Starting a group can be as simple as an agreement among friends (or family) to become one—to collectively decide to get together now and then to read. Any ground rules are determined by consensus and the Host of a given read.
Alternatively, someone (or a governing body, with committees) decides (among other options; see below) who hosts which plays when and where, how frequently, and who attends.
A bona fide Cold Reads group is perpetual, presuming readers keep on gathering to read, regardless of frequency or regularity, who comes and goes.
Essentially, there are two main organizational divisions: Closed (“Just Us”). and Open.
“Just Us” Groups
A Closed Group is just you and your private circle. If the same ones (more or less) gather for every read, your group is static, and one’s presence is expected.
Larger circles (several dozen likely readers) are fluid: attendance is optional (optimum read is eight or ten). Readers sign up as it suits them, and every read is a different mix.
Open (Public) Groups
If your friends are not (yet) into reading plays—or if you’d like to make new friends who are—reach out to the the public. Promote your reads at work, school, church. Post a notice at a likely location or two—library, book store, theatre, community/senior center, spa. You may find a pool of strangers who share your interest and become new friends.
If you don’t (and you may not; people don’t read plays), try more locations; place an ad in the paper; put up flyers in public places advertise—OR…
Network On Line
These days, the cheapest, easiest way to find cold readers is through social media. Cold Reads uses Facebook, proto-typified by Cold Reads/Charlotte. For starters, you might join this group, schedule a read in your living room or favorite local hangout, invite your own Facebook friends, and share locally—who knows? If you draw a crowd, start your own group, invite more friends until you have a stable pool.
Seriously. It’s easy. See Going On Line for instructions.
Courses & Workshops
One way to introduce the public to cold reading (and solicit readers) is through institutions that offer eclectic extra-curricular courses in everything from gardening to Plato. Community centers, retirement homes, schools and churches, summer camps…
Find out who’s in charge and volunteer to host an Introduction to Cold Reading course anywhere you can, whenever you will, within the guidelines of the sponsoring organization. Need help picking plays? Contact us.
A workshop lasts a day, a weekend, maybe two weeks; a course may consume a semester. Both typically happen only once (though some may repeat, with different plays).
Cold Reads International
Even if you don’t use social media, you’re most cordially invited (we beseech you) to Join this blog and share your reads with the world.
Rather than create your own group, entertain the notion of institutional support. Libraries, theaters, and bookstores in particular might (and should) incorporate cold reading into their community activity programs. Coffee shops and pubs could feature special events, with several tables reading.
The Bare Bones Read
A cold reads group, like any club, requires a time when and a place where as many as a dozen readers can get together for a few hours. Whether it’s the same time and place for every read is up to the group. Consider factors in Schedule a Read with an eye to repetition.
Small closed groups rely on attendance, and remain the same from read to read; larger groups limit events to under a dozen, or choose a venue that will accommodate multiple, simultaneous reads.
Open groups must also limit attendance (or optimize space), but allow more flexible scheduling. Any member, typically, can host a read whenever and wherever, and invite whomever. Sometimes smaller groups spring up within the larger one, as people come to know one another.
A group may read sporadically, once or twice a year, on special occasions, or once (or twice) a month (or every week like church) at the same old time and place (or not), depending on the Host (or group).
Who Picks The Plays?
Some groups read plays at random, depending on the tastes and interests of the Host. Otherwise, the group at large comes up with a list of suggestions (titles, playwrights, periods, types) based in part on member input and appoints someone (or a committee) to sort through, choose and schedule, either play-by-play or (recommended) several plays at once, in a cohesive “season.”
Groups whose members are familiar with dramatic art bring insight and context to the process, and will have no trouble coming up with titles; rather, compromise comes into play. No bullying allowed. Groups without such knowledge follow suggestions in Choose a Play or seek advice from those who know (theatre artists, drama teachers).
Notwithstanding the arbitrary option of random reads called by hosts with personal tastes, all groups reflect the collective tastes and interests of the members.
Some groups pick plays arbitrarily, following no beaten path, each read an adventure all its own. If a play inspires the group to read another like it, so be it; otherwise, “What’s next?”
Those who read frequently may group plays according to specific topics (playwrights, movements, eras) for context and cohesion. Some are exclusively devoted to one topic. Many, for example, just read Shakespeare, over and over.
Regular monthly (or weekly) readers often schedule an annual season, a la community theatre—a smorgasbord of all types and times; others explore related plays in series, one theme (playwright, movement, age) for a while, then another.
Some read plays before they go (together) to see them on stage. Some read plays that have won awards. Ambitious groups might undertake a survey of World Drama, beginning with Modern American plays and going back to the Greeks.
These and other options are explored in Group Options and related posts.
Otherwise, the agenda is up to the group. For many, entertainment and engagement are sufficient; others will connect Cold Reads to all the other reasons we read plays and act on those connections. Go to the theatre. Get involved backstage (or on), or usher. Play some theater games (improvise).
Some groups reach out to the community, conduct Cold Reads workshops, perform Readers’ Theater, spread the word.
Fundamentally, a Cold Reads Group is any number of people, any few to a dozen of whom gather on occasion to read/ad lib a play, with protocols regarding who reads when and where, how often, and so forth, as described above. The occasion is the read itself, no more. (Maybe hors d’oeuvres.)
A spin-off occasion would be a dinner party (eat at intermission), or a Saturday drop-in for drinks and some 10-minute plays.
Such occasions range from holiday reads and weekend retreats to duplicate (multiple) simultaneous reads and public marathons. See Occasions and related posts for a few suggestions.