10 Tips For Your First Virtual Reading

It’s easy to see the effect of the Coronavirus crisis on Broadway when you hear about shows that were about to open that can’t (yet!), like Diana or Six.

But what you can’t see in all the photos of the darkened marquees are the many shows that got stuck in the development pipeline because of Covid-19.

A whole bunch of projects have been put on pause, with readings and workshops postponed (including a couple of my own) until this invisible enemy disappears.

The challenge for Producers, Writers, Directors, and all us Artrepreneuers, is how do we keep our momentum going on these projects so that we can pick up where we left off when we get the all-clear.

One thing I’m doing, and that I’m encouraging other folks to do, is have a virtual reading of your show.  That’s right, gather everyone in a Zoom Room and read the script.  Why not?  It might be a bit awkward at first, and someone’s internet is bound to freeze, but it’s better than nothing.  And, more than likely, you’ll not only learn something, but it’ll turn out to be a heck of a lot of fun.

You don’t even have to read your full script.  Do a few scenes, or one act, or a scene a week.  If your show is a musical, you can have actors sing(I’d send tracks to folks), play demos instead, or just read the lyrics (one of the most useful things you can do whether you’re in a pandemic or not!).

So try it.  I’m doing one next week myself.  And while it may not be perfect, I know for a fact, that something good will come from it.

It always does when you’re in a room with other people as passionate as you are about a project . . . Zoom Room or Real Room.

And if you need some more tips on how to hold a successful Virtual Reading, here are ten tidbits that come straight from a writer who has been doing virtual readings in a writer’s group twice a month . . . and getting a heck of a lot out of them.  When she volunteered a few of these at a recent virtual meeting of my Inner Circle Mastermind, I asked her to e-scribble ’em down so I can share them with everyone!

Take it away, Jill!

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10 TIPS FOR CONDUCTING VIRTUAL READINGS by Jill Chodorov Kaminsky

  1. Designate one person to organize and lead the reading.
  2. Create a set schedule for the virtual readings (my group meets every other Saturday from 11am to 2pm).
  3. I recommend 2 to 3 hours per virtual reading at the most.
  4. Select 4 people per virtual reading to present their scripts.
  5. Read 10 to 15 pages, from those 4 different scripts, at each meeting.
  6. The first 1 to 2 minutes of each reading should be a very short synopsis of the story.  (If the scriptwriter selects 10 to 15 pages that are somewhere in the middle of the script, allow the first few minutes to explain what has happened up until those pages.)
  7. Assign participants to characters and the narrator, as you would do at any reading.
  8. After the reading, everyone can offer constructive suggestions and comments. The leader should keep things on track, focused on that one script.
  9. Allow 30 to 40 minutes total per script.
  10. Remind everyone that all scripts and ideas should be kept confidential within the group.

Break virtual legs!

Jill Chodorov Kaminsky is a former White House speechwriter and Peace Corps volunteer. Today, she is most passionate about her work as a serial entrepreneur, Broadway investor, and scriptwriter. She is currently working on two original TV pilots, a biopic, and a book about getting married for the first time at 50. I know, I know – she only looks 25. She is told that all the time.

Jill is also a volunteer mentor with Girls Write Now – a nonprofit that helps underserved girls find their voices through the power of writing.

As a member of New York Women in Film & Television, Jill is active in their “New Works Lab,” a group that meets twice a month for readings. New Works Lab has perfected the art of virtual readings in the era of COVID-19. She has shared with us some tips for conducting a productive reading while maintaining physical distancing.

Why Politicians Need A Marketing Lesson To Get People To Stay Inside.

In his daily midday address the other day, the butt-kickin’ Governor of NY, Andrew Cuomo, once again tried to emphasize how important it was that everyone stayed the @#$% inside during this crisis.

“I’ve tried to say this so many different ways,” he said, obviously frustrated that he was still not getting his message through to all the right people.

And he’s not the only one.

“Staying inside saves lives,” all the Politicians and Docs have said over the past few weeks.  “Because sure, sure, 80% of the folks who get it will recover, but you could pass it on to someone that is one of the unlucky folks who don’t.  So stay inside to help others.”

Makes sense.  A very compelling argument, right?

Of course.  But unfortunately, it’s just not enough for a heck of a lot of people.

What all the folks behind those podiums are forgetting is that they are selling something.  It’s just not a product that comes in an Amazon box.  It’s a message.  And that message could be more valuable than Jeff Bezos’s entire net worth.

And to get people to “buy” it, they need to go back to marketing basics.

When designing a marketing campaign of any kind, you must remember The Non-Golden Rule . . . people do things for what’s in it for them.  As ugly as it is to admit . . . self-interest is the public’s primary motivating factor.

Gross but true.

So telling people how staying inside will help other people may not be the most effective way to get these folks to actually do it.

It should be part of the argument, for sure.  But in my opinion, the Politicians and Doctors are missing out on a very important part of the message. . .

