I'm looking to conduct a staged reading of one of my full-length plays and I'd like to know how I'd go about doing so. Any resources out there to guide me? I'm sure many of you have had experiences in this matter, so feel free to share. Well, I'm off to bed now. Good night.
Don't charge. Leave a donation box, but I don't think you should charge for a reading. It's something 'for' the playwright, and in many ways, is more useful than an actual production.
Make sure the audience asks questions and doesn't tell you how to do it. It's good to write up and print out guidelines to avoid this. I posted a list of these somewhere, that we use...let me know if you want me to repost it.
At the Q&A, you can have the cast and the director and the playwright on stage, but you need someone else to facilitate.
Don't talk too much. Don't explain yourself. You've had the entire play to speak. If someone says they dont' understand something, just make a note. You should have explained it in the play, not after the play.
Don't take all the advice, just take the advice you like. That which resonates with you.
If you aren't paying the actors, a nice card is thoughtful.
Thanks for the tips Paddy, I'll keep them in mind. But any idea on how to acquire actors and a director? Would the theatre help me with that or do I have to do it all on my own? What resources are out there for doing so? This is quite a task.
Go to see stage productions in your area, if you see an actor that you like, that you feel would fit a particular role, introduce yourself after the production, and mention that you're trying to put a staged reading together sometime a few months out. See if they're interested, a staged reading isn't that big of a commitment, and they'll probably be flattered that you want them to read for you. They'll also probably want you to send them a section of the script to see if it's quality. Basically build connections with your local theatre community.
You don't need a director, since you might run one, maybe two rehearsals just to get people familiar with their lines.
As far as venue, I like having staged readings outside, particularly now that it's summer. Do it at the local park; bring a grill, make it staged reading/barbeque.
Invite people whose opinions you trust, professors, friends, critics ect. Any Artistic Directors you might know or other theatre people are good to have there.
You might advertise a bit, but you don't really need a big audience. And if you want to have some sort of meal with it, it might get expensive to feed people that show up just for free food.
I think it's better to treat it more as a social gathering and less as a production. Have fun, meet people, and you might run into someone who knows someone who might be interested in producing the sort of script you've written.
It's about getting feedback yes, but it's also about generating some publicity for yourself, networking, and getting to meet all sorts of theatre people. It isn't particularly important to have the public there, it's more important to have people that can turn your script into a full-production.
When I see the word "staged" that tells me you are looking for a script-in-hand production with blocking and a set. A "reading" is the sit-in-chairs and read the play.
Most small theaters will help you with a reading - particularly if it is a full length play. A staged reading as I defined it above is another matter.
We have never turned down a local playwright with a full length play. We help identify the right actor and coordinate the whole thing. The problem with readings for a short play is that no one (the theater or the actor) wants to spend the time for something that will be over in ten minutes.
Louise P has a wonderful set of instructions for holding the talkback session. You might pm her - or get her to post it here.
I'm sure that Paddy's list is equally good.
I agree that a facilitator is necessary for the talkback. As playwright you want to focus on the responses not run the talkback. Besides, if you're like me, you tend to get defensive when people criticize your work ;-).
I second what QuixotesGhost says about making connections in the theater world.
Here in the Seattle area, there's a professional society called Theater Puget Sound. It's a great resource for (among other things) finding actors and directors. Do you have anything similar where you are?
I always get a director, because a director knows actors, and a director will find things in the play that I don't see.
Here is a list of theatres in New Jersey. If any are close to you, call them up! Ask if they have a list of actors who are available for readings.
Definitely used a list of questions from whatever source you get them from. Not too many. Do not get into a discussion. Let someone speak their piece, then the next person. No interruptions. People can speak as often as they want, but only one at a time.
I would highly recommend a "sit down" rather than a staged reading at this time.
I would not recommend an outdoor reading. Too many distractions. Weather can change. And I would avoid the "party/picnic atmosphere." You are there to do a reading, not eat and drink. If you want to do something afterwards do it. But if it goes bad - and even good scripts can have bad readings - no one probably is going to want to stick around too long and talk about it.
Make sure actors will commit read the play ahead of time, and preferably read their parts out loud ahead of time so the lines are familiar on their tongues. They should come in ready to go after a brief intro to each other. You can play this by ear. You should also get them a script with the stage-directions that shall be read. These should be minimal. Only necessary ones. If they already have read the script, they will know what is going on. Only read the VITAL ones that are necessary for an audience or that enhance the dynamics of the reading even though there is not one.
The person reading the stage directions should be a terrific actor, who can get the dynamics of the scene and convey it to the audience and the other actors to keep the dramatic tension moving. This is the most overlooked aspect in readings.
Let the actors have their heads. Let them run with it.
You do not need an audience for a first reading. I absolutely recommend NOT having one. Don't think "Staged" Reading. Think "reading" that is at performance level. Some of the best theatre in NYC takes place in living rooms at first readings of plays. (Or in any city, for that matter.) If your library has an available room, sometimes you can use them if they are good for sound and won't disturb anyone. Being you are in high school, you may need an adult sponsor.
If you can "double cast" people in various parts, do so. Actors do not like sitting around listening to other actors while they are sitting on their hands. The person reading stage directions can also be a participating actor. If you have good actors, make the most use of them. Make them happy. The more involved they are, the happier they are. Make sure their time is being utilized well.
Your actors do not have to be the age they are in the script. This is about sound and dynamics. Preferably they have good voices.
At the "Talkback" just write everything down. Bite your tongue. Have specific questions ready - or have a moderator you chose. Could be one of the actors. Chicago Dramatists has this down really well. The writer never speaks. There is no "debate" between writer and commenters.
Some of the best ideas/criticism will come from the most unexpected of places.
While listening quietly mark up your script. You will forget to do it later.
There is much more, but gotta go.
Pick and choose what suits you from all the good advice posted.
And have a great time arranging it and doing it.
Now that I am back from a long vacation, I am sponsoring a reading of someone's play. Really looking forward to it. Actors in a studio space. No audience. No playwright. Actors give feedback. I take notes. I send their notes and my notes to the playwright.