Hosting a Read

Whether it’s an occasional independent gathering or a regular organized group, someone must select the play, provide scripts, schedule a time and place, and assemble readers.

Play Selection is a matter of personal (or committee) taste and availability of scripts. Comedy or drama? Classic or contemporary? One act or full length? English or translation? Musical? Original? Which of the thousands of playwrights, hundreds of thousands of plays appeals to you and your readers? And how does one get them?

Scripts for most great classic plays can easily be found on line and downloaded to e-readers free of charge, printed for the price of paper and ink. Modern plays are found in libraries and used book stores (on line or brick-and-mortar) for a couple of bucks.

Novice readers might begin with the GoodReads Top 100 Stage Plays of All Time— or our growing Library of plays we’ve read since 2004, with links to scripts of ever more. Any of these is worth the read.

Choosing a Play addresses these and other aspects of selecting plays and obtaining scripts.

Time and Place are also at the Host’s discretion, and reader availability. Normally, it takes around three hours to read and reflect on a full-length play: one full morning, afternoon, or evening. If we don’t get to the end, we meet again or finish on our own.

There’s no typical place to read. Through the years we’ve met in venues ranging from living rooms to theaters (green room or lobby), clubhouses, classrooms, coffee shops, community centers—any place with soft chairs, good light, and relative quiet (no loud music).

Scripts for most great classic plays can easily be found on line and downloaded to e-readers free of charge; printed for the price of paper and ink. Modern plays are found in libraries and (used) book stores (on line or brick-and-mortar).

Copyright or Public Domain?

Random or Thematic (regular readings)

Comedy or Drama

Cold Reads is an open pool of ordinary people everywhere who like to read great plays out loud, in company, without rehearsal (cold). We gather in groups of three or four to a dozen, once in a while (some every week), whenever someone picks a play, confirms a time and place, and invites other readers.

It’s like a book club for people who enjoy plays, but can’t afford the theatre.

It’s better than a book club, since we share the read at once, together, all of us taking parts.

On one hand, it’s as simple as picking a play and calling some friends.
Anyone can do it any time.

At the other end of the spectrum is the dream of a worldwide network of social media groups whose members post events inviting members of the pool to read and sharing the experience with others.

In between are many options.

How It Happens

How Does It Work?

QUITE SIMPLY: Someone (anyone, like you)—the Host—downloads a play and shares it with some friends. If they enjoy it, maybe, once in a while, they do it again. Maybe one of the friends reads a play with other friends, who do the same. That’s grass at its very roots.

On a broader scale play reading groups worldwide read once a month, like a book club (or weekly, like church). Formats range from type-cast and rehearsed (not cold) staged readings for paying audiences, with discussion after, to more intimate gatherings, like Cold Reads, where everyone reads roles, at random, and discussions occur as issues arise.

Most of these groups are on line via social media (MeetUp, FaceBook) and welcome new readers (and audiences) with open arms. JOIN ONE!

If there’s not a group near you, LAUNCH ONE! It’s easy. Comment below and we’ll help.

Blueprint for Cold Reads

The parent FaceBook group is Cold Reads/Charlotte, NC, with roughly 200 members, reading weekly since 2004,

Cold Reads is an open pool of ordinary people everywhere who like to read great plays out loud, in company, without rehearsal (cold).

On one hand, it’s as simple as picking a play and calling some friends.
Anyone can do it any time.

At the other end of the spectrum is the dream of a worldwide network of social media groups whose members post events inviting members of the pool to read and sharing the experience with others.

In between are many options.

How long does a Cold Read last?

That depends on many things. How long is the play? How much talk does it generate? What happens before and after? Who shows up on time? When does the venue close? How long can one sit in a coffee shop?

Ideally (idyllically) a read is a four hour evening, with cocktails, Act One, dinner, Act Two, coffee and dessert, or a weekend afternoon by a lake, with a picnic. Typically, it takes three at least, with a little time to say hello and moderate discussion (evenings, 7:00-10:00, with hors d’oeurves).

