OK, so you've perused the catalogs
and ordered some plays that won't stretch the resources
of your group to the breaking point. What do you look for
while you're reading it?
First of all, if you're an actor,
take off your actor's hat. Too often we actors get enthusiastic
about a play because there's a part in there that we'd kill
to play, and we neglect to notice that while that one part
is really well-written, the rest of it is awful, or the
lighting requirements are impossible, or the subject matter
is too banal or too controversial, or whatever. One good
part does not make a show. Remember, you're trying to decide
if this play is good for your group to do.
Second, you have to read the WHOLE
thing, not just the lines. This includes the cast of characters,
author's notes, stage directions, everything.
Start with the cast of characters,
and read any descriptions the author might have provided.
Do there seem to be any special requirements there - age
range, foreign accents, physical attributes like great strength
or a weight problem? Make note of those, especially any
that might cause a problem, and move on to the setting.
What is the locale? How is the room laid out? Any special
set pieces needed? How many entrances and exits? Is there
more than one floor? If there's a set diagram provided in
the back, check it out, then try to imagine the set in your
head - this will help you to visualize the action as you
Read the play. As you read, notice
any technical requirements, which are generally referred
to in the stage directions. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Unusual costumes, props or set pieces that may
have to be made, rented or borrowed
- Special effects
(smoke, fire, disappearing objects,gun fired on stage,
- Quick set changes
- Quick costume changes
- Specialty lighting
- Unusual sound cues
Notice how the dialog and stage directions advance the
plot. With a good play, you should answer "yes" to the following
- Is an interesting problem or theme set out within
the first few pages?
- Does the action flow with a natural and believable
progression (is it making sense)?
- Are the language and situations appropriate for
your target audience?
- Do you want to know what's going to happen next?
- Is it making you laugh or chuckle? (for comedies)
- Are you interested in why the characters are behaving
as they are? (especially true for dramas/murder mysteries)
Pay attention to the characters as well. If they're well
written, you should answer "yes" to the following questions:
- Are the characters interesting?
- Are they original?
(as opposed to stereotypes)
- Do you care about the characters?
- Do their words and actions paint a picture for you of what they're like?
Read the play all the way to the end (including any stage
directions that follow the last line of dialog). With a
good play, you should be able to answer "yes" to the following:
Was the ending believable?
Did it surprise you or make you think?
- Did the author take time to tie up all the loose
- Would you want to read more of this author's plays?
To sum it up, ask yourself the following:
- Did you like it?
- Can you cast it?
- Can you build the set?
- Can your group handle the technical requirements?
And finally, the most important question, unless you've got a generous funding source that doesn't rely on ticket sales:
- Will your audience pay good money to see it?