This ‘How to’ assumes that you already have a group of people who want to read the play. (Another ‘How to’ gives you some hints on how to get that group of people if you haven’t got one).
There are five main steps to getting organised technically for a playreading using an MFFE playreading pack:
The first is to choose the play from the Players-Shakespeare.com web-site, acquire it, and download the various files to your computer.
The second step is to distribute the play to the people in your playreading group who may come to the reading.
The third step is to load the e-readers that will be used at the play-reading with the play. Different techniques work best for different e-readers.
The fourth step is to print out the castcards ready for the reading.
The fifth step is to get everyone together and read the play.
There are many different ways you can do each of these steps, but to help you get started, this ‘How to’ outlines how the Edinburgh Shakespeare playreading group does it. Once you’ve got going, feel free to change this process to do what suits your group best.
Before we go through each of these steps it is worth saying that it us useful to have someone who is vaguely technically competent in using the Internet, and in using one or more e-readers involved in this set-up.
Step 1: Get hold of an MFFE Playreading Pack
We find it best to do this step on a PC / Laptop. We usually use a Windows PC, but this does work on a Linux (Ubuntu) box, and should work on an iMac.
The key thing is that you should know where ‘Downloads’ are stored on your PC / Laptop, so that you can email them to your members, and perhaps move them to e-readers.
Start up a web browser and go to https://players-shakespeare.com/playreading-packs/ where you will find a list of the current MFFE playreading packs available, and choose the one you want, by clicking on the image of the play.
You’ll be taken to a ‘Playreading Pack product page’ which shows you the details of what you’re acquiring. If you’re sure this is the Playreading Pack you want to acquire, then click on the ‘Purchase’ button, which will show the price of the product (or Free).
The ‘Purchase’ button will then change to a ‘Checkout’ button. You can either acquire further playreading packs or click on the ‘Checkout’ button.
When you go to ‘Checkout#, you’ll be taken through a conventional purchase process. You’ll be taken to a Paypal payment screen where you can pay for the playreading packs you’ve selected with a Debit / Credit card, or your Paypal account. If your Playreading Pack is free, you’ll be taken to the ‘Purchase Confirmation’ page.
Once you’ve paid (or if the playreading pack you’ve chosen is free), you’ll be taken to a ‘Purchase Confirmation’ page which shows the playreading pack you’ve acquired, and a list of the files you can now download. You’ll also be sent an email with download links to all the files. You can download the files online, by clicking on each link, or from the Purchase Confirmation email.
After you have downloaded these files, you have the Playreading Pack in the Download folder of your Windows PC / Linux (Ubuntu) PC, or iMac.
Step 2: Distribute the files to your playreading group:
Most playreading groups probably send an email to those members of the group who are coming to a particular playreading, to tell them the date, time, and place of the playreading.
If the playreading will use an MFFE playreading pack, then we suggest you attach the three different versions of the play (epub for Apple & Android: azw3 or mobi for Kindle; and pdf for Adobe Reader or for printing), to that email.
This ensures that the readers have the copies of the play in MFFE format, and can load the correct version onto their e-reader.
Step 3: Distribute Load the play onto your playreading group’s e-readers
MFFE plays in epub, azw3/mobi, and pdf format, can be loaded on pretty much any e-reader, using pretty much any e-reader software. One thing you might like to consider is that MFFE uses colour fairly extensively, so there are some benefits in choosing an e-reader with a colour screen.
Here you’ll find outline instructions for the market-leading e-readers. In our view, they are:
Hardware e-Reader Software
Apple iPhone iBooks (Free)
Apple iPad iBooks (Free)
Android Smartphone Play Books (Free)
(Samsung / Nexus / etc)
Android Tablet Play Books (Free)
(Samsung / Nexus / etc)
Pretty much all Kindle (Free)
Pretty much all Adobe Reader
Note that in nearly all cases, you have to purchase the hardware (Smartphone, Tablet, or e-reader) but the software to read books comes free (though you often have to download it from the appropriate app store, if your Smartphone or Tablet is new).
You also need to be aware that most major e-reader suppliers sell the hardware and software so that they can then go on to sell e-books to the purchaser through their stores (iTunes, Amazon store, Google Play store). Although they allow you to add your own books (e.g. an MFFE play), they don’t exactly encourage you to do so.
So we really have four mainstream options:
iBooks (for Apple iPhone and iPad)
Play Books (for Android Smartphones and Tablets)
Kindle (for Kindle hardware, and smartphones and tablets)
Adobe Reader (pdf)
How do you get an MFFE play from your Email inbox to your e-reader software?
Open the email with the MFFE play attachments on your iPhone / iPad.
Tap on the epub attachment. The first time you do this, your iPhone / iPad will download the MFFE play to your iPhone / iPad.
Tap on the epub attachment again, after downloading the MFFE play.
You’ll be given an option to open the MFFE play in iBooks.
Tap on that option, and iBooks will open, and add the MFFE play to its library.
You’re done. The MFFE play will stay in the iBooks library until you delete it.
Now, tap on the MFFE play in the iBooks library. The play will open, and you can play at reading it, adjusting the font size to suit, turning pages etc., etc.
