Read throughs- what are they for and how can we make them playful?
Early table reading can be viewed as something to get through as quickly as possible or as a valuable part of the whole creative process depending on how and why you run them. This is a time to get into a deeper understanding of the text and make decisions, but in the early stages it can be really useful for everyone to just get to grips with the words and have a bit of fun with them. It does take a leap of faith to do this when you have limited time to rehearse, but believe me the investment will pay off in the longer term.
Some different things for you to try
- Reading round the group, the reader changes with each new line. Focus is on words, rhythm and story rather than characterisation
- Swapping cast members – it can be really useful for an actors to hear words delivered by someone else and can prevent getting stuck in unhelpful speech patterns early on
- Repeating the last line of the character who spoke before them either in the same or in a completely different way before delivering their line – encourages listening
- Insert fun sound effect or a whole group dramatic reaction for slow line delivery/ reading too fast/hesitation and anything else you can think of – generates fun with the text and builds the team
- Delivering and receiving (1) – actor must have eye contact and deliver their line to the next character, the receiver must maintain eye contact and listen before speaking – encourages listening to each other
- Delivering and receiving (2) the whole cast are in a circle, actor 1 must make eye contact with someone and walk towards them as they deliver their line. The person who received the line, actor 2, selects someone else in the circle to deliver the next line to and starts walking towards them. Actor 1 is now able to take the seat vacated by actor 2. If you want to inject some more energy just up the pace.
- Stylistic – try using accents (allow extreme playing rather than authenticity) or different genres i.e. thriller/spy movie or slapstick comedy – helps to imagine a variety of performance styles (this can be useful for the director to keep an open mind)
- Everyone whispers or has to shout (you could use music to help with this so that people have to be heard over the noise) – this helps actors to push to the extremes of communication
In all of these options, the Director may read in the stage directions, or that can just be done in the first read through.
Useful group questions/discussion points
- What did you like
- What surprised you
- What questions does it raise for us and/or the audience
- Where are the dramatic opportunities
- What are the biggest challenges
- What concerns does anyone have
Workshop - Creative Ways of Reading plays
In this workshop we will read a play collectively and explore different ways to be playful and creative with the reading as well as breaking the text down using a variety of approaches. This workshop can be delivered online as well as in person
Join Associate Producer at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Amanda Watkins, as she gives an inside look at how to approach reading a play. Although this isn’t discussing group reading, there are some really valuable tips for readers and Directors.
Drama Games for Rehearsals – Jessica Swaale
Publisher: Nick Hearn Books
Here is a great online resource for exploring different ways to read, analyse and understand a play