Why you shouldn’t do a Reading unless . . .

I love me some Readings.

One of the first action items I suggest to writers and Producers who’ve got a show they are looking to get off the ground is to do a Reading.

I usually suggest a “Pizza Reading” first . . . which consists of getting some friends together at an apartment, ordering some pizza, drinking some wine, and casually reading your show.  Why I love Pizza Readings is that when the reading/drinking is over, two things usually happen:

  1. You learn about the piece and can create a punch list of items you want to work on for next time.
  2. Someone at the Pizza Read usually asks, “What’s next?”  And then, you have to answer that question.  And nothing beats that motivation.

But a Pizza Reading, which is meant for creative work and some inspirational juice, is different than a Reading Reading, where you’re after Producers or Investors or Regional Theaters to take the show to the next logistical level with you.

I’m a fan of these too, but on one condition.

You should never do a Reading, unless you can get people to come.

Too many people come to me and say, “I have a show, I’m ready to do a Reading for investors!”  Then I ask them who is on their invite list, and they say they don’t have one.

And to get a little anti-Kevin Costner on you . . . if you build a Reading, they won’t necessarily come.

Yes, you can do a Reading if you don’t have a ton of contacts, as long as you are hiring people that do (General Manager, Press Agent, etc.).  It’s ok to borrow someone’s clout to fill up the Reading Room with some VIPs.

But I wouldn’t count on that.

Here’s my little exercise to see if you’re ready for a Reading:

Take out a piece of paper.  Write a list of 20 people that have the money or the clout to move your show along.  If you can’t get to 20, then you need to go out and meet more people that fit those qualifications.  When you do have the 20, you can start the preparations for the Reading.

And to get a little philosphical-ish on you . . . if a Producer produces a Reading, and the right people aren’t in the audience, well, it definitely does not make a sound.

Actually, it does make a sound.  It sounds like, “I can’t believe I just spent effin’ $25,000 on a Reading and since no one was here I have to do it all over again!  Aghhhhh!!!!”


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  • Jay Z says:

    This is fantastic advice, Ken. Love the “pizza reading”… But if you have $25k to spend, why not just do a small production as AEA showcase?

    And what if there are just a couple producers you’re interested in…do they want full readings or can you get them interested with other components (script, demos, vids)?

  • Hugh Murphy says:

    Your Readings are expensive.

  • Jed says:

    “$25,000 on a Reading?”

    I’d rather give up.

  • I’m not sure your comments apply to plays–at least to plays that aren’t necessarily aimed at Broadway. First of all, I’ve done tons of readings in my time and none have ever cost $25,000. Most, in fact, have cost nothing. In many cases, theater companies put on readings, so my involvement is minimal. These readings tend to be highly competitive–meaning that you’re very lucky to have your play selected in the first place. Just having the reading provides you with a credential of sorts that will come in handy when you try to convince theater companies to produce your play. There are many other reasons to participate in these readings. One, of course, is developmental–to hear your play read out loud by good actors and make note of everything that needs to be worked on. My plays always improve as a result of being presented in a reading. Another is to establish a relationship with a theater company that might then produce this play–or another one of yours–down the line. A third is to make contacts–all sorts of people show up at these readers. Not necessarily (in fact rarely) producers, but other writers or theater professionals. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, so getting out and meeting these people is always a good thing. So, yes, your point is well taken–if you’re investing $25,00 in a reading (really?), you better get your money’s worth by filling the room with people who might want to produce it or otherwise help push it along. But I think it’s a very different dynamic for most playwrights and most plays.

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