There are those, on the other hand (Graham Fennel Smith, for one) who feel no need for discussion, and who, by reading very fast could finish in ninety minutes. That would be fun too.

We’re reading one-acts at the library because they close at eight. At least we’ll finish a few of the five.

For several reasons, Thursday mornings at Julia’s we normally read half a play a week, allowing time before to socialize and plenty of time for discussion. Those who can’t make both can read the half they miss on line. We find the pleasure is truly more in the process than the story line.

A Typical Read (with Options)

Readings begin promptly at the specified time. Readers may come early or stay late to socialize.

The Host (or a designated moderator) reads the front matter (title, author, characters, setting, time) and pertinent stage directions. This person also responsible for keeping discussion on topic and concise.

Any Reader recites the first line of dialogue and assumes that role; another takes the second, and so on, until all roles in the scene are filled.  After several pages (or end of the scene), the process repeats with different readers.

OPTION:
A host may choose to invite a reader for each role according to type who reads that role (and others, if need be) throughout.

At any time a reader may interject a comment, ask for clarification, share an insight, spark a brief discussion,

I don’t know anything about plays.

Moderator concept.

Our reasons are explained

Briefly

Cold Reads is an open pool of ordinary people everywhere who like to read great plays out loud, without rehearsal (cold).

It’s like a book club for people who enjoy plays, but can’t afford the theatre.

It’s better than a book club, since we share the read at once, together, all of us taking parts.

We gather in groups of three or four to a dozen, once in a while (some every week), whenever someone picks a play, confirms a time and place, and invites other readers.

We don’t act—we explore the text.

There is no audience.

Some of us are theatre folk; most have never set foot on stage. We take roles regardless of sex, age, or type, and swap around so everybody reads.

Now and then we stop to clarify, share insights, debate issues, wisecrack. Sometimes we don’t get to the end. The end is not the point.

Likely Venues

Theatre lobbies, community centers, coffee shops, art galleries, pubs, classrooms, churches, clubhouses, parks…

And, of course, YOUR LIVING ROOM. Why not have some friends for dinner and a play. It’s more fun than Trivial Pursuit. At present, we read only in Charlotte, NC. Our hope is to expand the pool and establish chapters all over the world.

invite2

Get to know fellow readers,

sign up to read on the Cold Reads Group Events page,
and engage in group discussion on Cold Reads Charlotte.

Join this WordPress Blog blog to publish your own posts and pages, set up a group for your home town.

And Spread the Word!

in any way we can, from providing on-line scripts to outlines Cold Read options, from occasional social gatherings among friends in living rooms open invitations through FaceBook group events, in living rooms to coffee shops, For the first two thousand years and more of Western Civilization—from Thespis the Greek (534 BCE) to long after Shakespeare—the only way ordinary people knew about the world at large (besides the Church) was Theatre. They couldn’t read.

And what those people learned from watching plays, imagined by the greatest writers of all time, determined how they acted, what they thought and felt, believed and stood by throughout human history, and ultimately shaped the world we live in now.

So if we don’t go to the theatre, we can read plays.

Cold Reads is an open pool of many likely readers, of whom any four to a dozen or so congregate now and then to read and reflect on a great (or original) play.

FLEX SCHEDULE!
Readings take place at varying times and places posted here (left sidebar) and scheduled as Cold Reads FaceBook Group Events.

NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED!Cold Reads 1
Anyone who likes to read can join the pool. Members of all ages range from veteran actors to their erstwhile audience, many of whom have never been on stage.

It’s FREE!
There are no dues or fees.  (We do accept small donations from those with means to help maintain our library of scripts.)

NO COMMITMENT!
Members of the pool attend whenever they can and feel like it. Just sign up and show up.

CONSENSUS RULES!
Plays are chosen from a list of titles (playwrights, periods) suggested by members of the pool. Anyone who hosts a read can pick the play; otherwise, a volunteer (or a volunteer committee) chooses.

