A rehearsed reading of a new play by Gavin Harrison
So… Directing a rehearsed reading. HOW exactly?
For those who may not know a rehearsed reading is when actors perform a play with very little rehearsal (often only a day) with the scripts in their hands. Its purpose is often to present a new play for feedback, or to interest producers, occasionally it may be a well-known play not performed for a while and so on. Every month this year The So and So Arts Club will be hosting a rehearsed reading of a new play at Samuel French and I was incredibly lucky to kick off the events with my good friend Gavin Harrison’s play. Killing Edward is a very dark comedy that I have been working with Gavin on for over a year now. Manly edits and re-writes galore. The chance for it to be ‘read’ by brilliant actors and to get feedback was a chance of a lifetime for us.
And brilliant they were! Cast entirely from So and So Club members (Gavin and I are members too) the performers were (in order of appearance);
We were given two days for this mammoth 2 and half hour play (needs to be shorter Gav!) The first thing we did as a group was read the play, obviously, taking in stage directions, descriptions of set and characters. I decided that as a group (including our talented SM Bernie C Byrnes*)we needed to choose what would be said, left out or acted for the audience as to give the best impression of the story and the characters. Next and most importantly we edited it, because I have hinted at, it was too long.
Actors are sensitive editors. Always allow their opinion on text. If a good actor wants a line cut, it’s probably either because it’s (a) unnecessary (b) he or she can act whatever is being said (c) its bad!
Of course, you must be circumspect and keep your eye on the whole story and emotional arch. A suggested cut was put forward for Killing Edward which I gently rebuffed, knowing it was a major turning point in understanding not only for the actors as well as the audience. I was smugly satisfied when its importance was recognised at the reading….
Then, in terms of directing, I let them get on with it. As we read and edited we discussed subtext, timing, the character’s relationships and characteristics, I prodded opinions or styles as needed; otherwise I let them play. And when we put its on it feet, I let them figure it out with guidance when an external eye was needed. Again that’s the wonderful thing about experienced and instinctive actors, if you let them they will work it out. When you have a good script and a great cast, sometimes it’s important as the director to step back out of the way and just know when to gently steer them when they take the wrong road…As a self confessed control freak it’s actually quite enjoyable.
*Note who you have in the room, everyone has additional skills. Whilst Bernie was our SM for the two days, she is also a director and dramaturge and her editing skills were top notch.