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Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

  • 1.  Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-30-2020 21:52
    Edited by Melissa Charych 01-30-2020 21:59
    Hi all,

    I'm hoping you'd be willing to share your best practices for running a read through rehearsal for a large cast of a high school musical.  In my experience, table reads are very exciting for the few actors who have lines/songs, but incredibly boring (and even occasionally rubs salt in the "fresh wound") for ensemble members who haven't had a change to fall in love with the experience yet.

    In addition to ensemble work before you begin the reading, does anyone have any creative ways to make all actors feel like a valuable part of the production at the read through?

    Thanks in advance!


    Melissa Charych
    Concord MA

  • 2.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-31-2020 05:22
    I have found that before having a read through it is fun to start teaching the choreography for a big number where all are involved. Then have do the read.

    Shawn Sears
    Miami FL

  • 3.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-31-2020 05:32
    To be honest, I stopped reading through musicals years ago. I rarely read through a play either unless it is something that really includes table work.

  • 4.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-31-2020 07:18
    In our read-throughs, the actors playing the roles cannot read their own roles.  For every scene, the readers change so everyone gets a chance to read lines.  That keeps everyone involved and no one's looking ahead to see when their next lines are.

    Kathy d'Alelio
    Director of Theatre Arts
    Paul VI Catholic High School
    Fairfax, VA

  • 5.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-31-2020 08:32
    We only have the actors with speaking parts come to the read-through.  Our rehearsals are very specifically scheduled, and we only call those who are needed.  That way, we don't have people sitting around with nothing to do.  This was a change my colleagues and I enacted when we took over the program about 15 years ago.  The previous directors used to call full cast rehearsals every day, and there was a lot of wasted time.  This way, the students who work or have homework to do can take care of these things instead of just sitting in the auditorium.  It works out well for everyone.

    Amber Hugus
    Harmony PA

  • 6.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-31-2020 09:05
    Only those with lines come to the read through. I usually start with a "learning about the play/musical" that everyone attends. We talk about the time period and famous people who might be mentioned. Like when we did Grease we talked about Sandra Dee, Rock Hudson, and Doris Day. Their favorite was watching the old Kookie video "Lend Me Your Comb". This gets everyone involved right away and helps them to understand an era they may not know.

    I make a very detailed rehearsal schedule and only those in the scenes we are working on need to be there during that time. So I may say Friday, January 31 Act 1 Scene 4 3:30-4:00- Marcia, Greg, Peter, Alice, Act 1 Scene 5 4:00-4:30 Jan, Bobby, Cindy, Carol, Mike. They get the schedule a couple weeks before rehearsals start so they can let their work, coaches, and parents know when they need to be with me. The students prefer it because it allows them to participate in other activities and jobs.

    Amy Williams
    District Librarian/Theater Teacher
    Thespian Troupe #8881
    Auburn High School
    Auburn, IL

  • 7.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-31-2020 10:53

    Hi Melissa!


    This is such a great question and how awesome that you are being so thoughtful about the experience for all your cast. I had to respond because we have a read through coming up Monday. I get so excited about it because of the way we switched things up a few years ago. First of all we changed our casting process to include casting the crew at the same time. We liked the idea of everyone feeling a part of the process from the very beginning. Because of this, the read through includes more students that don't have lines than those that do. The focus and emphasis is on ensemble, establishing everyone's part in the overall production and becoming familiar with the story. For example, we'll tell the props crew to highlight or note what props they can see that will be needed, etc. We tell ensemble members to start imagining the character they'll create to help tell the story, etc. We guide them and give them some examples as we go. This process has made a very positive impact on the overall tone of the show. We concentrate on true "table read" processes during scene work which has worked well and put the concentration with the actors that need it. We've had success with this system and I'm sure you'll get a lot of great ideas! All the best to you on your run.


    Suzanne Maguire

    Glover M.S. CCLR

    Associate Director, Tiger Drama

    Assistant Coach, Speech & Debate


    Lewis & Clark High School


  • 8.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 02-01-2020 10:30
    I am really shocked to read things like "only actors with lines come to the table read." It's a lot like saying "leads"'s just not done in the theatre program I run. 
    Theatre is a process and requires participation and love from everyone to make it work. All people involved in the process must understand the story and what is required to bring that story to an audience. Nobody is more important because they have lines. That just seems elitist and not in the spirit of theatre. 
    Our read throughs are attended by every single member of the cast and crew. It is at this time when everyone buys into the vision and group dynamic. It is at this time when everyone gets a rehearsal calendar, contract and order firms for tickets, Tshirts, program ads. Informational things they will need for the next 8 weeks. 
    Without everyone there, it's just not valuable. That's how I've been rolling for 28 years as a director and theatre educator and haven't had one issue with a read. It's one of my favorite days of bonding. 
    And that's one Director's opinion! ����‍♀️
    Ms. Hillman
    Director of the CAPA Program/Acting Teacher
    Churchill High School
    Livonia, MI

  • 9.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 02-09-2020 13:50
    I love this idea.  Thank you so much!  I'm even considering putting everyone in the ensemble on a "tech team" for the read through and asking them to track ideas for props, costumes, etc during the read through.  Thanks for your thoughtful inspiration!

