The Sunday Giveaway: A CTI Workshop

This week we are not giving away a free ticket to a Broadway show.

This week we are giving away a ticket to an event that could help you have your own Broadway show!

On Friday, March 15th, the Commercial Theater Institute is holding one of their more popular seminars entitled, “Producing Workshops, Readings and Showcases:  A Practical Approach”.

And one of you is going for free!

I get asked about producing readings, etc. all the time, and I’m thrilled that CTI is tackling it.  I don’t think there is anything more important that teaching how to maneuver the many embryonic stages of developing a show.  Producing a reading or a workshop may not be the sexiest thing in the world, but it’s where all shows start.  Yep, West Side, Les Miz, A Chorus Line . . . you can bet their Tony Awards that they all had readings.  And good producing at the beginning gave them a proper foundation to build their success.

So how to win?

Like I said, readings aren’t sexy . . . but maybe they could be?

I know a lot of you have attended readings and the like over your years in and around the biz.  What’s one tip you’d give if you were teaching this course?  What would you tell producers-to-be about producing workshops, readings, and showcases?

Share your tip in the comments section, and you’ll be entered to win a chance to hear a whole lot more tips!

Break a something!


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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  • Fred Tacon says:

    Don’t hold a reading in a busy coffeehouse. Did that once. High on the hip and cool factor, but really hard to hear over the constantly steaming espresso machine. At least find one with space well away from the bar…

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    Now that Danny and I are ready to start workshopping Miss Humanity, I can answer that question in three words… Wine and Cheese.

  • Keni Fine says:

    Think of the reading as an event in and of itself- acknowledge it’s a work in progress, but not as an apology, as a welcoming to share in the process… And have fun doing it!

  • Ed from CT says:

    Research your options before holding a reading. Decide what you want to accomplish with the reading and seek constructive feedback, geared towards your goals,from the attendees. Ideally, their feedback should be anonymous, as many friends who attend your reading won’t want to offend you so encourage honest feedback through anonymity.

  • Brian says:

    Make sure you figure out who your audience is. You want people who are going to represent a normal audience reaction; people who are going to give you feedback to help you understand what worked and what didn’t; and professional colleagues who are going to be honest with you and not spare your feelings! All this will help you improve your project.

  • Do not try to throw ALL the bells and whistles at a reading. You only have 29 hours, and if you short-change the rehearsal the, piece won’t land like you want it to…no matter how glossy you make the presentation. Show the heart of the piece by putting it’s best foot forward.

  • Kathy T says:

    start promoting your event WAY in advance with social media- use FB, twitter– also Pininterest–do regular updates– casting.. pics of rehearsals to draw a following & increase publicity & anticipation.. have your performers /crew/ staff post links to help this

  • Colleen says:

    Showcase risky work. It could be a hit. Make mistakes. Either way, you learn from mistakes and get better as a person.

  • Sarah says:

    My tip is to remember that you get what you pay for. I have never regretted coughing up a little bit of extra money to pay talented people for their time.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    If you’re going to do a reading in order to make an impression, be careful not to just throw it together. That’s fine if you just want to hear it for the first time perhaps, but if you’re trying to raise funding or just improve it to the next level, get it right. The best actors and director you can find, a day or so of rehearsing and a comfortable place (theater?) for the reading. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

  • Having gone through this process a few years ago, I’ll add something I learned aside from some of the great suggestions already discussed here. It may sound small, but I learned to send digitally as many scripts (and sheet music) as possible. The material changes so much during this period that a lot of paper (cost) can be otherwise wasted.

    I also strongly agree with some already-mentioned (above) notions such as saving the bells and whistles when planning a reading, as well as spending money on a proper space in which to show it. Very important.

  • Pay attention to the process. The change the show goes through in rehearsals and during and after a workshop or reading is vital to the life of a show. It’s important to remember where you came from, recognize where you are, and be excited about where you’re going.

  • Lynn Manuell says:

    When inviting people be incredibly innovative. Producers get a gazillion invitations to events. When I was being asked to readings the one’s I remembered came to me on invites on pens and square pads of paper…things I would be using and therefore couldn’t forget the date, time and place…

  • John P. says:

    I would tell producers to make sure they know WHO the audience is for the piece and then make sure that the workshop audience reflects that intention.


    Keep it all as ‘professional and fine tuned’ as possible, from A to Z .

  • Alexa says:

    Seat the actors close to those with whom they most often interact. If they can make eye contact and react to each other, the audience can connect more deeply to the characters and you get a truer sense of their likability.

  • gaby g says:

    I’d break down what the appropriate etiquette should be for Backers Auditions. I’d also make recommendations as to what should be included in promo packets given to potential investors who attend.

