How to Start a Playreading Group

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Play-reading groups are a fun way to tackle difficult plays such as Shakespeare's. They can be useful for actors, students, or anyone else interested in plays and performing. They are a good way to get your feet wet if you have always wanted to act but have been too shy, and they are also a good way for literature students to understand difficult texts by hearing and performing them aloud.

Things You'll Need

  • 5 to 8 people
  • Copies of the play for everyone
  • Find a group of friends, co-workers or classmates who want to participate and find a time and place that is convenient for everyone. The group can be as big or small as you want it, but a group of 5 to 8 people usually works out the best. If you are doing the reading on a weeknight, a 6:30-7:00 start time is usually best.

  • Choose a play. You can pick any play you want, but play-reading groups are especially popular for Shakespeare. Whatever play you choose, just make sure that are a sufficient number of parts for the participants and that everyone has access to a copy of the play. If it is one that would be hard to find at the bookstore or library, try to find a free copy online (see Resources) and send it to everyone. Also make sure that it is a play that can be performed in 2 to 3 hours.

  • Assign parts so that everyone will be performing for approximately the same amount of time. A good idea is to try to give everyone a major character role and then one or more smaller parts. Try to avoid assigning two characters who talk to each other to the same person. Also, don't be afraid to cast cross-gender, meaning assigning male parts to women and vice versa.

  • Send out an email with everyone's parts (and copies of the play if necessary) a few days before the reading. Encourage everyone to look over their assigned parts, but don't read the entire play, as a "cold read" usually makes the performance more fun.

  • On the night of the reading, have everyone get in a circle, introduce themselves and who they are playing, and begin reading. There is no movement or props, the performers just read their parts while sitting. Plan an intermission somewhere halfway through the play (if you are doing Shakespeare, the end of Act 3 is usually a good stopping point).

Tips & Warnings

  • Encourage performers to keep going and not to worry about accuracy. If you mess up a line, just skip it and move on.
  • Provide food or drinks during intermission. Have everyone chip in some money for pizza and put in the order before you start. The pizza should then get there right around intermission.

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