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!

– – – – –

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.

Introducing The Producer’s Perspective LIVE! Starting TONIGHT at 8 PM

Last weekend, when I realized I wouldn’t be seeing a lot of my friends, acquaintances (or “virtually” anyone) in-person for quite some time, I started reaching out via FaceTime, Zoom and Text just to check-in and see how they were doing.

Well, they showed me.

In the first few moments of our chit-chat, they had me laughing, they had me learning (sharing their tips of how they were getting through this), and they had me inspired to do something to help anyone out there who need the same medicine that I inadvertently did!

That’s when I thought . . . more people need to hear from these amazing folks.

So that’s what we’re doing.

Inspired by my podcast and the little pick-me-ups I described above, tonight we start TheProducersPerspectiveLIVE!

Every night at 8 PM EDT, we’ll have a superstar TheaterMaker join us for a brief chat about how they are doing, what they are doing, and what tips they are for you on getting through, and eventually, getting back to what we all love to do . . . make theater.

And yes, that’s right . . . no recorded edited episodes here.  These will be LIVE and ON VIDEO, streaming live on Facebook.

And just look at who has already shot their hand up and said YES, I’ll do it!

Stephen Schwartz – Tuesday, March 24th
Sierra Boggess – Wednesday, March 25th
Alex Brightman – Thursday, March 26th

Rick Miramontez – Friday, March 27th
Stephen Flaherty – Saturday, March 28th
Pam MacKinnon – Sunday, March 29th

Steven Sater – Monday March 30th
Jennifer Tepper – Tuesday, March 31st
Alan Cumming – Wednesday, April 1st
Leigh Silverman – Thursday, April 2nd
Sergio Trujillo – Friday, April 3rd
Jeanine Tesori – Saturday, April 4th
Anthony Veneziale

David Henry Hwang
Andrew Lippa
Lonny Price
Kevin McCollum
Zalmen Mlotek
Ryan Scott Oliver
Damian Bazadona
Drew Hodges
David Rockwell
Jack Tantleff
Al Nocciolino
John Caird
Des McAnuff
Stephen Byrd
James Lapine

It’ll be every night, 7 days a week.  And you can see the schedule for the series here.

I’ll kick it off tonight to talk a little more about it, take some questions (and honestly, test the technology before I get a big star online).

Tune in to my Facebook page TONIGHT, Monday March 23rd, at 8pm ET (7pm CT / 6pm MT / 5pm PT) to hear more about it AND get an update on what will be joining us.  And to find the most up-to-date schedule and list of guests, visit this page: www.TheProducersPerspective.com/Live.

See you tonight . . . and every night!  And don’t forget, the schedule is here!

 

10 Things TheaterMakers Can Do During The COVID-19 Quarantine.

I know our minds are all a bit mushy right now as we try to make sense of what is happening today and what will happen tomorrow.  But one way to take your mind off the CNN ticker is to put your focus on doing something you love.

That’s a bit more challenging for TheaterMakers since the definition of what we do is all about gathering together in groups, whether that’s for rehearsals or performances or even just a hash-it-out, no-ideas-barred, creative meeting.

But it’s essential during this @#$%-ing Corona Crisis that we all keep making theater.  Because I believe when we come out of this, and we will, we’re going to be so starved for human connection, that we’re going to need even more group-gathering events like the theater like never before.

And while it’s challenging to do what we do right now, it’s not impossible.

That’s why I came up with these 10 Things TheaterMakers Can Do During The Corona Quarantine to help you become a better TheaterMaker.

 

1. Write something, anything, new.

Broadway is currently shut down until April 13th.  Challenge yourself to write a new play, musical, one-person show, 10-minute play, short story, novel, screenplay, whatever IN THESE NEXT 30 DAYS. There’s a quote that’s going around social media to TheaterMakers that says, “Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear.”While I like that post, I’d amend it to say, “he wrote THE FIRST DRAFT of King Lear.”  Don’t put pressure on yourself.  Just puke something up.  Here’s a great tool to help you do just that.  Once you do that, you’ll be ready to shape it into the next King Lear.

2. Have a virtual reading.

I’m doing this one myself!  We’ve got a brand new draft of one of our musicals, and we’re going to read it (because we’re at that stage) . . . online!  Get your creative team together on Zoom or Google Hangouts, assign each other parts and read the effin’ thing.  Remember plays and musicals were not meant to read like a book.  They need to be heard out loud.  And you can still learn a lot from hearing it out loud online.

