If you are thinking of doing that, we think you should think about using our MFFEV5 plays. They’re based on around 10 years experience of running play-readings; they’re very easy to run and read, and they’re free.
To run an MFFEV5-based play-reading you need to take the following three steps (to play-reading heaven):
1. Select the play you want to read and invite enough people to the play-reading.
The number of players varies, depending on the play, but not as much as you might think. The following rules-of-thumb are useful:
- Try to make sure that every player has at least one ‘meaty’ role to play.
- Try to make sure that no player has an excessive number of parts to play (say 6 or 7 max).
- Make sure that you invite enough people so that you still have a play-reading (and cast list) if you have two ‘no-shows’.
For most Shakespeare plays, if you aim for around 10 invitees, you’re probably in the right ball-park. If you want to be more accurate than that, have a look at the cast-lists we’ve published for the play you’re thinking of, and apply the rules-of-thumb above. You’ll find a list of our MFFEV5 plays at https://players-shakespeare.com Remember to allow for up to two ‘no-shows’.
2. Select a location for the play-reading with good broadband access to the internet via wi-fi.
Obviously, you want a room which is big and light enough to hold all the invitees in comfort, where you can serve tea, coffee, water (essential), and as much food as you like.
Once these human requirements are met, you need to meet the technical requirements:
- You’re going to read the play across the internet.
- Each player is going to need their own laptop / tablet / smartphone.
- Each player will probably access the internet via a wi-fi connection.
- All 8 – 10 players will want to move to the next scene round about the same time, so there’ll be quite a bit of Internet traffic all at the same time, so it’s good if you have a fast internet connection.
Even if you do have a fast connection, it may seem quite slow before everyone has the next scene loaded. Don’t worry too much about that. You’ll maybe spend 10 – 20 minutes reading a scene, so 10 – 30 seconds to load the next scene doesn’t matter too much.
3. Everyone turns up with a laptop / tablet / smartphone, each with wi-fi and a browser on the right day and time.
The first few times you run a play-reading this way, it’s good to have someone vaguely technically competent there, to help people connect to the Wi-fi, find https://players-shakespeare.com, and select the correct play and cast-list.
Now you’re ready to read the play:
But before you start, there’s one more thing you need to do – allocate the parts to the players. You know how many people have turned up for the play-reading, so you use the cast list for that number of players.
There are two main ways of allocating the parts to the players:
- By lot, letting the gods choose who plays whom. This is the way we normally allocate parts in the Edinburgh play-reading group.
- Someone takes responsibility for allocating the parts. You can do this at the play-reading, or well before so you have a ‘rehearsed reading’, but everyone needs to turn up for this to work well.
Now the parts are allocated, everyone selects the part they have been allocated from the cast list, in ‘parts and cues’ format, or ‘highlit text’ format, as they prefer. When they select their part, the script of the play appears, starting at Act 1, Scene 1, in the format requested.
At the top (and bottom) of the script, a list of buttons of the Acts and Scenes of the play is shown, and you can change scene by clicking on one of those buttons.
The details of how ‘Highlit Script’ and ‘Parts and Cues’ work is fairly self-evident, so we’re not providing details here. We plan to publish YouTube demonstrations of one or two scenes in the near future to provide this level of detail. In the interim, check out “Let’s explore Parts and Cues, Highlit Text, and Standard Script”