  • David Lally says:

    I can’t tell you how many readings I attend each year but my biggest pet peeve and the issue that never gets addressed is this: don’t tell me how to feel about it. Every reading I attend, someone (producer, writer, etc.) gets up and gives a speech about the show and how wonderful it is, and how hard everyone worked, and how magical it is — you don’t know that! And don’t put that idea into my head because if it isn’t all these things or even one of these things, I’m going to hate it. I’m going to tune out. Just present the work and let me decide. Also, listen to the audience feedback and don’t try to defend yourself or make excuses as to why you did such and such. Listen and let it absorb a day or two before deciding to say or do anything to the work. I’ll get off my soapbox now! Thanks!

  • Tom says:

    You need to show that the piece can stand up on its own and work with simply a) a good script and b) a good cast. The focus has to be on those two points so my big tip is to cast a reading well in terms of talent and ability to draw a crowd. Create reasons for people to come – call in some favours and get some famous people in to read parts. Most of them don’t mind giving up an hour or two for a new play/musical (they know there’s no money but always hot drinks and cake, and its about getting back to the creation of art) and it brings the sexiness and thrill back to what can be a very dull occasion.

  • Judylynn says:

    Book your reading over two or three days…
    nuttin’ worse than getting rained or snowed out after all of your hard work!

  • Michael says:

    With all the “warnings” and “rules” being tossed out, I’d take a different approach and share a piece of positive advice once given to me by a Broadway General Manager – “When you encounter an obstacle that seems insurmountable, just remember that EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE!” (It’s gotten me through many tough situations …)

  • Alex says:

    A reading is about the playwright. Make sure they feel that they can make the changes they need to make, take the chances they need to take, and have a vodka soda when they need a break.

  • Laura says:

    Create a compelling executive summary to support the creative vision.

  • Sarah Safford says:

    Get someone professional to videotape the reading. I recommend Karen Marshall – she did a great job for me!

  • Robin F says:

    Give everyone a themed take away so they think about and remember your show – something that will spark conversation with others who weren’t at your reading to ask about it. (The “bless you” Godspell tissues are a prime example.)

  • Misti Wills says:

    Keep it moving. It’s hard for an audience to engage with a reading so if the show is lengthy, do a cutting of it and narrate the in between.

  • Elizabeth Parra says:

    It wont be perfect, so breath and let the work speak for itself

  • David D. Wright says:

    Casting a reading for a new work, particularly if you want to attract investors is critical. I had the opportunity to cast Arthur French, Lillias White, Lammon Rucker, Ralph Carter, and several other Broadway and television thespians for a reading of my Yoruba Dance Drama OBATALA (King of the White Cloth). One must pursue excellence in casting the right actor for the right role. I say find those actors that you have relationships with that are not only commercially viable but suitable for the roles as well. Know that they are people too and can be seduced to do your work. It is about presentation in every aspect on the road to full production. All you have to do is ask

  • Laura Wagner says:

    If you are inviting industry people, then please be sure to include the running time in your invitation – and be honest. We need to know how much time to budget in our schedules. Otherwise, expect a few people to leave early. If possible, offer at least two presentation times for the reading: One during business hours and one after business hours.

  • Terrence Cranert says:

    Find a project you’re passionate about and never mention the title of that Scottish play. Very bad luck. lol

  • My biggest tip is for what people should do AFTER the reading: DO NOT let the work die. Supposedly, Hal Prince would set a meeting to discuss his NEXT show on the day immediately after the previous one opened. If your reading was a success, don’t let the piece rest on its laurels: IMMEDIATELY figure out what its next step is. And if the reading wasn’t as successful as you’d hoped, then schedule TWICE as much time for the meeting. Either way – follow through. You’ve jumped a hurdle but are nowhere near the finish line.

  • Treat the reading as much like a performance as you can. Lightly stage it with qualified well-rehearsed actors. Bring the house lights down and light the stage. Ask for anonymous feed back by providing a questionairre. Encourage critical responses in the questionaire – in fact insist that people tell you what they didn’t like about it – accept no positive responsives. Because if attendees say -“Oh, I really enjoyed it.” or “I liked it – it was interesting!” What can a playwright do with that kind of critique? Nothing! In the questionaire insist on negative responses ask that they respond with what they didn’t like, didn’t understand, what didn’t make sense, . . . . ask when they wanted to leave, . . . or when they wanted it to move along, . . . ask when it got boring not when it was exciting, interesting, enjoyable or working. We learn from mistakes – so find out what mistakes are being made – not what you’re doing right.

  • Another thought: The Playwright and producers should also watch the audience during the presentation not the reading itself, . . . . you’ll learn more from watching the audience . . .

  • Alli says:

    Decide the purpose of your reading: Is it to hear the script so you know where you stand in the development process? Is it to interest backers? If it’s the former, figure out how to get people in the room who are not just friends and family – a friendly audience is fun, but is not objective. If it’s the later – figure out WELL in advance how you’re going to get those important people in the room. Setting a date and location and starting rehearsals, and THEN trying to figure out how to get in touch with potential investors is not the correct order of events.

