If you ask a dozen theater arts types what Reader's Theater is you'll get
about 12 different answers. Reader's Theater is like that: a lot of things
to a lot of different people. That's one of its strengths.
Reader's Theater was started primarily as a way of introducing kids to
theater concepts in a way that was easy to immediately grasp and enjoy.
Kids who don't understand any theater concepts such as staging or reacting, and
find it difficult to memorize lines can be perfect performers in quick order
using Reader's Theater.
Of course, the same things that makes it attractive and easy for kids makes
it something that any adult, no matter how much or little theater experience
they have, can pick up and become quite expert at. And it's something that
can be enjoyed for a lifetime by all, regardless of age or physical ability.
How it's different
Reader's Theater differs from a "normal" theater experience in a
number of ways, all driven by the fact that the readers (or performers) are
actually reading their parts during the performance.
|No memorization is required. While some readers will memorize all or
portions of their reading, it is not required and usually not done.
Readers will read their parts until they become comfortable with them,
learning the nuances and ideas behind the reading, but otherwise will not
need to go over the readings nearly as much as an actor needs to learn their
lines. This means the time required to participate is much less than
in other forms of theater, with much less "rehearsal".|
|No physical movements are performed. Other than perhaps the slight
movement of readers as they position themselves for the readings, no body
movements are required nor desired. This means that even those in
wheelchairs or with other physical difficulties can perform as well as
|The reader is not the character. This is somewhat difficult to
conceptualize, since many readings will have one reader "perform"
only one part, but because the physical element is not present and because
the listeners are asked to suspend their disbelief (as most readings would
not, in Real Life, simply be people sitting around in chairs talking) it is
not only possible but quite often that a reader will read a part for which
they may not have the right physical characteristics. Someone who is
much younger may read the part of a very old person, and someone older may
read a young person's part. Even sex roles may be crossed, with women
reading men's parts and vice versa. A reader can also read multiple parts
with only a change in voice to indicate the difference. |
|Readings do not have to be plays, or even parts of plays (although they
can). A reading can come from nearly anywhere -- a poem, speech,
short story or excerpted novel are all possible sources. When the
reading comes from a source that contains narrative or stage directions,
there is often one reader who serves as the narrator.|
|Reader's Theater can be done in a traditional theater setting, but it can
also be done almost anywhere there are listeners. Performing in
hospitals or nursing homes offers great rewards. Often readings are
recorded and then can be listened to by people in their cars, at home, or
(with the advent of podcasting) on portable listening devices.|
How it's the same
|While costumes are not necessary they can be used. More often simple
props such as a hat or other held prop to indicate which character a reader
is reading will be used, particularly if that reader is reading multiple
|Lighting can be used as well, although it's seldom as elaborate as
traditional stage lightning. Most important, of course, is that there
be enough light to read by, but blackouts and other stage effects can
enhance a performance.|
|Sound effects and music can be incorporated into the performance -- it's
often very necessary to "set the stage" which otherwise is
|While sets are not needed, there are times when a simple set can be used
to put the listeners in the proper mood.|
a Reader’s Theater “performance” will consist of a series of readings, and
may or may not share a common theme. The
sky is the limit when it comes to putting together an entertaining evening of
your interest is performing or understanding literary works, whether you are
young or old, whether you want to make a lifetime hobby of it or whether you
want to use it as a stepping stone for advancing into full theater work,
Reader’s Theater has something for everyone!
Here are some readings that we've been doing at our Legacy Reader's Theater
Group. They are either in the public domain or were written by us.
If the latter they have some restrictions on how they may be used.
Written by Mike Kelley
above works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Written by Mark Twain (Adapted by Mike Kelley)
by O. Henry
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