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Staged Readings of Established Plays: Why Do It.

December 6, 2013

So one interesting thing I’ve discovered experienced this year is that a lot of theatre companies do staged readings of known, published plays. At first, this was quite a puzzling concept to me. Typically the point of a staged reading is to help develop a new play, but if you’re doing a staged reading of a play that’s already published, then what’s the point? After doing a staged reading of one of my favorite plays that came out in the 21st century, “The Shape of Things” by Neil Labute, I was able to figure out why, along with pick up a few other reasons from theatre companies that I know that have been doing that a lot this year.

1. Benefits. If you’re trying to raise money, get people to donate for your future work, a staged reading of a known play can certainly helpful to make that happen. Staged readings don’t require much rehearsal to make that happen, and it’ll allow you to be creative so people can see your potential as an artist which makes them more inclined to donate for your full productions.

2. Time. Full productions take time.  A LOT of time. If you’re a student, doing a full-time job, or any other reasons that you can’t commit to doing the full production, you can stage a reading and allow those creative juices to continue flowing.

3. Money. Any play that was published within the past 100 years requires for someone to pay for the rights to perform that play. That doesn’t go the same way if you’re only doing a reading. But what if it wasn’t published in the past 100 years? What if it’s Shakespeare and you’re doing a reading? Along with time, doing a full production can cost a pretty penny, especially classic plays since they are longer and therefore need more rehearsal time, air go more money. If you’re in a financial pinch, consider a staged reading, and possibly going with that first idea.

4. Site-Specific. Theatre can happen anywhere on and off the stage. Staged Readings is included in that. I’ve seen more staged readings happen outside the physical theatre space then any other type of show. Be creative and let the world be your oyster!

5. Adaptations. So now that I’ve done one staged reading of a known play, I plan to do one next year as well. However next year’s will be of a classic play (that happens to be another in that favorites list) that I’m adapting its concept to place in modern times. And what better way to do that then to start with a staged reading? Being creative isn’t just about with location and the text, but what you can make of it. How can you take the words that someone else put to paper and let them inspire you to create a world that develops it’s meaning all the more? And how can you check to see which ideas work and which doesn’t? A staged reading.

Now doing it, I feel like it’s an experience that everyone would benefit from doing once, since you get that feeling to developing characters, developing a world, in a quick process that is sometimes forced upon us for full productions. So think about plays that you’d want to do but can’t for whatever reason, and ask yourself “what if I do this as a staged reading?”

sarah sig

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. California Triple-Threat permalink
    December 11, 2013 12:59 pm

    I worked on “the shape of things” in acting class this fall. 🙂 I agree with you, I would love to do some staged readings. They don’t happen enough!

    • December 11, 2013 1:25 pm

      They don’t, and that made me think of another reason to do them: it’s a great way for young artists like us or people who are new to theatre to get more experience as well.

  2. Theatre permalink
    May 13, 2015 5:48 pm

    Hi, was wondering if you could share a little bit how you did the staged readings?
    Was it the full play, or excerpts?
    What were the audience responses/feedbacks?
    Was it mostly a theatre or general public audience?
    Did you need to get permission and pay any royalties from the publisher?
    How much staging did you incorporated?
    How long did you rehearse?
    Am exploring the uses of staged reading to expose them to new audiences, and reinspire and re-touch old audiences.
    Thanks a bunch! Any insight would be helpful and much appreciated.

    • May 18, 2015 2:47 pm

      Everyone does things differently. You get to choose how much you want to stage it (although for known works I would say it needs to be staged enough to get an idea the direction you’d take it in without incorporating all the things you need to make it a full production). You can do a reading of a full play without permission from publisher as long as you don’t charge anything. Rehearsal time depends on the play your doing, how much time you need to get it up blocking wise, and of course budgeting. Hope these help!

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