What is a “pre-read?”
As a producer, I always tell my writers that I need to hear what they write, I cannot just read the lines on the page. As we work on the script I hire professional actors to “give life” to the dialogue. I listen to what they are saying, watch their expressions and try to imagine how it would be staged. But mostly, I am listening for the story. Is it consistent, do the actions make sense, does the dialogue really say what the character is trying to put across? (Sometimes just ONE word in a sentence makes a huge difference…and sometimes it takes many readings to find just the perfect word.)
Musicals start as stories. Stories become dialogue (spoken or sung). Dialogue becomes scenes and scenes become Acts. But it all comes back to the story of the musical.
We are planning a full reading of GRACE & THE ISLAND OF MISFITS for March 31 in Milwaukee, and I am thrilled about it. A colleague and long time friend will direct the reading and we will hire actors from Milwaukee and Chicago. My goals for the reading are to gauge the audience reaction – when do they seem lost? Do their faces seem confused? Another goal is to gauge the story – does it flow? Does it linger too long somewhere? Does the story keep moving forward? Does our hero (Grace, of course) have a journey that is relatable, credible and easily shared? And of course, ASK the audience for feedback.
We also want to look and test the music and lyrics. Are the songs at the right spot? Do the lyrics move the plot along? Do they go by too quickly for the audience to catch the action? Is the music appropriate for what is happening in the story? All of this.
To prepare for this reading in March (don’t worry, I will send out multiple invitations and reminders), we just did an informal “pre-read” in my living room. About 8 actors and staff members sat together and read the story and lyrics. (The actors did not get the script before so they had to read it cold.) Boy, did we learn a lot! Mostly great feedback, but we found a couple of places where the dialogue is clunky, and the plot seems to falter. So…back to re-writes to prepare for the full reading.
Wish us luck.