In the midst of the current health crisis, theater lovers have to find new ways to get their fix! Last Monday, mine came in the form of a live play reading given by Create Theater. Live streaming of the event was through the ZOOM platform. The play in the reading was Zoe Comes Home by Melissa Bell. In a word, attending this was fantastic! Here’s what happened.
Getting Set Up
I first learned about the event in a tweet from Melissa Bell.
And since I enjoy her work, I sent the email requesting entry to the event.
Cate Cammarata heads Create Theater. Her email came to me with a link to enter the ZOOM room. All I had to do was click the link and ok the use of the ZOOM app. I did receive a Password if I went another route. And there were also phone numbers to use if I had only wanted to listen in. It was incredibly easy to do.
Before I knew it, I was connected virtually to a “room” where a team of actors was ready to deliver the reading and a lot of other people who came to watch like I did. There were well over 40 people who attended this event. The virtual connection can show video of anyone who has ok’ed the use of video of themselves which shows in small tiles all around the screen. You also have the option of not being seen. The audio is muted except for the actors.
How the Reading Worked
The actors knew how to present themselves very professionally on this virtual platform. They showed up well as they had full make-up and hair nicely done. As each actor spoke their part, their video image took the center of the screen. Each one knew how to speak at the right volume and tone and how to best handle their moments of presentation. The reading went off smoothly. It was as if we were in the same room as the actors doing the reading.
The actual reading of the play lasted just under an hour. At the end of that time, a Survey Monkey link was activated in the Chat box and Melissa Bell asked if we would provide feedback about what we had seen. Then for the next 30 minutes, people who were viewers like myself provided interesting perspectives about what they saw. It was a very enjoyable post event discussion.
Being able to attend a reading of a new play is always a special event. I have dabbled in play writing myself, so being able to see the process of development is something I enjoy doing.
More About Create Theater
After attending this reading, I was intrigued with the idea of being able to see a reading of a new work in development. I liked what I saw on CreateTheater.com’s home page:
What can we do now as an industry? Keep theater moving forward as a community.
Submit your play for a free Monday Night Reading Series online.
Seeing that made me think I wanted to get more information about what was happening here. I contacted Cate Cammarata and she graciously answered some questions.
Was the Monday night online presentation the first time you tried a table reading in that manner? If it wasn’t the first time, how often has it been done?
I’ve been working with writers over the Zoom platform exclusively for almost 3 years, so we always read back and forth while we’re working on a script. It was the first time that I invited people into the room like that. I found it worked quite well! The “speaker view” voice-activates a camera profile, in effect very much like a multi-camera video. As one attendee said, it gives a closer view of the actor than a regular reading.
What was your reaction/assessment of how it went on Monday night from doing it virtually?
I thought it would work well, but in truth it was very much of an experiment. I was happily surprised by the audience’s engagement and follow up responses afterwards, which was uniformly very positive. I’m definitely continuing the Monday Night Reading Series for the foreseeable future, and I’m presently booked out until mid-May. Overall, I believe that although being present in the same room is the best way to produce a reading, there are some benefits of engaging an audience over a teleconferencing platform.
Let’s project out: would you see this as something your group could continue doing after life returns to normal?
It will be. I can create a community online that benefits everyone, especially the playwright. If anyone would like more information about upcoming projects, please visit www.createtheater.com and sign up for the newsletter, or contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Create Theater Going Forward
Here is the current schedule for Monday night readings:
March 30 – Life Alert – A new comedy by Chris Sherman
April 6 – Bordello – A new musical – Emiliano Messiez, book & lyrics by Barbara Bellman
April 13 – War Orphan by Shellen Lubin
Readings begin promptly at 7pm EST / 4pm PST.
RSVP at email@example.com
I’m giving a big round of applause to all who were involved in last Monday night’s (March 23, 2020) reading. Being able to connect with theater again was a joy for me.
And now another round of applause for Cate Cammarata for her innovative technique and her work in helping theater to keep going forward during these very difficult times.