Hindi Greenberg: Sierra Stages’ ongoing play readings are a treat
November 7, 2018
Have you attended a Sierra Stages play reading at the Miners Foundry?
If yes, you've probably experienced an exhilarating evening of theater.
If no, you have missed exceptional and innovative plays that normally wouldn't be presented and fully staged in our small county.
Wikipedia defines a staged reading as "a form of theater without sets or full costumes. The actors, who read from scripts, may be seated, stand in fixed positions or incorporate minimal stage movement." The reading is usually of "a fully developed or classic play, where the reading itself is the performance."
Sierra Stages' readings take this approach, incorporating only the occasional prop or costume item necessary to set the tenor or characterization. As Managing Director Peter Mason tells it, "The original idea was to put together the readings with a minimal time commitment from everyone involved … only minimal blocking of actors, minimal props/costumes and no furniture (just chairs and music stands). Over time, it became clear that some of the plays we selected required a bit more blocking, props and/or furniture. However, we continue to emphasize simplicity for all of the readings."
The readings began in 2010 at the Off Center Stage and continued there in the fall season for three years. In 2013, "Theater by the Book," subtitled "An Informal Play Reading Series for the Community," was created to present readings throughout the year. This was achieved through a collaboration with the Miners Foundry; Sierra Stages does the programming while the Foundry provides the venue and takes the lead in marketing.
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The organizations split proceeds 50/50 after deducting costs for advertising, posters, Foundry staffing at the reading and royalties (the same as paid for a fully staged play, ranging from $100 – $150 per night). Directors, stage managers and actors volunteer their time. Because admission is free (with a suggested donation of $10), Sierra Stages doesn't know exact numbers, but attendance is generally 100-200 for each performance.
Since 2013, there have been 30 readings, utilizing 16 different directors. Most of the time, a director approaches Sierra Stages with a play, although a few directors have been solicited to direct plays that Sierra Stages wanted presented. Depending upon the desires of the director, the actors might rehearse merely four to six times, but you'd never discern that limitation when viewing the marvelous performances by the experienced actor/readers.
For the past three years, Jeffrey Mason has coordinated Theater by the Book, lining up directors and plays and offering advice, as needed, to directors about the logistics involved. Stage Manager Eric Foote supports the director, runs lights and sound for each reading and helps to resolve any issues that come up in rehearsals.
The next reading will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 14. "God of Carnage," written by Yasmina Reza and winner of the 2009 Tony for Best Play, will be directed by John Deaderick. It's about two sets of parents — one of whose child has hurt the other at a public park — who meet to discuss the altercation. Doors open at the Miners Foundry at 7 p.m., reading begins at 7:30 p.m. Don't miss it — these readings are a treat for anyone who enjoys good theater!
Hindi Greenberg has only missed two of the 30 readings — and only because she was out of town. They are a real gift to our community.
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