Friday, November 8, 2013

Readers Theatre: Shortcut to Dramatic Success

     Just think of what could go wrong if your students put on a public performance!
     Go ahead. I’ll wait….

     Did you imagine the awkward silence that hangs in the air when someone forgets his lines?
     Maybe you visualized a catastrophic set collapse? Or a time-sensitive prop that breaks at the very second it’s needed?
     Perhaps a long-buried memory of some costuming trauma broke into your consciousness? Ripped seams? Dropped pants? Disintegrating turbans?
     Or did you envision the director’s worst nightmare – the absent actor! Oh, the horror!
     Now take a deep breath and read on to find out about the cure for all these problems: readers theatre!

What is readers theatre?

     In readers theatre, actors keep their scripts and read their lines instead of memorizing them. Costumes, sets, props, and even movement are not needed. Kids can just sit there and read!

What’s so great about readers theatre?

     Since the actors always have their scripts right in front of them, there’s a lot less pressure in readers theatre. The constant worry that someone’s going to forget a line is gone! Kids can feel more confident about performing well – and they can handle “bigger” roles than they thought possible.
     Needing less rehearsal to put together a production is another benefit of readers theatre. You don’t have to keep practicing until you’ve pounded the lines into everybody’s heads! And you don’t need to spend time blocking out movements and rehearsing them over and over. Usually, the actors just sit quietly on chairs or stools until it’s time to read their parts. If you want to get fancy, you can have the actors put their backs to the audience when they’re not reading and turn around when they are.
     And let’s face it: the extras like costumes, sets, and props add a lot of hard work to a production. They can cause problems, too, when they malfunction, break, or disappear. Leaving them out of your readers theatre production means you’ll be ready for a public performance more quickly – and things are likely to run more smoothly.
     And if your star is absent? No big deal! Somebody else can simply read the part. Having someone understudy big roles just in case is a good idea, but the show can still go on even if you don’t do that.

But props are fun! And costumes are cute! And isn’t all that sitting around kind of boring?

     Remember – we’re talking about a shortcut here. Readers theatre can get you to a successful performance quickly. Without all the extras, your rehearsals can focus on good expression, authentic emotion, and realistic portrayals. So a readers theatre production is anything but boring!
     However, the extras are fun so you may want to use traditional readers theatre to get started and change things up later. After a few productions, you and your students might be ready to add some movements, costumes, props, or sets to their performances. You may even work into doing “regular” theatre, dropping scripts and memorizing lines. But don’t feel you have to make a big production out of your theatre program. Keep things as simple as you like – and as fun as you can!

For more about theatre in the classroom visit

And here are some readers theatre collections I wrote:

     These humorous readers theatre scripts offer real-life settings and contemporary characters. Each play pokes gentle fun at annoying traits, school-based dilemmas, or the embarrassing moments that are part of growing up. With resolutions that emphasize creative solutions, humor, or cleverness, these plays work to improve language arts skills. (Grades 4 to 8)

     This collection of humorous, contemporary plays is organized around special times of year such as holidays, the first day of school, a snow day, etc. Teachers can find an appropriate readers theatre script at almost any time with this valuable resource, and kids will have fun improving their language arts skills as they perform these plays. (Grades 6 to 8) 

     Twelve humorous readers theater scripts engage and entertain students in fourth through eighth grades. The book includes a play for every month of the year. Each script features a contemporary kid in a real-life situation—and a saint who helps him or her solve the problem! (Grades 4 to 8)

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