  • Mark P says:

    I advocate post-performance discussions, rather than anonymous questionnaires. Questionnaires encourage cursory responses and short statement. If led by an experienced person, perhaps a dramaturg, a discussion can get into thematic, conceptual, or structural issues that simply can’t be discussed in a questionnaire filled out with a golf-score pencil.

  • Adam says:

    Focus on te plot (story), not the script.. You’ll always find a way to make a good story work.. The script will come..

  • Zach says:

    This was your tip, Ken, but I’d say not to have readings after lunch when everyone’s tired having just eaten lunch!

  • David F says:

    Presentation, Presentation, Presentation
    Make sure you have the reading be visually appearing. “Costume” the actors not so much as what their characters would wear but create a pleasing visual. Don’t allow your producer to be distracted by too short a skirt or too low buttoned a shirt. Create Harmony as you are going to be looking at the same stationary set-up for an extended amount of time. This includes uniform binders keeping all as consistant as possible.
    Don’t over look the importance of the casting of your reader of stage directions. They keep the flow going and can keep “the action” interesting. Don’t think of them as a necessary vehicle but as a character in your play.
    All in all keep it simple so that we are able to concentrate on just the words and the story.
    Excellent comments above I might add.

  • Chantal says:

    Know exactly what you are hoping to gain from your event. If the purpose is to gauge audience reaction and feedback, take the steps to do that(correct demographic, surveys, talk backs). If it’s to find angels, co-producers, more $$$, take the steps to find the right audience for that. Specify your goal and focus on the right space/audience/set-up to succeed.

  • Zanne Hall says:

    What’s the dif between commercial theatre & non-commercial theatre? One makes money – the other doesn’t? Hope the artistic value is the same regardless!

  • Ethan says:

    The best readings I’ve been to have been well-produced events in and of themselves. It’s not about selling the script it’s about selling the show!

  • Aaron says:

    Think about the GOAL of your reading before creating the INVITE list.

    Decide what the goal of your reading is: to workshop the piece and discover new moments/thematic elements/characters/scenes, etc. or to have an industry read.

    They are two very different things. Workshopping is an important part of the process, but you don’t necessarily want the bigwig producers seeing a production of something that is still in it’s infancy and not ready for production- once someone has formed an opinion on a piece (or even worse, you) it becomes that much harder to change their minds.

  • Jeremy says:

    I’d recommend talking at length with the producing and creative team about how to best use this step in the process to make it productive for everyone involved. It helps to ensure everyone has complementary objectives, and that you’re proceeding for reasons that are about the project, and not based on a preconception about the ‘correct’ path to production.

  • Andrew Beall says:

    Depends on whether it’s a private, invite-only reading for a dramaturgical purpose or whether it’s a reading for investors. With the former, you want to rehearse and perform as much of the story as possible to begin the process of seeing it on its feet (then come the revisions). With the latter, perhaps pick 5-8 of the best songs and perform those to the best of your ability, making a good impression. Don’t wanna bore your future producers, and certainly don’t want them to leave at intermission with a long reading. Perhaps keep it to an hour?

  • Zanne Hall says:

    Offer light refreshments before (and after). Puts the audience in a more attentive mood & they’re not thinking about their stomachs and gives more time to schmooze/network at the end of the reading.


    It’s your best shot at getting your cast on the same page about the play in short time. With everyone’s busy schedules, there’s no guarantee that everyone will read the play on their own.

    And don’t skip the songs! let the actors READ the lyrics. This will serve them in music rehearsal (they wont seem utterly new) and they’ll get how they function story-wise before the pressure of learning the notes is upon them.

  • Mark Briner says:

    Treat the important aspects of it as if it were a true paid performance–pay the best performers and production team you can, hold it in a space that most gives the theatrical feel you are looking for, and work with the editing to give the piece the best performance flow allowable in the time alloted.

  • Sammy Lopez says:

    Focus on the story you are telling and don’t forget about the 7 P’s: Previous Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!

  • Ryan McCurdy says:

    For plays? Provide one thing as part of the reading or workshop that is uncommon or unique (a karaoke cocktail hour following or digital projections of the set concepts behind the actors).

    For musicals? Don’t treat the music as an afterthought. Don’t use a battered upright as the only instrument. Spend money on musicians to make money.

  • LA Producer says:

    Just a big “Thanks!” to all of you. All excellent tips. Had the worst reading of my career a few months back. Thought the director had rehearsed the cast; come to find out 2 key players couldn’t make it and sub-par actors were reading for the first time and the others had just got their scripts that day! Yikes! As a friend is fond of saying, “I was sweating like a New York waiter!” 😉

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