If you have an Android smartphone or tablet, you can also have a Google ‘Play Books’ account, a place ‘in the cloud’ where you can store e-books.
On that smartphone, if you open the email with the MFFE play attachment, and press and hold the icon for the epub attachment, you will be offered an option to upload the MFFE Play to your ‘Play books account’. Once you accept that option, the MFFE play will be uploaded to your ‘Play books account’.
Now, open ‘Play Books’ on your Android smartphone or tablet, go to ‘My Library’ and then to ‘Uploads’ and you’ll find your MFFE play (along with other Uploads).
Tap on the play cover, and the play will open in your e-reader, and you can read it, adjust the font and font size, page back and forwards, etc.
Note that the above process works on Android 4.4 (the latest version at the time of writing). If you are using an earlier version of Android, and this process doesn’t work, try opening the Google Play Books application on a PC and use the Upload process there to load the book to your Play books account. It will then become available on your Android smartphone / tablet when you open ‘Play Books’.
For many people, their first e-reader was an Amazon Kindle. Amazon provide a large range of Kindle e-readers, and also provide a ‘Kindle’ software App which runs on many environments including Apple iPad and iPhone & Android Smartphones & Tablets.
There are also extensive online functions at the Amazon web-site for managing your e-reader content. Here in the UK, you can find those functions by clicking on ‘Help’ on the Amazon web-site, then clicking on “Kindle” within the ‘Fire and Kindle’ sub-menu, and then clicking on ‘Manage your Content and Devices’.
In the ‘Settings’ section of this ‘Manage your Content and Devices’ you can set up email addresses for each Kindle device (hardware or software) you have. You can then email an azw3 / mobi ebook to that email address (from a designated email address), and Amazon will add the ebook to your Kindle device library.
Adobe Reader (pdf)
MFFE plays are also supplied in pdf format, for those that are familiar with, and prefer to use pdfs and read them with Adobe Reader, or other pdf-reading software.
This is perhaps most frequent on Windows / Linux (Ubuntu) / iMac laptops where most users are familiar with pdfs and Adobe Reader.
To make the MFFE play available to Adobe Reader, save the MFFE pdf attachment to an appropriate directory / folder, and then open it with Adobe Reader.
Other Software: Calibre, File Manager, and Sigil
The approaches we’ve outlined above rely on using the services of the e-reader suppliers (Amazon, Apple, Google).
Of course, once you’ve bought your e-reader, you can use it as you see fit (with the possible exception of Apple, who don’t like you to know and understand the file structures of their iPad / iPhone.
So you can take a more technical approach to loading MFFE plays onto your (non-Apple) e-reader as follows:
Attach your e-reader / smartphone / tablet to your Windows PC
Use Windows Explorer to find your e-book on the PC and ‘copy’ it to the correct folder on the e-reader / smartphone / tablet.
If this sounds a bit too technical for you, there’s a bit of free e-book management software called Calibre (download from https://calibre-ebook.com/ ) which will do this for you. It will also manage all your e-books, so that you can build a library of MFFE Shakespeare plays, and copy them to most e-readers. This also means that if you lose your e-reader, you don’t lose all your books – they’re still in your Calibre library.
Calibre also allows you to edit your e-books. So you can download an MFFE play, edit the epub version until it meets your production needs, and then convert it to azw3 and pdf formats.
We use Calibre to manage our e-book library and create the different versions of MFFE plays. We edit the plays in epub format, and Calibre neatly (well, with a bit of work) converts them to azw3 and pdf format.
Although we could use Calibre for editing the play, we actually use another free software product called Sigil, so if you’re into editing your own Shakespeare play, we’d suggest you look at Sigil (You can download it from: https://github.com/user-none/Sigil/releases )
Step 4: Print the castcards for the playreading
Phew, that was long and a bit technical. It sounds complicated, but actually each reader only has to load the MFFE play onto his/her e-reader, so the complexity is not that bad.
Now we’ve got a whole lot of readers coming to a play-reading, each with an e-reader (or hard printed copy of the play).
But there’s probably somewhere between 6 and 12 readers and there’s maybe 30 characters in the play. Who reads which parts?
This is where the castcards pdf comes in. They show how the characters in the play are allocated to the different readers.
If you have 10 people coming, then there’s a set of castcards for 10 readers, showing how the characters are allocated to those 10 readers.
Actually, if we have 10 people planning to come to a play-reading, I pre-pint castcards for 8, 9, and 10 people, becaue we often have last-minute cancellations. So we use the castcards for the number of people who actually show.
You still have to distribute individual castcards to each readers. We’ve tried a number of ways of doing this:
Someone ‘casts’ the reading, issuing each reader with a castcard (a recipe for grumbles)
Random allocation of castcards (each reader picks a castcard from the pack of castcards)
Readers choose which part they want to read. If more than one person wants to read the same castcard, the lucky winner is chosen by the toss of a coin. Sometimes if 2 people want to read the same role (e.g. Lear) the two readers swap castcards at the interval.
All these ways work, so it’s really up to what each playreading group prefers.
Step 5: Get everyone together and read the play