“The first step to making your partner look good, is to make your partner feel good.” — Bart Van Loon, 29th April 2018, Padova (IT)
While it is certainly possible to perform great improv with scene partners your hardly know or have even met before, it is utterly impossible to improvise together with someone who doesn’t make you feel good.
With strangers you can have a good vibe, a great first impression, a wonderful connexion. But with people you have worked with many times over many years in many productions, you can reach that next level of connexion, leading to simply better improv.
Go out of your way making your partners feel good, either physically with a quick massage before a show, or emotionally with ample attention, compliments or enthusiasm. If your partner feels good, they will look good. And that’s our goal after all, isn’t it?
“Your show = performers + audience + space.” — Will Luera, 21st January 2017, Amsterdam (NL)
The impact of the performers on the show is pretty obvious. The team with which you’re playing is also important on your input to the show. If you’re really there to support your partners, then you play very differently depending on who you’re sharing the stage with.
Then, we all have felt the difference between playing for ten people or a hundred or perhaps even a thousand. But there’s also the difference between playing for children, in front of people with different native tongues, specialised audiences at companies, etc…
Finally, in improv, the so-called fourth wall stands behind the audience, not between the audience and the stage. Use the space in which you are performing to the fullest, let it shape your show.
Obviously, playing in a bar will result in a different show from performing in a grand theatre. Yet, wherever we are, we should always check out the performance space before the show and during the show not be afraid to push the boundaries of what we call the stage.
“The biggest challenge for improvising monologues is getting everyone else to shut up.” — Jason Geary, 29th January 2016, Amsterdam (NL)
This is a specific implementation of the ‘make your partner look good‘ principle. I also like the way it implies that what you say in your monologue really does not matter so much. It is not the content of an improvised monologue that makes it great or not. It’s the reaction of the other characters and the environment created for it to grow and nurture as you’re bringing it that matters most.
And that’s exactly why precisely that aspect is also the biggest challenge for bringing monologues.
“If you have even only one good improviser on stage, nobody on that stage is a bad improviser.” — Antonio Vulpio, 6th July 2015, Milan (IT)
This is a very bold statement to make, I love it. It tells us that the strength of an improviser lies in making your partner look good, in (over)acceptance.
It reminds me of shows where improvisers create scenes or even longer stories with random audience members on stage. If they do it well, the untrained improviser will still look very good.
Powerful wisdom, this one.