S.O.P.
One member of the pool plays host (stage manager/referee) to keep track of time and moderate discussion. The following protocols apply:

  • Readings start on the dot. Some folks come early (or stay late) to socialize, make plans, solve the world’s problems.
  • Roles are spontaneously assumed regardless of gender, race, or age, and shuffled frequently, so everyone gets to read.
  • Reticent readers are encouraged; hams are booed and hissed.
  • Now and then we stop to connect the dots, reflect, share thoughts.

READING LIST
Our reading list is eclectic, from the Greeks to post-modern Now. Often we group plays by period or genre, sampling several playwrights, sometimes several plays by one (20 by Eugene O’Neill). At some point someone says “What next?” and we take a vote.

Current and upcoming plays appear in the left sidebar. To see the list of plays we’ve read over the years (and to suggest new titles and playwrights), click the Repertoire tab.

Other tabs (at the top of every page) lead to the convoluted History of Cold Reads, a statement of its Philosophy, its past (and proposed) Repertoire, Questions & Answers, and an invitation to become a contributing Member. The Chatter tab is where members blog.

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THIS SITE IS (CONTINUALLY) UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Much of it remains near gibberish.

But from it some day will emerge a practice that will save humanity!

Of course, one may ask “Why read plays at all?”  Plays are meant to be performed. Why not just go to the theatre?”

By all means, PLEASE DO! The world would be a better place if people went to the theatre half as often as they sleep through a sermon. Theatre is the Temple of Humanity. But frankly, for a lot of very good (and very bad) reasons (which this blog addresses), that’s something most Americans rarely (if ever) do.

But even if we don’t go to the theatre, we can still read plays.

Which means even those few of us who still read books of poetry and prose know don’t know very much about dramatic literature.ThreeLeggedStool

That’s one whole leg of the literary stool (Poetry, Prose, Drama).

It’s the only leg most ordinary people knew for the first two thousand years of Western Civilization. People couldn’t read. Novels weren’t invented until 1605, when Cervantes published Volume One of Don Quixote. Before then all the and more it was the way most ordinary people learned what went on in the world, from storytellers, poets, minstrels, troubadours, and actors (they couldn’t read).  From the Ancient Greeks and Romans through Medieval church plays and the Renaissance, through Shakespeare and Moliere Thespis (534 BCE) to Shakespeare and beyond, although the year before he died, his Spanish counterpart, Cervantes, published Don Quixote, the first (and some say the best) modern novel.

n novel.contemporary, the most influential when Cervantes, his contemporary, wrote the first novel and more people learned to read.  , the lesser sit-com Romans, Medieval church and cycle plays, the Renaissance, the Elizabethans,  Plays have become the plays. One reason we read plays is to rediscover the lost leg of the literary mine the works of writers who, for the first two thousand years of western civilization,

But So how do we re-acquaint ourselves with this third leg of the literary stool? , with poetry and prose?

stories about people (always) coming to grips with life.

, and in so doing, we throw out the baby (play) with the bathwater (show).

Show is Spectacle, the last and least of Aristotle’s Elements of Drama, without which no play “comes to life,” but which is by no means its essence. Plot, Character, Thought, Language, and Rhythm are all in the script.

Because they’re The only difference is that plays are all in quotes (and stage directions),  circumstance.

Notwithstanding the fact that a play is intended to be seen and heard, not read like a book, but for a lot of very good (and very bad) reasons, Americans rarely go to the theatre, which means we have no knowledge of the works of the most thoughtful, creative never . we don’t go to the theatre; but because the price of a seat is more than ordinary folk can afford as often as we might like; and because what we do see and hear too often is not well written or poorly performed, and for a lot more very bad good reasons (so much else to do!), plays have slipped into literary oblivion. But for the first two thousand years and more of Western Civilization, from Thespis the Greek (534 BCE) to long after Shakespeare, the only way people knew about the world (besides the Church). They couldn’t read. It was what they learned from actors on the stage, playing roles in stories made up by the greatest writers of their times, that influenced how they acted, what they thought and felt and did, which ultimately shaped the world we live in now.

