"What the heck is a stage reading, anyway?"
This question was posed to me recently after I sent out a post about our upcoming stage reading of "Esther, A New Musical." It's a good question, so I thought I would share the answer with all of you - in case you don't already know.
A stage reading is part of the development process for a musical. Actors present the entire show, including dialogue and songs, but without sets or full costumes, and with minimal stage movement. The purpose is to gauge the effectiveness of the dialogue, music, pacing and flow, and other dramatic elements of the work. Over the last two years, I have seen numerous stage readings in Los Angeles and New York, from the Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills, to an upstairs recording studio on the upper west side of NYC, to a rehearsal room in mid-town Manhattan, and what I like most is getting to see new shows that no one else has ever seen. The projects are the same high quality as more well-known works, but, since they are just getting started, the audience gets to see them before they are introduced to the rest of the world.
A stage reading is an opportunity to get audience reactions to the story. Did they laugh or cry when we expected them to? Were they moved by certain lines or music? Did some things fall flat, when they seemed so inspired on the written page. As my son, Tommy Martinez (Broadway NEWSIES, First National Tour of KINKY BOOTS, NBC's HAIRSPRAY LIVE!), describes it, "A musical is like an article of clothing. It may look great on the hanger, but to know if it really works, you have to try it on. So, a stage reading is when you take a script and 'put it on people.'"
At our stage reading in February on Zach Theatre's Kleberg Stage, you and the other audience members will have an opportunity to provide written and verbal feedback on the show, e.g., you can identify moments in the show that are memorable, and provide observations about specific elements of the story and its presentation.
If you have questions or your own thoughts about stage readings, or our current project, "Esther," please leave a comment on our Blog post. We would love to hear from you!