Staged Reading vs. Script-in-Hand

On Wednesday, April 27th we’re staging the second phase of our workshop of “Dearly Beloved.” It’s a script-in-hand staging and I hope you’ll join us.

I can hear some of you thinking it out there, but I’ll put it on the page: How does a script benefit from a script-in-hand staging? As you may know we’ve already had a staged reading. A reading paints the broad strokes textually. It tells you several things about the play including character motivation, continuity issues, and perhaps the greatest boon: what the audience thinks. Receiving audience feedback about what was confusing or interesting will frame the next draft. From a staged reading the playwright should be fueled to round out the script to a newly cohesive piece.

Essentially, a script-in-hand staging is different from a staged reading in that we are going from narration to motivation. Are these lines motivating? Do they naturally build in action beyond on the page? Are the mechanics working? Do my characters inhabit a world that gives them business? What do I need to give them? The playwright needs to see the rhythm of the script matching the rhythm of the stage. If you as an audience find yourself saying, “what-the-what?” you probably just witnessed the script dragging. Maybe it was for a joke that was built in or a plot point that may fit better somewhere else.

Having directed a few script-in-hand stagings — all of which took place in a “contemporary” or “real” setting — I realize it is challenging to truly feel connected to the world you’re acting in. The actors have scripts in their hands, they are acting their faces off (because they don’t have to worry about lines), but they can’t “mean-clean” the kitchen because the kitchen consists of a table upstage. The physical space is missing… on actors and on stage. We can see your head, heart, and hands acting, but because of the nature of the beast we will miss the nuance of the whole body acting.

But that’s not what a script-in-hand staging is about.

All this being said, I can see how this step is essential for new playwrights. It allows the playwright to ask him/herself, “is this how I see the story I want to tell?”

I want to hear your experiences though. Any actors, directors, playwrights or producers out there ever experience other benefits or detriments from staged readings or script-in-hand stagings?
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Dearly Beloved – A Script-in-Hand Staging by Brendan Doris-Pierce
Wednesday, April 27
Unity Church of God
6 William Street, Somerville, MA

Drying Ink

On the T yesterday there was a young woman next to me who was writing poetry. Now, as much as I try not to eavesdrop (or read over shoulders) I couldn’t help it. This poetry was coming out of the tip of her pen so quickly that it was distracting me from my own reading. I pulled my cap down tight around my eyebrows and watched (because, of course, that is less creepy).
She used a rolling ball pen, not the usual cake-y thick ink, rather it was mercurial and soaked into the page immediately. It was fascinating to watch her fill the pages. She expediently filled the pages of a wide-rulde spiral notebook by writing double-spaced in her first draft. Then she went back to the top line and rewrote it with different colors (meaning word choices) underneath. The line was stronger, more pointed, and more exciting.
What was she writing about? I couldn’t tell you a single word.
So why am I inspired to write about this? Because of the seemingly simple discovery that it is more interesting to watch the ink dry, than it is to read the lines themselves. Meaning, the forward action is what draws attention — or at least should. Anticipating the next thought and change was exciting, and I had no idea what was coming!
What’s next in your text?