It’s entertaining. Better than most parlor games.

It’s challenging.  Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually.

It’s humanizing. We walk in another’s shoes.

    1. It’s fun.
    2. It’s easy.
    3. It’s interactive
    4. It’s stimulating
    5. It’s instructive
    6. It’s an alternative for people who can’t afford live theatre (and incentive to attend)
    7. It’s human history
    8. It’s entertaining
    9. It’s uplifting
    10. It’s essential to humane society.

Think About It

SAVE THE STAGE PLAY!

So Much for Spectacle
“The Play’s the Thing”

Ideally, of course, a play should be performed on stage, with scenery, costumes, lights, sound, properties, effects. People don’t read plays.

Unfortunately, high prices (and mediocre productions), among many other things, keep most ordinary people out of theatre in droves. Only one in twelve Americans saw a single play in 2012 (down from one in eight just ten years earlier), and that one saw an average of fewer than three.  92% saw none!
If live theatre isn’t dead, it’s withering away.

Without launching (yet) into the many reasons why live theatre remains essential to humane society, we mustn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Spectacle was sixth and last (and least) of Aristotle’s Elements. Plot, character, thought, diction, and rhythm are contained within the script, the human comedy, the drama.
Who needs scenery?
Who needs actors? We have the words.

Think About It

, never experience the rich world of drwe throw out the baby (play) with the bathFace the fact: Live theatre is nearly dead. For reasons ranging from cost and quality to philistine attitudes and stereotypes, most ordinary Americans never darken the doors. (In 2012, fewer than one in twelve saw a single straight play—down from one in eight in 2102.)

Yet when you think, it’s obvious: more than anything else we humans do, live theatre expresses and explores, exclusively and comprehensively—and powerfully, theatrically—what it means to be human. Without it, humankind is less humane.

More to the point, our culture is virtually ignorant of one of three legs of the literary stool (poetry, prose, drama). Two thousand years from the Greeks to Shakespeare (when the novel came along) to the Pulitzer playwrights of today are ignored because their plays are not performed (or not well), they cost too much, other things to do…

Cold Reads offers a solution that keeps the baby (play) at the expense of the bathwater (show).

Our purpose is simply  to read the play aloud and comment as we go.

It’s not to perform. Other groups stage readings for the public; we investigate the script, like actors at a first rehearsal—”table work.”

Not that insight, intuition, wit, expression, “feelings,” aren’t most welcome; just remember many readers may have never been on stage, and they get equal time.

Roles are assumed regardless of gender, age, or race and shuffled every so often so everyone gets to read (and no one gets attached to a role).

Occasionally (rarely) a play can be cast so that readers maintain the same roles throughout.  A spin-off group might even form specifically for that purpose; Cold Reads is blind and indiscriminate.

A volunteer stage manager brings scripts, reads stage directions, monitors discussion for time.

Courtesies

Some readers will be

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The Ticket-of-Leave Man

Click below to download the script to a reader or printer.

The Ticket-of-Leave Man

by Tom Taylor

About the Play
The Ticket-of-Leave Man is an 1863 stage melodrama in four acts by the British writer Tom Taylor, based on a French drama, Le Retour de Melun. It takes its name from the Ticket of Leave issued to convicts when they were released from jail on parole. A recently returned convict is blackmailed by another man into committing a robbery, but is rescued thanks to the intervention of a detective. It has been described as probably being the first play about a detective.

The play introduced the character of Hawkshaw the Detective, with “Hawkshaw” becoming a synonym for a detective. It was not well received by critics, but proved very popular with audiences and was constantly revived, becoming one of the standard works of Victorian melodrama.

 

Unrehearsed Discoveries of Great Plays