shoemakerchris asked: Hey, this blog is super-helpful! I'm taking a Harold class down in D.C., our graduation show is in a week and I was curious if you had any suggestions for the following situation (that seems to happen a lot): what should you do if you think you've figured out what the scene's "deal" is, and you're responding with emotional honesty to your scene partner, but they end up bailing on their initial choices? Or, they fixate on what the scene's abt (fixing a flat) instead of our relationships? Tips?
Awesome question, Chris! It’s actually two questions, because bailing on choices is a bit different from fixating on details, but let’s try to work through both, starting with the second, because it’s easier:
So this actually happens quite a bit (sometimes you’re on the receiving end, sometimes you’re on the giving end) because, in a scene, we’re constantly trying to subconsciously manage and balance the context (who, what, where, and accompanying details) with the relationship (who are we to each other and why are we here together?), and sometimes that balance gets out of whack. If you realize that’s happening, despite your best efforts to maintain what you rightly call “emotional honesty,” you can literally call it out in the scene, without calling out your scene partner. Just note the think they’re fixating on (changing a tire, the last can of soda, etc.) and say to them, in character, “It’s not really about changing this tire/this can of soda/etc., is it?” 9 times out of 10, your partner will respond with a relationship-oriented offer, because you’ve now taken away the power that the context was holding over the scene. If they insist that it is about that thing, you get to decide what it’s really about and name it (anything that feels right for the relationship—“It’s really about how I always show you up in front of dad,” or “It’s really about the fact that we broke up and I’m not over you”). The scene will more often than not get onto a better trajectory after that.
The first one (when your partner bails on choices) is harder. If he’s really completely dropped those things, how do you “bring them up” again, or should you even bother? Will it just look like you’re fixating on something that’s no longer relevant? Or not listening? Or worse, denying?
Without seeing the specific scene in front of me, I’d offer some advice that I offer for any scene, which is to try to connect to what’s in front of you right now and respond with emotional honesty. Not that you’re just forgetting what came before, but that you’re getting yourself to re-invest in the relationship of the scene rather than listen to that little judgmental voice in your head that side-coaches every scene you’re in, and, in this case, is saying things like, “Your scene partner is really screwing up!” or worse, “You need to make every single detail in this scene make sense or the audience will think you’re a hack.” You don’t, and they won’t. And if you buckle down on the moment at hand, you may find that there’s a natural way of reintegrating some of that data in a way that makes everyone look like a rockstar.
Hope that helps, and good luck in your grad show!