If you are unfamiliar with the concept of a play reading, it is when a play is read out loud by actors with scripts in hand. The goal is for the playwright to hear the written words spoken by actors. Do the words sound the same as they did in the playwright’s head? Readings can also be done for producers to get them to put up money to financially back a production. Whether you are a new or veteran playwright, readings are a helpful tool.
The first reading is often done in the playwright’s living room or in a quiet public place—like a study/conference room at a public library. The goal of the first reading is for the playwright to hear how actors read and interpret the script. This allows the playwright to go back and make edits to the script afterwards.
After two or more of the first kind of readings, the playwright will benefit from doing a reading with both actors and an audience. This type of reading can take place again in the playwright’s home, in a free public location like a library, or in a space that the playwright rents. Coffee shops also often hold open mic nights or welcome readings to be held at their business, especially if they think it will help draw in customers on an evening that is usually slow. The added layer of having an audience helps the playwright understand how the play would be received—which parts are funny or moving as they are supposed to be and which are without the playwright’s intention. After this type of reading, a playwright can then do more edits, if needed.
Once a playwright has done both actor and audience readings, the next step is to do readings with actors for potential producers. This should be in the best space the playwright can afford to rent, and the event should be conducted in as professional a manner as possible.
Overall, readings are to help a playwright refine and hone their work so that they can best present it to potential producers, literary managers, and, ultimately, audiences. The following are a few tips about which to think before holding a reading of your work:
Tips for a Successful Play Reading
- Make sure that you have confirmed time, day, and location with your actors.
- Provide enough copies of the script to be read so that each actor has her or his own copy.
- Make sure that those copies of the script are typed and current without scribbling, crossing out of parts, or other hand-written items that could confuse the actors.
- Provide some sort of compensation for the actors. If you are unable to pay them, at least offer them food and beverage.
- Be prepared to hear comments and thoughts about your play without getting defensive about it. Just because someone gives advice or feedback on your work doesn’t mean that you must use that advice. It is still your artistic creation over which you have complete control.