Thursday, June 20, 2013

Richard III (reading group)

Last night I was delighted to be the guest at a new play reading program at the Beachwood Public Library. A few months ago Margaret Reardon (who I had only ever met on Facebook before last night) asked if I wouldn't like to stage a night of play reading and if so, which title?

As Great Lakes Theater will be opening their 52nd season with Shakespeare's Richard III, I figured that was a good choice. It's a great play, I am a Shakespeare guy, and though I have seen it once or twice, I have to admit I hadn't actually read it before.

Not that we read the entire thing last night. I found A Fifty-Minute Richard III by Bill Tordoff -- paid for it, secured proper rights, you're welcome -- which, true to its word, is a very short version of Shakespeare's second-longest script. It is a hatchet job, to be sure, the man didn't work very hard to maintain the verse and eliminated some very popular passages, but what are you gonna do? The library closes at 9 PM.

The crowd was larger than either Margaret or I had expected, 34 participants, with ages ranging from the college students to seniors and everyone in-between ... but mostly seniors.

Some were surprised when I announced we would go around the table, reading "round-robin" with people picking up characters as we went around, and then starting again at the beginning of a new scene. One man said he thought there were going to be "actors" present, and I said that was him.

When it became clear that this method meant men would be playing ladyparts (yes, thank you) I said it wouldn't be fair for the women to have to share the three parts available to ladies in this script, and all should have the chance to play Richard. Another said I should play Richard all night, and I said I didn't think that was fair, everyone should have the chance to play Richard!

The best part was, no one balked at reading, and everyone read very well! I tried to toss in as many bits of trivia I could, and make comparisons between this and Shakespeare's later works, but for the most part tried to stay out of the way of the action ... as I said, we needed to be done before the library closed!

Everyone had a good time, especially me, and Margaret has started her play reading series. Good work, everyone!

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