I get the first post here, because I built this site. My name is Matt Kizer, and by profession, I design lighting and scenery.
I’ve seen a lot of read-throughs in my career, and a lot of shows. Staged readings over the internet are a different sort of animal. Last Friday evening was our first full reading. We are learning and experimenting.
There were some interesting takeaways for us:
- Virtual backgrounds are sort of fun. They can also stress out the actors. They require a certain type of lighting and a little familiarity with Zoom. Getting an entire company to make their backgrounds the same is possible. It can also suck all of the life and energy out of the evening. There are no helpful technicians in the homes of these actors, and they are not all using the same devices.
- Looking behind actors while they read is much more interesting than seeing a digital background. It’s more alive. It’s unpredictable. It’s a little intriguing. Posters, pictures, children, dogs, and who knows what else can randomly move in and out of view.
- This site originally had a landing page with two entrances: one for audience, and a “backstage” door for the company. There were different directions for each group. It turns out that was overkill. The audience needs only a little guidance, like a pre-show announcement. “Please mute your microphone when you are not laughing or clapping.” “Please turn off your video while the actors are reading.” “Keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.” “In the event that the reading becomes depressurized, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling.”
- We tried using a waiting room as a lobby. This was intended to let the actors get ready before the audience came in. This worked fine, but it requires someone to watch hawkishly like an usher throughout the show. People straggle in quite late. It is REALLY easy to overlook people waiting in the lobby in the middle of the show. Is the lobby function worth it? I would say it’s toss-up.
- Cast members can rename themselves on screen as their characters. This is really helpful! If anyone has trouble doing this, the host can do it for them.
- Messenger and other chat tools are handy. Cast and audience members can all have brief, private discussions if they wish while watching the read-through.
- Reading from the screen works great. Reading from a book works, too. No one is bothered by where someone is looking. We get used to it quickly and it all becomes normal.
- This is really fun. It’s like watching a TV show on your computer, or listening to a podcast, but you are interacting directly with the presenters. It’s a great hybrid of passive entertainment with social interaction. You get the same goodwill and chatter at preshow and intermission that you do at any other show. And pants are totally optional.