Behind the Scenes at Bristol Riverside Theatre: Script Read-Through

A few weeks ago Sanj and I completed an acting class in effort to improve our directorial skills.  It involved learning and delivering a monologue under the guidance of an experienced instructor.  We paid as much attention to the direction of other students as we did to the instructor’s direction of us.  Soon after the class finished, another opportunity presented itself.

The Bristol Riverside Theatre is putting on a production of Inherit the Wind with an opening night of May 23rd.  Along with the casting call, an opportunity to participate in a unique opportunity was announced.  For the first time, “all-access” reporters have been invited to see and document what happens behind-the-scenes during the production from the first script read-through to opening night. Having shot a short film last year and with an interest in seeing how other productions, both stage and screen are run, I jumped at it.

Kathryn Moroney, the associate director, invited me to the first read-through of the script Tuesday evening, April 30th.  I felt like I had arrived at a town hall meeting when I walk into the rehearsal studio.  Over forty actors were seated around a series of tables arranged in a rectangle.  About ten others are off the sides in support including stage managers, Greg Hartley, Audience Development Coordinator, and Debbie Fleischman, managing public relations. This is the largest production the Bristol Riverside Theatre has done in recent history, with a cast of nearly fifty. The play recreates a small southern town and, looking at the population of the rehearsal studio, I think they can do it.

Director Susan Atkinson observed the reading while Kathryn read the italicized portions of the script indicating action and movement.  Having just finished my acting class a few weeks ago, I have an implicit expectation that the script reading would need adjustment.  When the students in my class would read for the first time, it was generally delivered without any emotion or sense of character.  I must have had a subconscious expectation that the first reading would involve adjustment.

That wasn’t the case. These actors made it through auditions. They are cast and they know their characters.  I’m struck with how well the lines are delivered.  Genuinely funny lines in the script were met with candid laughter.  Here, the cast can freely respond to the lines.  Later, they’ll get direction and orchestration, but tonight it’s the first read-through.  Not a rehearsal.  If you’re not delivering the next line, the response is unscripted and that’s okay.

In less than three hours, the entire play had been read. Applause followed and Susan congratulated the cast on a job well done.  Next come rehearsals of both stage and song, but you’ll have to wait for my next entry for that.

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