In his Ars Poetica, the ancient Roman, Horace, wrote that
every play should either instruct or delight—better if it does both.
“Mix pleasure and profit, and you are safe.”
The pleasure in a cold read is described in Fun and Games.
This page begins to explore the profits.
Cold Reads Make Us Better People
Aside from startling scientific proof that simply reading text out loud dramatically extends the cognitive capacity of the human brain—that proof alone well worth the time and effort (our brains are who we are)—personal benefits of cold reading range from exercising and improving reading, speaking, and social skills on several levels to creative thinking and a lively imagination, all the while developing developing awareness and appreciation of dramatic literature, and coming to a deeper understanding of ourselves and humankind.
Essays on how cold reads make us better people are posted in Category Enrichment.
Here’s the gist.
As Others See (and Hear) Us
Who we are and what we show the world are night and day. Others see external us, our size and shape, our posture, facial features and expressions, body language, grooming, dress, things we do. But mostly they know us by what they hear us say (and how we say it). That’s where Cold Reads comes in.
A cold read simultaneously, subconsciously, expands and enhances reading comprehension and automatically encourages us to speak clearly and distinctly (with expression)—skills that are useful in the Game of Life. Reading plays with others reinforces these skills, and the improvisational structure of a cold read goes by the basic rules: listen closely, react spontaneously, argue politely, coherently, and concisely, and play fair (don’t hog the stage).
The more we read, the better we get, the more self-confident we feel; the more we are aware of both ourselves and other people—and when these benefits spill over to our daily lives, we’re better-equipped for interviews, cordial debates, serious discussions, idle conversations, while our friends remark with envy on the change.
These benefits are apparent to the world outside ourselves. Less obvious but more meaningful are what happens on the inside.
Ideally, we see plays performed on stage by actors in costume, with scenery and props. A cold read takes place in the mind. The more we read, the more we’re able to picture who and where we are in the game. Imagination is magic.
And we learn so many things, beginning with the play itself, a world to itself, created by the playwright god—its setting and the story in his words, with meaning, melody, and (in our minds) its spectacle. It captures our attention, tells a story, makes us laugh or cry, rises to a climax, and concludes with a moral lesson. If it both “instructs and delights,” we also learn a lot about ourselves and human history, and where we fit in the real world.
The more historic plays we read, the more we understand the role dramatic art has played in the western world since Ancient Greece—what playwrights thought and people did and felt, believed, lived through, all back through history, and what the audience actually saw and heard on stage before we learned to read. We learn how theatre emerged from pagan ritual and used to institute democracy. How throughout history, religion and the state have used it to incite the masses to their advantage and banned it when it threatened their interests. Theatre had magic power.
We also look at plays today, swept into a corner by the proliferation of less rewarding pastimes, and realize that they’re just as good as yesteryear’s and better; but few people see them and they’re rarely published.
We further come to recognize plays as literary—one of the Big Three (Poetry, Prose, and Drama.) Although it’s written to be played, it’s also literature, in poetry or prose, as dialogue. One reads books and poems in solitude, in silence. A play comes alive when it’s spoken.
Of course, it really comes alive on stage, and reading plays may prompt us to attend productions, see live actors playing roles they’ve studied and rehearsed. The ultimate goal of CR/I is to popularize live theatre (see The Wholly Human Art.)
Go See a Play!
Whether played or read, however, over time, we come to realize that all of us are actors, never mind our firm convictions otherwise. That’s what people do; we act. Look up both words: to act is to do; to do is to act. Everything we say and do is acting—we learn by imitating, imitate for fun; we all play different roles, depending on our company; we improvise situations, conversations; we tell stories, joke around, express emotions. Think about it.
The only difference between stage actors and the rest of the world is that they (sometimes) know what they’re doing (and don’t mind doing it). We all interact with others, talk and gesture, listen and observe, imitate, imagine, express our inner thoughts and feelings—these are the stuff of an actor’s training. “All the world’s a stage,” as Shakespeare says, “and all the men and women merely players.” Think about it.
It’s often said, with shaking head.
“You can’t escape the fact:
However clever children are,
They don’t know how to act.”
Reading plays may prompt us to take acting classes, try out for a play. Everybody Acts