Notes On A Table Read

Last night I was at the Phoenix for a fantastic table read of a play of mine that’s getting a production in October.

I’ll tell you about it later (because, as Bush’s chief of staff said about the Iraq War, you don’t introduce new products in the summer) but I can tell you how wonderful it is to hear actors read a piece out loud.

I usually sit in the back of the room and scribble on the script the whole time, but this time we sat in a circle and I had to be discreet.

Two things I always do in a first or second read: Any time an actor stumbles on a word or line, I make a little mark. It could be that their eyes simply got ahead of their mouth, as they tried to read ahead to see how the line turns out, but it’s just as likely that it’s something that needs to be streamlined.

And any time an actor subconsciously changes a line — like saying “way better” when the script says “even better” or saying “I go into my baritone” when the script says “I go into a baritone” — I always make a note of what their brain told them to say.

Sometimes the line is precisely what I mean it to say and they’re just going to have to make it work, but often what they say is more natural (at least for them, and since they’re the ones who are going to be saying it, might as well make it work for them.)

The key is, you can only do this in the first or second read, when they’re doing it subconsciously and not trying to actively change a line for some reason. And you probably shouldn’t blog about it.

And of course I always walk away knowing exactly what I need to cut and wondering how I ever left those little bits in there.