What does inspire your partner really mean?

The other night I was in a stimulating conversation with fellow improvisers.  We were talking all things impro especially our current personal blocks and plateaus.  One of the items I mentioned was my recent contemplation of inspire your partner.  For me, this phrase along with Make your partner look good, and be obvious. Are cornerstones of what we do.

But what do they really mean?

I started pondering people’s interpretation of inspire your partner 3 or 4 months ago when after a show someone asked me if the set up they gave me was inspiring.  It was.  The scene was from a snogger set up, and I was asked to start with that.  I had furniture, a open stage and it was the most inspired I had felt in awhile.  Why?  I was tossed off the cliff into the unknown.  Here.... Begin.... Delightful!

There are other levels of inspiration.  For example; anyone who knows me knows my love of Star Trek so if you put me in a Star Trek scene I will be inspired but it is a different type of inspiration.  I’m not tossed off the cliff into the unknown, I’m placed in a world I love to play in.  I am inspired by the idea because it connects with something within me. 

Interestingly when I am inspired by the unknown I always have a much better time.  Star Trek scenes are often disappointing.  Why?  I think, for me, I want to play in the world.  Happy to be the characters and use their schtick but I actually want to experience a Star Trek world.  The scenes inevitably become gag fests and we don’t play the story.  So although the idea inspires I am confined to playing in a already defined world instead of being in the unknown.  Understandably I’m also playing with people who may not have the same passion so instead of them being able to launch me further I often feel I am trying to fill the gaps.  This holds everyone back from the potential of the unknown.

So in reflection afterwards I see that this is less inspiring and where the pondering starts.

When people hear inspire your partnerare they assuming it means give them something they like?

When people hear make your partner look goodare they assuming it means give them something you know they can do well?

If these assumptions are true then we are at grave risk of putting people into safe worlds where they recycle material instead of into the dangerous and exciting world of the impro unknown.

There are some improvisers and companies that when I am onstage with them I am feel completely alive and in the hands of the impro Gods.  In their eyes you can see a mix of play, anticipation, fearlessness and exquisite peril.  It is a lustful quest.  A dance of danger.  A seduction into the unknown.   A game of taunt and tame.  Like great sex you are going to release the beast and experience whatever that moment is.  It might be beautiful and delicate, it might be raunchy and rough, a bed of roses a back alley wall.  Who knows?  The heart quickens with the anticipation.

With these improvisers I feel possibility and potential for the unknown.  This is INSPIRING!

I certainly hope I give them the same gift. 

Keith Johnstone says;  “the improviser has to understand that his first skill lies in releasing his partners imagination.” Impro-pg.93 - KJ 

I think this is another way of saying inspire your partner.  Release their imagination.  Open new worlds for them.  Push them into areas they are avoiding.  Have them meet the monster.  Create scenes and situations that they live in and respond too instead of thinking where it is going.  Toss them into the unknown again, and again, and again.  It is that release that is the true inspiration. 

You can still give them something they like, but add the edge of the unknown to that.

If we inspire each other and release each others imagination we in turn can be inspiring and then we can truly go where no improviser has gone before.


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