I held a small script-reading workshop in my house the other day. It was the first time that I attempted to get feedback from actors before finalizing a script. I know, I should be doing that all the time, but time and other circumstances often prevent such grandiose ideas.
But this went great. I have about 5 actors with me, we divided up roles, and read the first 7 scenes. Why the first seven scenes? That was the last scene in which a new character was introduced. I wanted the actors to get an overall view of every character as well as a good sense of where the plot was headed before we took a break.
So we took a break after seven scenes. Why? Two reasons. First, and most important, dessert. I had made some. Second, I wanted to get their initial reaction during dessert.
We sat at the table, without scripts, and ate our striped delight while getting their take on the characters and overall plot.
I was nervous as heck before this started because they were the very first ones to read the script, but the feedback was so positive that I quickly rested at ease and enjoyed their comments. Some of the instructive ones were:
- Is he a good character or bad character?
I loved this one. Not knowing creates tension and doubt. It also means that the character is well-thought-out because he or she isn’t perfect, yet isn’t a complete villain. Flawed characters create depth.
- I don’t really like the name of the play. You should consider changing it.
Interesting. I’m not sure I agree with this person’s assessment that the name of my play makes it sound so whimsical when it isn’t completely whimsical, but I shall take this under advisement anyways and see if there is a better name.
- Silly mistakes.
A reading is a great way for multiple eyeballs to get a chance to find silly mistakes, grammar miscues, or formatting errors. We all caught a bunch.
- Wrong sounding phrases.
Hearing the lines out loud for the first time enables the playwright to get a feel for how the language sounds. I caught one glaring mistake. I repeated the same phrase in the matter of a few lines and hearing it made it sound so obvious and terrible.
After dessert, we got back to the script, finished act one, and then scene 1 of act II where I abruptly stopped the reading. Why? I didn’t want to give away the ending. The readers were upset, they wanted to know what was going to happen. They started to speculate as to who will do what and who will end up with whom. It was delightfully fun for this playwright to hear their conjectures.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience. It helped me analyze my script and gave me a good sense as to how others will like it.
If you have a new script, make sure to organize a workshop reading.