EP #5 How to Read a Script

What does every actor do the moment they get their script? Be honest, now.  You highlight your lines, don’t you?  This week I’ll explain why you shouldn’t (at least not right away).


What does every actor do the moment that they get their script? Be honest, now. You highlight your lines, don’t you? Let me explain why you shouldn’t.


You’re listening to acting for community theater, a little show with big ideas, stories, acting tips, and a lot of heart for community theater artists.


I’m Barbra French. In an earlier episode, I advised actors to read, read, and read some more, lots of scripts to learn more about theater, to get to know it better in all its forms. But what about when you actually get cast in a role, should your reading process be any different actors? Love to highlight their lines and highlighting is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. The problem is actors often do it before they’ve even read the play. They want to know understandably. So how many lines they have, how much work it will be to learn them. And how big is their part. Then they read the play focusing mostly on their character.


But when they do this, they miss an important phase of getting to know the play. The first impression you will never get another chance at a first impression of the play. Just like your audience. This is your chance to get an inside view of how your future audience will access the play this week. I’m going to outline the process for reading a script before you take on a role, assuming of course that you didn’t read it before the audition, but before I get into it, I know that you don’t want to read the play multiple times right now. And that’s fine. I don’t want you to do that right now either. And I know that most actors will barely read the play once before rehearsals begin, but let me ask you this. Why be in the middle of the pack? Why not do more, explore more, be more than the actors who simply read the play once, highlight their lines, and then wait for rehearsals to begin.


If you love theater, want to do a great job and would like to be a good example for other actors. Why not do more? Your director will certainly thank you for it. And will probably cast you again and again. An actor who is dedicated and works hard is gold. There is so much to gain and so little to lose. So let’s get started reading the script. Number one, get comfortable, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for the next few hours. Seriously. You want this to be a and a place for focusing on just the play and your reaction to it. You want that experience that the audience is going to have, and they’re not going to be distracted, hopefully either. So get some tea, take a bathroom break and turn off your phone before you start. Number two, read the play for pure enjoyment, pure experience all at once in one sitting, but with taking an intermission break, if there is one, the goal here is to try to access the play as closely to how the audience will experience it as possible.


Then make notes right away. What did you like? What didn’t you like? How did you feel? What was the best part? What was the worst part? Did you like the story, the characters, were there moments in the play that you didn’t understand? Just write down anything that you can think of all your first impressions and then put it away for the rest of the day. Number three, read the play again this time for story and action. Think about what makes the play tick. Basically what happens in the play, who are the characters? What’s the most intense moment in the play. Can you write a single sentence of what you think the play is about and think about action. What is the main conflict? What is the main obstacle? What are the characters fighting for? Think about action and think about story and make some more notes and then put the play away again for the rest of the day.


Number four, read the play a third time. This time focusing more on your character and what he or she does and says, how does your character fit into the story? What are the given circumstances that they’re working with and go through the script with a pencil and circle, any word phrase, or reference that you don’t understand, jot down questions such as, why did I say that? Or what do I want from her here? Or when I exit, where am I going? You don’t want to be caught off guard and unprepared in rehearsal because you didn’t know what it meant. When you called your scene partner pugnacious, or you didn’t understand that reference to a pine overcoat actors should really do some form of script analysis and a thorough character sketch. It’s just part of the process, the research that you do to understand the play more fully before you start, it’s your job to do your homework before rehearsals start.


So make sure that you dig out all those questions that you need to answer now. Number five. Okay, go ahead. Highlight your lines. You know, you’ve been itching to number six. This is really for all you keeners out there. Now that you’ve read the play a few times and you’ve highlighted your lines. Why not do just a little bit more research? Now these are things that are often done in table work with the cast and the director over the first few rehearsals. Although many directors don’t do table work at all. So it’s not a bad idea to dive in a little bit beforehand, take a look at the world of the play, where it’s set, what the time is in history. And when each scene takes place in relation to other scenes, think about the language, the rhythm and the shape of the play. What is the style of the play?


Is it a farce, a memory play a musical, a kitchen sink drama do work on your character. Who is this person sketch out their background. This is the time when you can really dive in and ask and answer a lot of questions, becoming familiar with the play in this way, get you out in front of the pack. It makes your job a lot easier and it definitely makes the director’s job a lot easier provided of course, that you don’t hit them over the head with all of your knowledge. And the show will absolutely benefit. If you end up doing table work as a cast, your knowledge will rub off on others and hopefully inspire them to further study too. And by the way, you can practice this as you wait for theaters to reopen, pick a few plays that you could imagine being cast in preferably plays that you haven’t seen lately and try out this process. Okay? That’s my pitch. I hope I’ve encouraged you to read, read, read the play and dive down into the details. Please subscribe, share. I appreciate all of it. And remember, I can show you exactly how to go about doing things like exploring your character, breaking down a script and honing in on the action of the play in my online course. So get on the email list to be notified when that’s ready for now until next week. I’m Barbra French. And thanks for listening.


Pick a few plays and you could imagine no pick a flue pick a [inaudible] picka picka flue, plays pick pick, plick a few plays. Peter Piper picked a few plays, pick a few plays you could imagine being cast in. Why was that so hard?



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