Notes on Play Readings

Readings are good low-budget ways to experience plays. If you would like to do a reading (i.e., have a group read a play out loud), there are a couple of things to consider:      

First, you will want to decide if you want a formal or informal reading. In a formal reading, the room is divided between readers and audience, the way a theatre generally is. In the stage area, there is a chair for each reader. (Include a reader just for stage directions. You may, though, have actors double up on secondary characters to reduce the number of people needed.) Each of the readers has a script, while the audience generally does not. 

     In a number of ways, the formal reading follows the basic rules of theatre-going. Some preparation or rehearsal is important. For most occasions, one or two group “read-throughs” before the presentation will be sufficient. Taken further, “staged readings” incorporate some blocking (or stage movement), more developed scene work, and even simple props.

Maya Rosman and Anna Santos.

Maya Rosman and Anna Santos.

     In a less formal reading, such as one might want in a classroom or study circle, everyone will probably have access to a script. Depending on the size of the group, the character roles can either be spread out more or heaped up higher.

     Another thing, if the play has difficult words or foreign expressions, it's important that the readers are prepared for them. For example, in a play such as "A New Dress for Mona," which takes place in Iran, the readers should be prepared for the Persian names they will encounter. A single foreign word can cause a hiccup in a reading, but a string of them can, dramaturgically speaking, induce cardiac arrest...