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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  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.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.