are my impro mantras and what I aim towards each time I teach, perform or direct.
Time and time again I see a huge difference in the style of play between a player who is there playing to inspire their partner and a player who is not.
When someone aims to Inspire Their Partner it shifts their focus outwards instead of inwards. It connects them in a deeper way. They are really watching, listening and observing actively not passively. They don’t look at the scene as ‘what can I do or what can I use’. Instead they look at the scene as ‘what is happening now or what is needed now’. Can you hear the difference? One mindset puts people slightly in the future the other connects people more to the present?
I believe actively playing to inspire your partner trains you in many positive ways. It trains you to be more relaxed and therefore more available to the offers being made moment-to-moment. In being open in the moment you pick up on more creative stimulus. It shifts you from an intellectual thinking style into a more impulsive and intuitive style of play. It builds trust and eliminates internal competition for the scene.
Now HOW do you Inspire your partner? Well, the truth is the technique is the same but the action is going to be different for each improviser and in each moment. That is the fun of it, the joy of it. Impro lives in the moment.
As people explore how to inspire their partners, I see an approach that is actually making it difficult for people. Frequently in Super Scene or Maestro™ I see directors stressed. They tell me they’ve been thinking and planning how to inspire their partners. They want to inspire someone so much and they want to get it right. There is a little sneaky dangerous thing happening here. This stress is communicating that the focus is actually on the director needs. It becomes about the director getting it right instead of the experience of the players. Their compass is off.
I know this isn’t the intention, but it is the action. At heart most of these people want to value their partners and give them a good experience. However, the director’s pre-show stress and planning starts making it feel like cramming before a major exam. High stakes! Must be prepared so I can pass!
Breathe – it is easier than you think.
Sure it is okay to ponder some ideas before a show. If you find yourself thinking any of the following They love to do that, They are so good at that, That would be hilarious, then maybe change your thinking to What have I never seen them play, What is the opposite of what they always do, What triggers a passion in them (ideas, point of view, belief, stories, characters)? Open the doors of possibilities in your mind before you even come to the show. If you are in the mindset of replaying the past, you’ll probably direct from that place.
Many Maestro™ shows suffer as a result of director’s working so hard on being a good and inspiring director. They take a great weight onto their shoulders and confuse success (often equated with getting laughs) and inspiration. Inspiring someone is not giving them something they have done a thousand times that they can be successful in.
So what is inspiration?
Inspiration is Origin
Middle English enspire, (in the sense ‘divine guidance’): from Old French inspirer, from Latin inspirare ‘breathe or blow into’ from in- ‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe’. The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone’.
Verb:Fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative
Synonym: Create (a feeling, especially a positive one) in a person
The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.
Stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to special or unusual activity or creativity
Theology: A divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul.