You’ve finished your screenplay and you’re ready to organize a table read. Good for you. You’re taking your screenwriting to the next level.
What do you need to do to organize a live table read?
FIND A SPACE
Don’t do this in a public space like a cafe or a train station. Find a quiet indoor place such as a rehearsal room, conference room or your living room. Make sure its comfortable and you have enough seats for the actors.
I like to have a table with character name tags in front of the actors during my reads. It helps the audience keep track of the story.
If there only chairs or actors are lying on the floor, sitting in bean bags or hanging upside down. it creates a more casual, workshop atmosphere.
If you don’t know any actors, you soon will. Contact your local theater group or college acting department and tell them you want to plan a read through. The beauty of acting groups is that can get a whole group of actors that have worked together before.
They may even let you use their space for the read. Ideally you can aim for one actor per part according to gender. It’s acceptable for actors to double up for small parts. In fact I recommend it.
You’ll also need to assign a narrator to read the action. Try to make this an actor who isn’t reading for another character.
A read through suggests the entire script. This is different to a workshop. where you can focus on a few scenes. Print double-sided to conserve paper. Also, try to have one copy per actor. If not, doubling up is OK. Tripling up, not so much.
You may also highlight the appropriate speaking parts for each character. It makes the read through so much easier. Many actors do this by themselves anyway.
GIVE ACTORS THE SCRIPT
You can send the actors a script at least a week before the live read. This gives them enough time to fully understand the story and how they will play each character.
i don’t recommend cold reads for live reads unless it’s a short script you plan on reading through several times.
Also, don’t give the actors the script too far in advance because they will probably over practise and deliver a flatter performance during the table read.
If you’re reading through a feature script, I strongly suggest giving the actors a break around the midpoint.
They can have a bathroom break, rehydrate, grab a snack or see how they’ll read the second half of the screenplay in the context of the other actors.
I like to record the read through for future reference. It really shows how the actors responded to various to various parts of the script.
Q & A
At the end of your screenplay, give both the actors and the audience a chance to ask questions about your screenplay. They will have questions about the story logic and character motivations and relationships.
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