Fixing a downhill scene

Something I’ve been running into for a while— you’re doing a scene, and you realize it’s going down a problematic path. Maybe it’s a transactional scene, or a teaching scene, or an attacking/fight scene, or a plot-heavy scene, or you’re talking about the thing and not about each other, or whatever. But you notice that the scene is having some structural issues.

Now what? How do you fix it?

Thinking onstage is hard. I often resort to very, very heavy-handed approaches that don’t even work— like if the scene is getting plot-heavy, I will literally say, “This is getting a little plot-heavy. Why don’t we talk about something else?”

Or if we’re talking about the thing, I will say, “But this isn’t what matters. What matters is… you.” (Which doesn’t make sense, so I’ll follow up with some desperately clumsy description of either (a) how we’re secretly in love, or (b) how mad I am because of something he/she did.)

I can’t think fast enough to A to C to come up with a graceful segue to shift the tone of the scene in a more favorable direction. Is that a skill that can come with time? I feel like I’ve been handling downhill scenes this same way for a year or so. Are there exercises I can do to work on this specific skill?



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