There are so many powerful arguments for reading plays aloud with others that I can’t seem to arrange them all into a cohesive statement. Given that Americans are overwhelmingly oblivious to theatre, to say nothing of its awesome literature, I wonder where to begin.
Each of the following headings links to a litany of answers to the question, “WHY?” beginning with the classic comeback, “Why Not?“
Cold Reads are Easy, Free, and FUN
To start with, they’re a delightful avocational pastime, like anything else we do for interactive fun with other people, from parlor games and hobby groups to concerts, ball games, church—you name it. If they weren’t fun, we wouldn’t do it. (We never know until we try.)
It’s like a book club, except we read aloud (since plays are all spoken dialog), and we talk about them (and ourselves) as we read, instead of after.
It’s like a parlor game, a jigsaw puzzle, a treasure hunt, bridge or poker, Trivial Pursuit, speaking lines in turn like playing cards or tokens on a board.
It’s all so simple! We can read at any time, in any quiet, comfy place, with nothing to prepare and no cleanup; all it takes is an e-book and whatever time we have to read.
It Makes Us Better People
Benefits of Cold Reads range from personal growth and cultural awareness to a collective appreciation of the human condition and a recognition of our commonality. Many are astounding and profound. For instance, science tells us Reading Aloud Builds Up the Brain.
And did it ever occur to you that for the first 2000 years of western civilization, people couldn’t read? All they knew of what was written was recited to them from a stage. If we never see (or read) these plays, we don’t know human history.
Clicking on these links lists all related posts by date. Corresponding Menu topics under Why Reads Plays (above) open introductory pages with links to pertinent posts (see below).
Why NOT Read Plays?
There are many more reasons people don’t read plays than there are people, since most have many reasons. Lame Excuses and related links examine and debunk them all.
Plays on Stage
Why Not Live Theatre?
Nothing in the world compares to a well-made play well played.
Sadly, plays on stage these days are all too few,
those few too often mediocre, and they cost too much.
That said, without live theatre, people are less humane and,
sadly, only one in twelve of us sees even one a year.
If people saw plays as often as they go to church
(or ball games, concerts, movies, yard sales, bars)
the world would be a better place.
examines this astounding notion,
with link to posts that prove it
See More Plays!
A cold read is much the same and very, very different.
Theatre is Spectacle—the last (and least) of Aristotle’s
Elements of Drama.
Actors, costumes, scenery, lights, effects may bring a play to life,
but Plot and Character, Meaning, Language, Mood
happen in the dialog—the words.
Drama is Literature!
The following links correspond to the topics that appear when the cursor hovers over Why Read Plays? above. Each opens an introductory page with with links to recommended posts.
Note: Many of these posts are still in fragments.
If play reading wasn’t loads of fun I wouldn’t do it myself, much less dedicate my life to preaching the Cold Reads gospel. It takes no preparation, makes no mess, and it’s FREE. What more could one ask?
A cold read is a social event with a purpose, like bridge or poker, any parlor game (charades, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit), Bible study, baseball, golf—our game is Play. (Serendipity: play means play.)
Plays are puzzles—spoken words assembled to tell stories; who says what to whom and when, where, why, and to what moral end? Just like novels, only we read them in silence, to ourselves; plays are conversations, so we share them, reading lines aloud, in turn, like playing cards or tokens on a board, interspersed with comments, questions, lots of laughs (some shocks and horrors), stimulating conversations on wide-ranging topics triggered by the contents of the play.
Some of us have fun playing with our roles—more so the more we read; others laugh at us and read for meaning. Both are fun.
Not to mention that it’s free, requires no preparation, happens almost anywhere, and takes as little as fifteen minutes (or several hours) to enjoy.
Beginning with the scientific proof that Reading Aloud Builds Up the Brain, the benefits of this pastime range from enhanced reading, speaking (clearly and distinctly), and interpersonal communication skills (listening, engaging) to awareness and appreciation of the literary art of Drama (Poetry and/or Prose as dialog) and a deeper understanding of oneself and humankind.
Among other things, it stimulates imagination, improves knowledge of human history, generates self-confidence, and fosters friendships based on mustal experience.
For the first two thousand years of Western Civilization, the only form if literature available to the vast majority of humankind was Drama.
Think about it.
Books were copied out by hand, and people couldn’t read. What they knew of Poetry and Prose was spoken dialogue.
Ergo, poets and philosophers from the Ancient Greeks to long past Shakespeare who wanted to address the masses all wrote plays.
Ergo, these plays present first-hand accounts of what the world was like when they were written.
The implications of this revelation will astonish you.
Even now, although most people barely know their names, playwrights show us more of who we are as human beings interacting among ourselves than any other medium.
Human history begins with cave men telling stories around a fire. A cold read continues that tradition.
It’s no secret that the human race is on the verge of Armageddon from any one or three of a dozen or so cataclysmic events, and that our only hope is that we come to our collective senses, recognize our one true common bond, and devote ourselves to the common good.
Simply stated, cold reads are the best first step in humanizing human beings to avoid (if possible) the coming doom.
The argument assumes the ultimate restoration of Theatre to its rightful place as the Temple of Humanism envisioned in Page vs Stage. People go to church to find God and the Afterlife; theatre is about people on earth. Of the two, humanity most needs its collective self.
By reading plays, at least we become aware of their literary existence. We absorb their literary substance, truth and beauty, meaning, and imagine them performed by actors; we spend some time in a character’s shoes and learn to recognize our selves in other people. That’s a good first step to re-humanization.
Once we know the literary form, we’re far more likely to attend performances (maybe learn too act), support live theatre, get involved in efforts to encourage talent, lower costs, proliferate, promote, until there are as many legitimate theaters as there are houses of worship.
Religion splits people into sects, sports into warring factions. Only theatre engages and exclusively explores our universal common bond. Once we truly understand we’re all in the same boat, maybe we’ll have time to get together and save the world.