And the lead that they’ve buried is this . . . even though 80% of the people who get this thing may not have to go to the hospital, they could be dreadfully and disgustingly ill.

I was reminded of this myself when I read Drew Gasparini’s Instagram Story the other day.  If you don’t know him, Drew is a composer-who-will-be-reckoned-with (he’s the guy behind the upcoming Karate Kid score and he was featured on my Podcast recently as #SongWriterOfTheWeek) who also just battled COVID-19 and is now, thankfully, on the other side.

But before he broke the virus’s back, this is what he went through:

It is not hyperbolic when I say this is easily the sickest I’ve ever felt to the point that my own mind was questioning whether or not I was going to be able to wake up the next day.

There was nothing to prepare me for how god awful it is.  I am on day 10, and I am very very slowly turning the corner but my experience was so bad that I am still very much just a shell of myself.  I have never in my life felt as sick or scared that my body couldn’t handle something in my entire life. Ever. Not even close.

Here’s what my week felt like:

  • Constant fever between 100-103 (treated every 4-6 hours with Tylenol)
  • Chills and aches. Sometimes it got so bad that I would shiver when I left bed to the point that I would fall to my knees and have a hard time getting back up.
  • No taste or smell (this is common with this virus)
  • The fatigue was (still is) so bad I could barely lift my head or open my eyes. The most I traveled was from my bed to the couch and I really weighed out the bathroom trips.
  • Perpetual nausea. It was constant, and painful as I tried to force nutrients into my body…
  • Anytime I did eat it would be immediate (overshare) diarrhea.
  • A cough, that once it started it would become a long coughing fit

– Drew

So tell me, readers.  Even if you knew you’d recover . . . do you want to deal with any of that, never mind all of that?

And I’ve heard even worse from others.  One friend and industry professional I know had to take pain-killers because his body aches were so bad.

Another threw up blood.  Another had blood coming out the other end.

I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to make me stay inside and bodywash with sanitizer.

And that message could affect the behavior of others in the way the politicians, doctors, and everyone wants and needs.

Hearing what the virus has the potential to do to YOU not only gets at the self-interest in all of us, but it also invokes one of the other primary marketing axioms . . . The Pain-Pleasure Principle.

People will always run to pleasure.  And run from pain.

The current marketing of this “stay inside” message hasn’t showcased enough personal pain to get some of the population to trade in the pleasure of going to spring break, gathering at friend’s apartments, etc.

In fact, the “marketing” has done the opposite.  The current message, and I’m quoting a website here, is “Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.”

While that may be true, and while it does prevent panic, from a marketing perspective, it doesn’t help keep people locked down.  If we want people to listen, we need to tell them, “You can get this.  And yes, you’ll most likely recover.  But in the process, it could hurt.  A lot.  So prevent yourself from the chance of (INSERT DISGUSTING SYMPTOMS HERE) and stay inside.  Doing so will keep you feeling great, and could also save the lives of your friends, family and fellow New Yorkers.”

(This theory is the same that was used in those very successful anti-smoking ads that show people speaking with no larynx, etc.)

I’m sure most of the people who read this blog are the part of the population who are staying inside.  But if you know people who aren’t, and you really want to get them to stay inside, use the above message on them, will ya?

And special thanks to Drew for his honesty.

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Last night on our live stream we featured Actor, Producer, Artrepreneuer ALAN CUMMING!  Click here to watch the replay and hear him talk about . . .

  • How he’s utilizing this time of forced isolation to write his next book. . . and bake homemade crackers!
  • His number one tip to negotiating (you may be surprised by his response . . .)
  • What he’s learned from doing his podcast, Homosapiens.

And tonight at 8 PM EDT, we have stage director Leigh Silverman joining us!  Click here to get a reminder to tune in!

Sorry. April Fools’ Day is postponed, so here are 3 things to do instead.

Look, if The Tony Awards, The Olympics, and Coachella are postponed, then so is April Fools’.

Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t think anyone wants to be tricked this year.  We’re just not in the mood.

And hey, I’m even more bummed than you are.  Every FEBRUARY a reminder goes off in my “Toodledo” to-do app to start thinking of a new “gotcha” for all of you blog readers.   I’ve done everything from “I’m crowdfunding a new Broadway theater,” to “Meryl Streep is appearing on my podcast,” to my favorite . . . “I’m starring in a one-man show about Michael Dukakis.”

And just none of that seems right during this strange time.

So here are three things you can do instead of April Fools.

1. Do what this phone company wanted you to do.

There’s an old AT&T commercial that was probably one of their most successful in the company’s history.  The now very ironic lyrics of the jingle were, “Reach out, reach out and touch someone.”  Of course, we can’t do that right now.  But that was also the whole point of the commercial for the phone giant.  If you can’t physically be with another person, reach out anyway.  Check-in with a friend.  And instead of playing a prank, say those magic words, “What can I do to help you?”  What’s amazing about those seven words is that not only could you actually help someone, but give it some time, and watch how this simple action will bounce back and end up helping you when you need it the most.