3. Read “The Classics.”

This is another one that I’m doing right now that I’ve been dying to find the time to do. Whenever I am working on a project, I like to read the “classics” to try to understand why they are classics, where my project may be lacking, and to let their mastery of those Authors seep into my brain.  For example, I’m working on a couple of books of musicals right now, so I’m reading the scripts for the shows that have won the Tony Award for Best Book of a musical for the last ten years.Advanced tip:  When you look to pick up a “classic,” I’d encourage you to niche yours down to whatever genre you are writing.  If you’re writing a comedy . . . read the “10 Best Comedies.”  If you’re writing drama, farce, political play, courtroom drama, etc, find those similar pieces.  It’s amazing what you’ll learn.  You will be better for it.

4. Learn What You Don’t Know.

I believe the best TheaterMakers are the ones who know what it’s like to be in another TheaterMaker’s shoes.  Writer who has never directed?  Pick up a book on directing.  Director who doesn’t read or write music?  Take an online music class.  Actors who only act?  Now is the time to take those online singing lessons.  The more you know, the more valuable you are.  And if you learn a new theater-related skill during this dark time, when our curtain rises again, you could find yourself more marketable than ever before.

5. Build Your Website (Or Get Yours In Order)

Every TheaterMaker is an entrepreneur (or “Artrepreneur” as I like to say) running his or her own business.  And every business needs a website.  If you don’t have one, get one.  Find a work-from-home freelancer from all over the world to build it for you.  Build one yourself here.  Or email me and I’ll give you the names of some people in our business who know how to get a site up for you, and fast. Already have a site?  How’s it looking?  Updated with your latest news and photos?  Some people are getting their houses in order this week.  Use this time to get your website in order.  It’s the front door of your business.  Make sure it’s welcoming.

6. Find A New Collaborator

This is a great time to go on a FEW dates with some new collaborators.  Get on your social media and say exactly that . . . you want to go on an e-date with a new book writer, a new lyricist, a new composer, etc.  Find one and write!  But listen . . . one of the reasons why most collaborations go wrong is that they start out trying to get married first.  In other words, they say, “Let’s write a musical together.”  Don’t try that.  Write a song together.  Write a 10 Minute Musical together.  Write a one-act play together.  Write something short so you can see if you are compatible. One of the greatest ways to build a FUTURE collaboration is to have a very quick success.  The other benefit of writing something short . . . is that you can do this with several folks at once, until you find “the one.”

7. Start Your List.

As an Artrepreneur, you’re going to need other people to come to your shows, listen to your music, donate to your kickstarters, etc.  You’re going to need to get your message out and fast.  And the most effective way to do that is via email.  That’s right, it’s NOT social media. Email is still the best form of marketing for small businesses (and that’s what you are – a small business).  Every single Artrepreneur should have a list, armed and ready to deploy on a moment’s notice.One of the biggest issues my consulting clients come to me with is, “My show opens next week and I haven’t sold any tickets,” or “My show opens in a month and I haven’t raised any money yet.”  When I poke and probe, I usually find out that these folks haven’t organized or exploited their most valuable marketing asset . . . their own contacts!  So this week, put all your contacts in a MailChimp or on a Google Sheet or anywhere you can . . . . 1, quickly deploy it and 2, constantly update it. Bottom line is . . . the Artrepreneurs with the biggest lists of contacts wins.  Start yours today.

8. Start ANOTHER business.

My first “Acting as a Business” teacher used to hate when any of us said we were going to wait tables.  “Waiting tables is just that . . . waiting.  Do something else instead where you can take control of your destiny!”I started a resume-building business right then and there.90% of all Artrepreneurs out there have to have a “day job” while they pursue their passion.  And I know some folks who are amazing at balancing their “other 8 hours” while having successful careers as attorneys, eye surgeons, homemakers (the hardest job around, btw).

But what if your job didn’t require you to show up from 9 to 5?  This is a great time to pursue what so many folks have done over the last 5 years . . . and start an online business.  Maybe it has to do with the performing arts, or maybe not.  Sell your crafts on Etsy (that list we just created in item #7 will come in handy here).  Open an Amazon store.  Get your real estate license.  Offer to help type people’s script into Final Draft. Create your own “day job” that gives you the flexibility to do what you really want to do . . . from home.  🙂

9. What’s your Social Media Strategy?

Don’t get me wrong by what I said about email vs. social media in Tip #7.  Social Media IS still important.  It’s just a different type of messaging than email.  Social media is “social” by nature . . . it’s not “sales.”  It’s about what you can post that brings value to other people, not about what brings value to you.That “value” can be in tips and inspiration or it can simply be in making people laugh (which is even more important now that ever.)  Whatever value you provide, here are my three steps to a good social media strategy:

a. Establish yourself on all the social media platforms, but pick ONE that you’ll focus on.  Maybe it’s Instagram, Facebook or even YouTube.  But make one platform your central focus and use the others to push people towards that content.

b. Decide how many times you’ll post per day, or per week, and stick to that schedule.  Doing this with my blog is one of the reasons it became popular back in 2008 (!) when I started it. It wasn’t only about the content, it was that it was dependable content.  Use the old TV cliche, “Same time, same channel.”

c. Share other people’s content to get people to share yours.  Reciprocity in the social media world is even more powerful than the “regular” world because it’s so easy to share, repost, tag, etc.  When you’re a fan of other folks online, they’ll often repay the fan-favor.

