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Staged Readings of Plays

  • 1.  Staged Readings of Plays

    Posted 11-29-2019 13:24
    i am planning to do a staged reading of a play for my Spring Production. I want to introduce my kids to this activity. Any tips (do's and don'ts)? What about minimal movement? Scenery for theatre experience?

    Michael Stofko
    Wilkes Barre PA

  • 2.  RE: Staged Readings of Plays

    Posted 11-30-2019 05:55
    Michael, I found this book to be helpful as well as practical when I have directed staged readings.
    Staged Reading Magic, A Play Producer's Quick Guide for Turning a Free Staged Reading into a Hot Theater Ticket  

    Provided is the link to the book on Amazon.

    Packed with ideas, insider tips, and a touch of Broadway gossip! - this practical guide shows you, step by step, how to transform simple script readings into breathtaking, memorable, theatrical experiences...and how to do it on a shoestring. Written for anyone who wants to produce a successful reading, including professional and community theaters, actors, directors, producers, fundraisers, and educators, "Staged Reading Magic" is that rare resource you'll return to again and again. Distilling lessons learned from over 100 productions by one of New England's most distinguished/premier theater programs, this idea-packed handbook is a theater production classic.

    William Dawson
    Professional Speech and Theatre Educator, Director
    Waterloo Community Schools
    Waterloo IA

  • 3.  RE: Staged Readings of Plays

    Posted 11-30-2019 09:11
    Thanks for the suggestion, William. I didn't know this book and I just ordered it. I'd love to see the staged reading get more attention. It's a great way to maximize the use of theater space and increase exposure to new plays.

    Jean Klein
    Playwright/Founder HaveScripts/BlueMoonPlays
    Playwriting Teacher in MFA program, Wilkes University]
    Virginia BeachVA

  • 4.  RE: Staged Readings of Plays

    Posted 11-30-2019 09:07

    Hi, Michael. As a playwright, I've directed a lot of staged readings during the process of developing my own work. I also teach Playwriting at Wilkes University in your city. It's a low-res program and we have a 10-day Residency twice a year. The faculty for each genre has one night that they present as writers. Wednesday night is Playwright's Night and we've always done staged readings. Since we don't have much rehearsal time (about 6 hours), we stick to the simplest process--script in hand, usually music stands. Actors sit back from the music stands and rise and "enter" a scene when they're in it and sit when they aren't. Still, we do a minimum where we can with a suggestion of costumes. Props, of course, are very limited but sometimes we can manage the simulation.

    Stage directions can be read by a narrator but they are always kept to a minimum.  If actors rise and sit, you don't need to say they entered and the actors can mime most of the rest. Just never read things like actor's cues.

    We've done a couple of monodramas--one-person shows--where the actors had more flexibility. They still used scripts, but they could block movement and use more in the way of scenery, costume and props.

    For the scripts, actors seem to prefer the letter-size manuscript, single-sided, so that they can write notes, which would mean you'd probably want to purchase the downloadable version of the play you choose to do.

    I'm doing a reading this January of a period piece that has 7 characters. Fortunately, it has had a staged reading at a professional theater just recently for a Festival, so I'm going to be able to suggest scene changes of 18th C. locations like Vauxhall Gardens through projections. (The theater fortunately kept the slides and music cues and is allowing me to use them.) Otherwise, I would have used light changes, etc.

    You, however, have much  more rehearsal time, so you can be a bit more elaborate and approximate a full production. I've had staged readings at a variety of theaters and several have been extremely close to fully produced.

    Congrats for considering this. I've long thought that staged readings were a great way to present a variety of plays and give students more exposure to a wider variety of stage literature. It's amazing how quickly the audience stops seeing the scripts in hand.

    This is a great subject. I'll be coming to Wilkes-Barre during the first full week of January for our Residency. I'd be glad to set aside some time to talk to you more about this process. And feel free to come to any of our readings at the Dart Center--especially playwrights night and chat with us afterwards. 

    Jean Klein
    Playwright/Founder HaveScripts/BlueMoonPlays
    Playwriting Teacher in MFA program, Wilkes University]
    Virginia BeachVA

  • 5.  RE: Staged Readings of Plays

    Posted 11-30-2019 11:57
    What a great way to expose students and audiences to literature that benefits by being read with vocal expression only to help the audience understand the story rather than using spectacle, such as sets, costumes, etc. I studied with Dr. Irene Coker, one of leaders of Readers Theatre. We used music stands to hold the adapted scripts and utilized the over-the-audience pinpoint focus to talk to each other.
    I have used this style with many classes for performances.
    We have also performed scripts which are written as radio scripts; some students studied Foley effects and became Foley artists supplying sounds.
    Also used Chamber Theatre which incorporates minimal and suggested settings. I also studied as part of my undergrad work with Dr. Robert Bremen who originated C.T. We used narration in the third person and some set pieces.
    And I have done staged readings as well with complete costumes for the actor’s major roles and suggested costume pieces when they played other characters and simple props, and a generic set behind them. Actors carried scripts and memorized enough lines to maintain eye contact with the other actors while doing simplified staging. We used hat racks to provide costume accessories.
    Two of the many scripts which we performed were IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW, I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN.

    My point in detailing the types of readings is that it is fine to mix the methods and have valued performances for which the actors learn during the process and audiences tend to relax while watching; they know actors are perhaps more secure with scripts in their hands.

    Gai Laing Jones
    President of Educational Theatre Association Governing Board (EdTA)
    National Board Member of Educational Theatre Foundation Board of Trustees (ETF)

  • 6.  RE: Staged Readings of Plays

    Posted 11-30-2019 17:59
    There are staged readings; there are also cold readings. Cold reading can also be beneficial and as not only an actor but a writer; I have used the cold readings and been in them many times. The cold read is also very valuable. The actor received the script ahead of time, then they get together and sit around a table or circle and read the script. Often this is to see what works in a script and what does not. It is for the writer, but also for directors and producers to hear.   After the reading, people comment on what works for them and what does not. If some students would like to write some short or full plays, this is a wonderful exercise, not only for the actors but writers. In theater cities, actors who do cold readings, receive experience and oftentimes, directors and producers are watching these readings. This can equal acting jobs in the future.

    [Stanley Allan] [Sherman] [Custom theater mask making, Commedia dell'Arte masks & workshops. NYC winter holiday workshops and summer workshops]
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