    Melissa Charych
    Concord MA

  • 10.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-31-2020 11:33
    Because I directed musicals as class productions over the past 2 decades, we had the opportunity to read through the musical before we began a one-week audition unit.  During that read-through, I switched up parts very frequently, letting everyone have a chance to read multiple times and multiple parts.

    After the auditions, we read the musical through again, with the people cast in the roles reading the parts.

    During the second read-through, every student made a list of things we needed to research for the show.  They submitted the lists, and I compiled a comprehensive dramaturgical research list for the whole class to tackle during times they were offstage.  The lists they came up with were helpful for me, because I sometimes assumed their reference wells were a little deeper than they were.  It was helpful for them because it reinforced the fact that all of them were responsible for the show, and doing the research allowed students to find things to work on during the rehearsals, such as making props, researching sources for purchasing items, making slide shows of period costumes, etc.

    C. J. Breland
    Retired Theatre Arts Educator
    Asheville NC

  • 11.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 01-31-2020 12:21
    We do a round robin table read that includes ALL of the cast and crew. Sitting in a circle, one person starts and reads aloud the first line of the script. The next person reads the next line and so on regardless of the character. I play the songs from the soundtrack when we get to them. This way, everyone pays attention, sometimes you get new and different(in a good way) line readings, and everyone has heard the story at least once. It also takes some pressure off of students who don't like to read aloud as it's usually only one or two sentences that they are reading.

    Holly Thompson
    Worthington OH

  • 12.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 02-01-2020 09:08
    I have the full company read through the play with everyone involved. Sit in a circle, cast and crew, and read around the circle. I start with the opening line and the person to my right has the next line, then the next person takes the next line and so on. Everyone is reading through the play, so everyone is involved, listening, and invested in the play. You are building an ensemble/company and this is established day one. If it's a musical, I have the soundtrack ready and the full company listens and sings along. Every song is sung by all, so again everyone is involved and following the story. It creates a company and I do this with every play I direct, be it on the high school, college, or professional level.

    Kent Burnham
    Director of Theatre Arts
    Trinity-Pawling School
    Pawling, NY

  • 13.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 02-03-2020 07:35
    I stopped posting a cast list. The read through is where the students find out their roles.  Everyone who auditions attends, and crew is invited as well. It is not a mandatory rehearsal for crew, but after reading all of the helpful advice here, I may revisit that. I feel that doing it this way helps students see our vision right away and assists students who were not cast to realize why we may have gone with another choice. There is the occasional student who will have a dramatic flare up and need to excuse themselves, but for the most part, it helps put everything in perspective for them, and the excitement of the show builds as they start to hear it come to life for the first time.

    Kerry Bollenbach
    theatre teacher/director
    Barnegat NJ

  • 14.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 02-03-2020 11:59
    When I directed a college production of As It Is In Heaven a few years ago, i included everyone in the first read through -- cast, ensemble, stage manager, assistant stage managers, dramaturg, assistant director, designers and their assistants, tech director, etc. We sat in a big circle and read the play from beginning to end with each person reading the next line regardless of the character. It forced us to share and hear the play as a company and the actors weren't flipping pages to see where their next scene was or trying to impress anyone. The group was engaged the entire time and felt very much a part of the process. The designers shared their renderings and models with us that day, too, and I talked about the background of the play, so the focus was more on the production than the acting. When I direct again next year I plan to do the same thing. The funniest part was the rumor around the department that "she's a playwright and doesn't know how to direct," when in fact under another name I had Off-Broadway, regional and Edinburgh directing credits, with more professional work than any of the faculty members.
    I highly recommend a "circle read through" for community building and forcing the actors to let go of their first day nerves and actually hear the whole play.

    Arlene Hutton, playwright
    Letters to Sala
    I Dream Before I Take the Stand
    Kissed the Girls & Made Them Cry
    As It Is In Heaven
    Susie Sits Shiva (EdTA commission)

    faculty, The Barrow Group, NYC

  • 15.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 02-09-2020 13:55
    Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies.  I found some great inspiration in this thread.  I do not want to run a leads-only read through because it feels exclusive and I want to start off on the most inclusive path possible.  I do utilize call times to respect the time of my students, but I think it's important to start off the process emphasizing ensemble.  Thanks everyone!  I very much appreciate your input!


    Melissa Charych
    Concord MA

  • 16.  RE: Making your read through rehearsal valuable for all

    Posted 02-10-2020 08:19
    My experience is that a table read thru is rarely of value ( in their eyes) to anyone but professional actors.
    I’d say skip it entirely.
    Do some team building exercises instead and do a principals line thru .

    Brian P. Lovejoy
    Lower/Upper School Drama Instructor
    Middle School Drama Director
    Junior Thespians District 12 Chairman