10. What can I do to help you?

Lastly, and this is a great thing for not only all TheaterMakers to do, but for all people to do throughout these upcoming weeks.  One of the most powerful efforts we can make right now is to reach out to others and see how we can help.  That’s right . . . email, text, whatever and say, “What can I do to help you?”  If you’re healthy and young, can you do errands for someone who is older and shouldn’t go out?  Can you help raise money for charity?  (The Actors Fund is a great one, made for moments just like this.)  TheaterMakers are the most passionate and caring folks in the world.  So share that love with others.

 

John F. Kennedy once said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis. ‘ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.”

There are opportunities over the next several weeks for all of us to here to become better and more caring TheaterMakers and people.  Seize them.

Because one day, when this is long gone, and we are a healthy society of plenty and abundance again, people will ask you, “What did you do during the Corona epidemic?”

I want you to have a wonderful story that ends with, “And that’s why I’m where I am today.”

Go get ’em.

(Keep watching this blog all week for more stuff we’re doing to keep us all creating.  We’re doubling down on content here and on at TheaterMakersStudio.com just for you.)

Episode 208 – The Accidentally and Incredibly Brave, Maddie Corman

I don’t know that I could have done it.

But, then again, I’m not Maddie Corman.

As you’ll hear in my intro to this podcast, I’ve known about Maddie Corman since I was a teenager.  Chances are, you have too.  After all, she has been in over 25 films, including Some Kind of Wonderful and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. 

But all that could never have prepared her for the real-life drama she was dragged into a few years ago.

She came out the other side of it and, then, she decided to write about it . . . and perform it . . . in a play called Accidentally Brave.

And you know what?  I KNOW I could not have done it.

Maddie and I talked about how she got the courage to do what many in the world would not, as well as . . .

  • How sharing trauma is a powerful tool for storytelling.
  • The process of how she created her one-person show . . . and how you can create one too.
  • How to tell the difference between an actor and someone who just wants to be famous.
  • Just who deserves to be sent an invitation to your first reading.
  • Why you need friends who will give you honest feedback and not just tell you how great your shows is.

 

Enjoy the podcast!

  • Click here to listen on our site!
  • Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)
  • Download it here.

And if you didn’t get the chance to see Maddie in Accidentally Brave Off Broadway, you can read it right here or listen to the Audible Audiobook here.

And this week’s #SongwriterOfTheWeek is Misha Lambert! If you enjoyed the outro song in this episode, go on over to https://mishalambert.com/ or check her out on Instagram & Twitter @mishalambert.

BREAKING NEWS: How your show could win a licensing deal . . . thanks to Rave and StageRights!

In case you missed it, last week we extended the deadline for submission to the Rave Theater Festival by one week!

That’s right, the final FINAL deadline to get your script submitted is this Sunday, March 8th at 11:59 PM.

Why did we extend?

Well, we wanted to get you TheaterMakers out there a chance to polish up your scripts, you perfectionists you.

But there was another, much more exciting reason.

It started last weekend at my Inner Circle weekend.  We were lucky enough to have Roger Bean, the founder and head honcho at StageRights, speak to my elite group of TheaterMakers about how to get their shows licensed.  And when Roger and I got to talking about Rave, he said, “How can I help?”  And before I could even answer he said, “What if I gave one show a licensing deal?”

He had me at licensing deal.

So he and I shook hands, and bam . . . just like that I’m thrilled to announce that one of the shows that appears at this year’s Rave WILL get published and a licensing deal at Stage Rights!  (And, yeah, even an advance!!!!)

If you don’t know StageRights and you are a TheaterMaker, you should.  They are one of the few independent licensing companies left and do a fantastic job for their Authors (and I’m proud to be one of them).

To have one of our Rave shows get a guarantee at what all Authors dream about is . . . well, a dream come true for this founder of Rave.

So, you see, we HAD to extend it by a week in order to give you a chance to not only get into Rave, but to also get published!

But you only have 6 days.  So submit today.  You never know what will happen if you do.  You could get a great NY Times review like some of our last year’s shows.  You could get optioned by a Producer like some of last year’s shows.

Or you could get licensed by StageRights . . . which will happen to one of THIS year’s shows!

Thanks again to Roger and StageRights.

And submit!

 

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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