2. Do what your mom taught you to do.

This is big in my house right now, as my wife, aka Super Mommy, has been working hard to teach our 2-year-old those two magic words . . . “Thank you.”It’s hard to find things to be grateful for when faced with the types of challenges we are all facing right now.  We’re concerned about our health, the health of our loved ones, the economy, our own personal economy.  That’s a @#$% ton.  But take a moment today to spend the time you might have spent coming up with an April Fools’ joke to find something to be grateful for.  Maybe it’s that you are healthy.  Maybe it’s that you realize how lucky you are to have your spouse or partner.  Or maybe it’s that you get to spend so much more time with your 2-year old than you would if you were at the office.  🙂

3. Do something . . . for yourself.

There will be two kinds of people when this is all over.  People who are the same as when it began and people who are stronger, smarter and ready for the new challenges that emerging from our caves will bring.  If you are reading this blog, then I’d bet the capitalization of Spiderman that you’re part of the latter.  So, do something to challenge yourself to improve some area of your life, and start today.

See, it’s the first of the month.  A perfect time to start a 30 Day Challenge.  Of any kind.  Sure, I’m partial to our 30 Day Script Challenge which is for any of you out there who always wanted to get an idea out of your head and onto a page (and this one will make that happen in 30 days).

But you can challenge yourself to do anything in the next 30 days . . . learn Spanish, get your real estate license, or if you’re like me . . . take a 30 Day Fitness Challenge!  (Yes, that grunting at 5 AM coming from the Upper West Side is me doing burpees).

And if you commit to something for 30 Days (which anyone can do), you’ll be on the road to creating a habit, which could last a lifetime.

Need some help?  Just Google “30 Day XXXXXX Challenge” for whatever it is you want to do, and I bet you find a road map for your next 30 days.

We’ve got the time, right?  What do you have to lose?  Now, what do you have to gain???

Doing something to improve yourself will not only keep your mind sharp, as we’re dulled by seeing the same surroundings every day, but you’ll end up a part of the population that comes out of this and says, “Ok, I’m @#$ing ready.  Let’s get at it.”

And that’s no April Fools’.

You’ve got 30 days.  GO!  (And yeah, if you’ve ever thought about writing something, do this challenge, for sure.)

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Last night on our live stream we featured Broadway Producer, Author, Historian, Jennifer Tepper!  Click here to watch the replay and hear her talk about . . .

  • Being on the set of the Tick, Tick, Boom! movie with Lin-Manuel Miranda when she realized this virus thing was real.
  • How she’s using this time to write the next volume of her successful book series.
  • What she thinks is the most underrated Broadway musical of all time.

And tonight at 8 PM EDT, star of stage and screen, the Tony Award-winning actor, Alan Cumming!  Click here to get a reminder to tune in!

He’s baaaaaack. “Nick Styler” – LIVE from the quarantine!

WARNING:  This video has no “Producer’s Perspective” to it at all.  It has no other goal other than to put a smile on your face.

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One of the biggest knee-slappin’ moments from Gettin’ The Band Back Together was a bit in Act II that was actor-improvised.

Here’s the backstory:

My co-author (Mark Allen) and I came up with the idea of a bad lounge singer underscoring a scene that took place at a local diner.  He wrote a tune and some lyrics . . . and we gave it to the actor, Ryan Duncan.

And then, Ryan Duncan took it to a place we never could have imagined.  And every night, he got applause for a moment that wasn’t ever intended to get applause.  (That’s what great actors do, btw – find a character, and a history, and infuse it with an energy that can’t ever exist solely on a written page – and this is also why I’ve worked specifically with Ryan for years, on Altar Boyz, this web series, and of course Gettin’ The Band).  

So when Ryan contacted me last week and said, “What do you think of me doing a Nick Styler video during the quarantine,” I was like, “Yes, please I would and may I have another.”

So ladies and gentlemen . . . originally from Sayerville, NJ . . . Nick Styler!

(If you can’t see the video, click here.)

The Producer’s Perspective LIVE! Episode 9: Be More Chill Producer Jennifer Tepper

If there was ever an “All Broadway” version of Jeopardy, and Jen Tepper was a contestant, no one would ever even get a chance to answer a question, never mind score some bucks.

And she’s my guest on tonight’s live stream!

She was also one of the Lead Producers of Be More Chill and Broadway Bounty Hunter and helped make both internet sensations.

Tune in tonight on my Facebook page to catch me and Jen at 8 PM EDT! (Click here to get an e-reminder!).

See you tonight at 8 pm EDT (7 pm CDT/6 pm MDT/5 pm PDT).

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This series continues EVERY NIGHT through the shutdown.  Tomorrow, we’ve got Tony Award Winning Actor Alan Cumming!  To see the full line-up for the next few weeks, visit www.theproducersperspective.com/LIVE.

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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