Luke Beahan is in Chicago right now, learning the ways of Improv in one of the best Improv cities in the world. Lucky so-and-so.
Hey. I am in Chicago right now studying the Summer Intensive course, and I thought that I would write down some of the epiphanies that occur to me as I study improv 4 days a week.
Supporting your partner, you can also call it making them look good. It's a great idea and a wonderful attitude to have on stage, but it's also so vague as to be meaningless. What does it actually mean to make somebody look good? We need specifics to practice and turn into mental muscle memory.
I already understood one aspect of it; reacting to my partner. I have been in and seen scenes where one character shouted or revealed something and the other character just stood there and shrugged or the equivalent thereof. That's letting your partner blow out this huge wad of energy and then making them clean it up off the floor. We need to accept that move and get upset or cry or be incredibly happy. So suddenly there is a reason for them to have done that beautiful big thing on stage. Accept your partners wad of energy.
I think I understood another aspect of this, and it just reminded me of what improv is really about.
I was in a scene playing a scared zoo cleaner watching another player trying to open the moneky cages. The scene fizzled and then in the notes we got, I realised what was missing from my game. We have been working on character wants and motivations, so that in a scene we have a clear goal or need. The scenes we did on these were hilarious and moving. And yet here I was with the motivation of "I don't want to get into trouble" and the scene didn't pop.
The note was this, I had a clear need, but it didn't involve the other characters, and the other two players were doing the same thing, so nothing happened. Near the end I altered my want and turned it into "I don't want You to get me in to trouble," and I was trying to talk this girl out of opening the cages.
That was the only part of the scene that felt like it was going anywhere. When I turned my motivation into something that involved the other player. And it only takes a glance to realise that from that comes a whole load of other details that I can start creating. She is always opening the cages, I get blamed or attacked for the animals getting out, one time a zebra kicked me in the face etc.
Then it also gives here something to do. Is she going to open the cages and let me take the fall again, is she going to persuade me to become an animal activist? Suddenly there are pathways we can run down head first, together, rather than being stuck in our own little bubbles.
So my lesson was. Get involved with your partner, react to them and make it about them, not just you.