If you’re reading with friends in your living room, scheduling is a simple matter of finding a convenient time. The following guidelines pertain to open reads in public places.
Any two people can read together, each taking multiple roles as needed, but it’s better in a group, from a foursome up to ten. More than a dozen is too many, even for a cast of thousands, and suggests splitting into two (or more) simultaneous reads, followed by a general talk-back.
Who these readers are depends upon who you invite. Most likely you’ll begin with people you know. Invite them as you would to a party, via phone (or text), snail or e-mail, social media.
If your friends don’t read, reach out to strangers. Pick a play, a time, and public place (these will be strangers), and publicize. See the post on Invitations for guidelines and examples.
Or check out any of the many institutions that offer community activities and suggest a cold reads class, to introduce the avocation and recruit readers for a perpetual pool. Volunteer to moderate a short-term learning seminar (three related plays, 6-8 weeks) at a senior center, or a full semester at your local community college. Or a church study group that explores religious plays. You don’t need to be an expert, just get the ball rolling, make sure everybody reads, encourage conversation, and moderate (keep the read on track).
Or start a group on line and share it on related sites to recruit readers. A private group lets you pick and choose; a public group is open to all users, and will likely grow into a populous pool of potential readers (most of whom will never read), any one of whom can host a read, inviting selected members or the group at large. The broader the scope, the more likely readers will be strangers, from all walks of life, whose only common interest is cold-reading plays. (See Connect On Line.)
Readers come for different reasons; all have unique personalities. . Some simply like the sound of their own voices; others care more about the plot; still others get more from discussing than from reading. Some come to expand their knowledge; others are just lonely.
Some read every month (or week) with others who do the same, as a cohesive “Just Us” group. Others may join an open group and show up once in a blue moon, for a play that interests them. Group dynamics will determine how these elements balance out, so long as everyone’s included, no one misbehaves, and conflicts are resolved without bloodshed. Otherwise, the Host (or Moderator) leads the agenda.
For private reads, if not in living rooms, consider a library, school or church classroom, office, conference room, community center, dressing room—any place with comfy chairs, adequate light, a power source, and no distractions.
On the other hand, a public read might attract the notice of passers-by (an accidental audience), who might be encouraged to join in—as they might any public conversation (which is what plays are); maybe they’ll join up. Options range from coffee shops and pubs (in off hours) to book stores and art galleries—any place that’s comfy and relatively quiet (no loud music).
Many (most) venues charge for private space. Those that don’t must still be scheduled in advance. Public space is free by definition, although it’s best to consult with the management regarding days and times the group would be most welcome.
Some groups bounce around from place to place; others find a permanent home, ideally partnered with and featured in the program of a compatible establishment (library, theatre, book store).
Date and Time
What days and times available at your chosen venue best suit you and your readers? (Or, conversely, what venues are available when your readers can attend?)
Readers who work nine-to-five can only come nights and weekends; seniors don’t like to drive at night; many have regular commitments elsewhere. Survey the group for availability and preferences.
A typical full-length read takes a full morning, afternoon, or evening: time to gather and greet; a couple of hours (or more) to read (and discuss)—three hours total. Some plays, however (most of Shakespeare, for example) take three hours or more to read, and some plays generate lengthy discussions. In such cases, consider scheduling two or more sessions—or read/discuss till time runs out and finish on your own.
At the other extreme, a Ten-Minute Play can be fully explored over coffee.
Specify a time to start, and stick to it. Readers may come early (or stay after) to catch up and socialize.
In its simplest form, a cold read is a few people getting together to discover a play. Other forms depend on the occasion. Throw a dinner party, for example (dine at intermission). Read a one-act over lunch.
How about a Shakespeare’s Birthday marathon of famous scenes at a local pub, where anyone can read a role? Or a musical comedy sing-a-long.
Regular readers may pre-read plays they plan to see (for the hard of hearing). Some groups invite guest scholars and artists to moderate and enlighten the read.
Picture a Cold Reads Weekend Retreat in the mountains (at the beach) to read a trilogy and relax—or (in time, perhaps) a Cold Reads Convention in Chicago with dozens of reads taking place at all hours.
There are as many types of occasion as there are creative minds to think them up. Several are suggested in Occasions and related posts.
Continue to Play by the Rules.