Performance Basics: Trust Your Partner
by Amy Hale
Remember the creepy snake in “The Jungle Book”? The snake who sang “Trust in me” while looking exactly like someone you should absolutely, under no circumstances, trust? Chances are we all know someone that reminds us of that snake and I would be willing to bet some have looked at a show partner that way. As a performer, it’s critical to trust your partner, and improv can help.
I was worried about teaching improv to kids, but it turns out kids are easier to teach than adults. When I say,
Act like you just saw a giant, mutant rat,
a kid will say something like,
You mean like Splinter from the Ninja Turtles?
Adults, on the other hand, will often mutter under their breath that mutant rats aren’t real and this is stupid.
Kids naturally play. They don’t judge. They accept the current reality presented to them and react in the moment. Kids naturally believe. They naturally TRUST. Kids trust the process, trust the scene and trust me. Radio personalities can learn a lot from kids because kids trust their PARTNER no matter what.
Ignore Reality: Trust Your Partner
Adults are tricky. We’ve all been burned. Partners have hurt us and there are scars. Yeah, adults are jaded, especially radio personalities. They overthink. Adults don’t openly, naturally trust.
But as performers on a multi-cast radio show, you have to trust your partner. Without trust, the show will never grow.
Many are probably thinking their situation is different. You may even be thinking, “Sure, that’s fine for most shows, but my situation is a lot worse.” Maybe it is, in some way. But it doesn’t matter. You need this even more.
Many personalities are cast in an arranged marriage. Partners are cast to work together and make radio magic without the option to choose their own partner. Many shows are asked to figure out how to build chemistry. Arranged marriage radio shows are tough, but can work as long as there’s trust.
Maybe you think trust must be earned, but that’s not true. Trust is a responsibility. And it goes both ways when each partner embraces the fact that success is co-dependent.
Trust Your Partner is a Leap Of Faith
If you’ve ever looked at a partner with the side-eye, here are some improv trust tips that can help. Make these 3 personal commitments to each other without judgement. If that trust is violated, forgive and forget. Keep trusting.
Here are the three commitments to trust:
Trust In Yourself
Trust yourself that you’ve put in the work. You know the material and know what is needed to make a great break.
Trust you know the audience and the music. Trust that you understand the format, the mechanics and “you’ve got this”.
If you don’t (or can’t) trust any of the above, get to work. Start studying.
My station adds music on Tuesdays. I asked all to be forwarded the email that includes all of the song movement each week. I want to know for sure that I’m talking in and out of songs that I know something about. Knowing what’s happening with the music means I study the songs. I can learn the intros/outs, learn a little about the artist, find out where they are charting, etc.
Little things like this add up and inspire confidence. And when you are confident, you perform better. I’m a great improviser, but a great improvisor understands the rules of the improv game. And one of the rules is to be prepared so improvisation can happen naturally and spontaneously.
Trust Your Partner
Every break is a chance to make something incredible happen, but how? It happens naturally when each partner has the goal of Making the other partner look (and sound great.
You heard right. Your primary job is to set up a partner to make them a star. And vice-versa. The number one way to create a trustworthy environment is to be a trustworthy player.
This is hard. It’s easier to be guarded, but if you create an environment of trust, chances are that trust will be reciprocated. And if all partners share the values, great chemistry will follow.
Think of that funny scene in “Meet the Fockers”. Remember the Circle of Trust? As soon as Ben Stiller’s character was outside the circle, Robert De Niro’s character wouldn’t let him back in.
Trust is granted without prejudice or judgement. But if the trust is lost, it had to be earned back. If you trust your ability to handle yourself on the air, and your partners have done their homework and have the same trust in themselves, then each can trust their partners.
Truly being able to trust partners may take time, but it often starts with the act of trusting, not withholding trust
Trust The Process
The thing I hear most from on-air personalities is that the consultant just doesn’t understand. The PD doesn’t get it. The General Manager is wrong.
Guess what? They aren’t always wrong and sometimes you are.
Developing a radio show is a process and everyone has an opinion. Trust the people that want you to succeed. Why wouldn’t they? What good would it do if your show tanked?
These people are paid to help you succeed. They hear the show live. Their opinion isn’t gospel, but it’s worth considering. I have heard so many on-air talents say they never execute any of the suggestions given. I have a hard time believing that none of the ideas given in air-check sessions were good. Trust the people around you and their process.
It doesn’t mean your way is wrong. It just means there are other ways. And maybe those ways are better.
The backbone of improv is trust. Trust makes improv special. When you trust your team, improv partner and yourself, improv takes on a life of its own.
Without trust, you never really get anywhere. You are constantly wandering, worrying someone will make you look silly. Sound familiar? It’s the same in radio but, trust changes everything. It makes magical things happen.
Yes, sometimes a partner will fail and sometimes you will fail them. Sometimes your partner really is awful. And sometimes the PD or GM or consultant doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I’ve been there. But by starting with an act of trust, then consistently working toward truly trusting one another, the show has the chance to reach another level.
Author: Amy Hale
Amy Hale’s life changed when her college theater professor told her she needed to move to Chicago and study improv. She did just that but ended up in Madison, WI after a job transfer. She started studying improv and found her “lobster”, live performance. (She married her other lobster, Tony.)
Amy eventually moved to Hot Springs, AR and started Hale Entertainment. She started writing live shows, commercials and plays for local businesses like Oaklawn Casino, Central Theater and Magic Springs Water & Theme Park. She acts and writes plays, sketches, commercials and films. Amy joined the crew at KLAZ in 2013. Amy currently hosts “Amy & Friends in the Morning on KLAZ”…but only because she can’t convince her boss to call it “One KLAZ-y Morning with Amy”.
When off the air, Amy teaches local acting and improv classes with her brother, Luke, who also fills in on KLAZ’s Morning Show. She is incredibly active in her community and soaks up all the awesome Hot Springs has to offer. While Amy’s childhood dream was to be on Saturday Night Live, she thinks she may have hit the jackpot as she is living her best life writing and performing live radio.