We spend a lot of time telling you all that we support cast lists, cue scripts, and highlight text, but we’ve never bothered to explain what they are, so we’re going to do that in this article.
I’m going to spend the least time on cue scripts, because I think that’s fairly familiar to most people involved with Shakespearean drama.
In Shakespeare’s times, actors were not given the whole script of the play. Why? – we think partly to protect the copyright of the play, and partly to reduce the cost of producing the actors’ scripts which were copied out by hand.
So what did the actor get? Each actor was given a list of all the speeches he had to make, and a cue for each speech which told the actor when to say it. In addition, hung up backstage was the platt – a list of stage directions, mainly entrances and exits, so that the actors knew when to enter and exit.
There are a lot of advantages for an actor to have such a script, particularly because Shakespeare uses the cue script to achieve special effects.
Our cue script format combines the cue script and the platt so each actor gets the lines and cues for their character(s)’ speeches, and the stage directions.
What’s a cast list and why do I need it?
If you want a small group of people to play-read a Shakespeare play, you’ve got a problem. A Shakespeare play often contains around 30 roles, some with 700 lines or more, some with 1 line.
To get a small group (say 8 to 10) people to play-read a Shakespeare play, each play reader has to read more than one role. Ideally, everyone should get a principal role to read, and the minor roles should be distributed amongst the readers so as to ‘even up’ the size of the parts.
We’ve written some software which does that. It takes all the roles in the play and distributes them among the readers. This is a bit abstract, so let’s look at a practical cast list which comes from our One Hour Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here’s the cast list for 8 players for that play:
|Player2||Lysander, Quince, Mustardseed|
|Player3||Helena, Titania, Philostrate|
|Player4||Hermia, Flute, Hippolyta, Cobweb|
|Player6||Oberon, Starveling, Moth|
|Player7||Theseus, Fairy, Peaseblossom|
Now, I think this is a really interesting casting, which no director would think of. Here’s some of what I think is interesting:
- It’s a stroke of genius to cast Bottom and Egeus for the same player. Bottom, the working-class, pushy actor, with Egeus, the pompous upper-class father trying to control his daughter.
- It’s gender-neutral (Helena with Philostrate; Hermia with Flute)
- It’s status-neutral (Theseus, the duke, with Fairy, an attender of Titania)
- What’s even better, is that no player speaks to themselves in different roles (though that can happen in some cast lists).
We don’t just give you one cast list, we give you three or more. For example, for One Hour Midsummer Night’s Dream, we give cast lists for 6 to 8 players, so if 1 or 2 of the eight you invite don’t turn up, you just switch to the cast list for the number of people that have turned up. If you’ve got less than six, you can still play-read with 2-5 with ‘Round-robin’ play-reading.
So, a great bit of casting, which should give the play-readers some fun, but there’s another problem. How do you remember who you’re playing whilst you’re actually reading the play?
The answer is in the magic words “Highlight Text”.
When you select a Player No. from a cast list, you’re taken to a script which is in Highlight Text format, and all your speeches will be in different highlit colours, one colour per character. For example, if you are Player 2 in a play-reading of One Hour Midsummer Night’s Dream, with seven players, you’ll be playing Puck and Snout (and Egeus). In Act Three Scene One, Puck puts an Ass’s head on Bottom, and all the mechanicals, including Snout, get excited. What will your script look like? Here’s a picture of part of the script for Player 2 of 7 in Act Three Scene One:
Your lines as Puck are highlit (throughout the play) in blue, and your lines as Snout are highlit (again throughout the play) in a salmon-pink(?). It’s easy to spot that it’s your turn to speak, and you even get a reminder by the colour of which character speaks which lines.
That’s what Highlight Text does!
It becomes practical, even fun, to play-read a Shakespeare play with ten or less players.
So now you know how Cue Scripts, cast lists, and Highlight Text make play-reading fun, why don’t you try it out with One Hour Midsummer Night’s Dream, even if you’re on your own:
- Click on the link to get to One Hour Midsummer Night’s Dream index page
(or press on the button below).
- Click on one of the Cast list pages on the index for 6, 7, or 8 players.
- Choose a player no. on the Cast list page. That will take you to the script, with your player no.’s characters in Hihglight text mode
- Page through the script by scrolling down, and selecting the next scene (A?S?) from the buttons at the end of the script.
When you’re finished, you can do it all again with a different player no., and maybe a different cast list, or youcan imagine how much more fun it would be to do it with 8 friends or so!
You’ll find other adaptations of Shakespeare plays we’ve published on our Adaptations Page.