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The Three R's of Playreading - Part 3

Ratin' It

It's difficult to objectively rate a play - after all, how do you quantify words, ideas, feelings and reactions? After several years of wrestling with this problem, our playreading committee at the Kent County Theatre Guild eventually came up with a list of ratings for a set of criteria that a play must meet in order to be approved for production. While still subjective, they have given us an indication of a play's worth that's a little more reliable than "I loved it!" or "I hated it!" The most subjective part of the evaluation, the one that asks the question, "Is this a good play?," focuses on content.

We rate each play on a scale of 1 to 5 in six areas:

  • Action
    1= story was dull
    5 = highly interesting plot

  • Characterizations
    1= most characters undeveloped/dull
    5= highly-developed/interesting characters

  • Suspense/Dramatic Impact
    1= fell asleep reading it
    5= couldn't wait to see how it ends

  • Plot Development
    1= disjointed/confusing/unbelievable
    5=plot twists are expertly handled and neatly resolved

  • Entertainment Value
    1= none
    5 = highly entertaining/amusing

  • Educational Value
    1= none
    5 = intellectually challenging for actors and audiences

Note that comedies frequently rate high in entertainment value and low in educational value, while dramas are usually the opposite. These two areas usually balance each other out.

The content ratings are then averaged to give an overall content rating. When several people read and rate the same play (we require at least three playreading committee members to read a play for it to be considered), their overall content ratings are then averaged to come up with a group content rating. Plays that receive a group content rating of three or higher are considered decent plays that we should think about approving. And directors fight for plays that receive a 4.5 or more!

Content, however, is only part of the picture. Reviewers also report on cast size and any areas that may pose casting difficulties, technical requirements, and level of difficulty (where 1 is a play that's suitable for a new director and/or inexperienced actors, and 5 is a play that should only be attempted by an experienced director and cast). Audience appeal is another vital area to be considered in evaluating a play. Is it suitable for children or should it be performed mainly for an adult audience? Is there a controversial theme? Sexual innuendo? Profanity? All of these can enter into a decision about whether the play is or is not suitable for your audience.

Finally, there's the reviewer's overall opinion and recommendation. It's a subjective summary, to be sure, but can often be the tool to use in deciding whether your group wants to recommend a play for production or not.

Read on to find out how you can download the forms we use in evaluating plays.


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