- Want to celebrate a season but didn’t find the right play and now it’s too late for auditions and a month’s rehearsals?
- Found a play you’d love to do but don’t know if it will fit your audience?
- Have too many dark nights that are eating away at your budget with utility bills and rent but no time or personnel to keep the theater busy?
- Want to try out an edgy play for your audience and don’t want to invest your main-stage time and seats?
Readers Theater can be your answer to bringing more patrons in the door and more bucks into the till.
Readers Theater is an underused tool which has a long history in the theater. P.A. Wray, producer, playwright
What is Readers Theatre?
Readers Theatre is sleight-of-hand for the drama. Theater in the blink of an eye.
Actors perform script-in-hand. (No lines to learn!) The actors can present the script in different ways –
- In front of music stands, probably wearing dark rehearsal clothes.
- Seated in a semi-circle on the stage and rising to be in those scenes in which they have a part.
- Holding scripts to maximize movement and blocking simple stage crossings to simulate the actual action.
- Or–a combination of the above.
More Performances, More Butts in the Seats
Whatever choice is made, you have simplified your production process.
- Actors don’t have to memorize but they can still bring life to their roles.
- Performance seldom demands more than two rehearsals.
- Actors are eager to participate–the thrill of performance without the angst.
- Audiences quickly learn that they quickly forget that the actors are holding scripts and become involved in the play. At first, they are surprised but often ask for more.
Adapting a Script for Readers Theater
Most plays can be adapted for Readers Theater by shortening and assigning stage direction to an actor. Even plays that require physical action can be simulated script-in-hand. Aaron Shephard reveals more about his attractionn to this form on his website: Aaron Shepard Presents . . .
Aaron Shepard Presents the Chamber Readers (Reader’s Theater, Readers Theatre)
My introduction to reader’s theater came as a happy accident. Though I was living in a remote area, it happened to be the home of one of the most accomplished and innovative of all reader’s theater troupes—a professional, nonprofit group called the Chamber Readers.
The locale was Humboldt County, California, where the Chamber Readers have been promoting reading and literature since 1975. For most of its first two decades—including my own five years with the group—it was directed by Jean Wagner, a founding member. Considered a local institution, the Chamber Readers have performed yearly in almost every public school in the county. (For more info, visit www.chamberreaders.org.)
Use your stage to celebrate those holidays that don’t often find their way onto a stage–the Fourth of July, a special Halloween Treat, Daylight Savings Time, local community events, both sad and joyous, that demand more attention than a few lines in the newspaper can give them.
And see how they can rescue you from turning away paying customers when disaster strikes and the planned show can’t go on in our earlier blog How Readers Theater Saved the Show.