I've long been a fan of play readings, For many reasons.
One is that, when peopled with talented actors, they can be as entertaining as many fully staged productions.
Another is that they give actors a chance to exercise their skills in roles without the need for a theater to risk a full production. And sometimes in roles that they might no otherwise get a chance to play.
Yet another: With little or no rehearsal time or need to commit to a long run, it's easier to pull together an uncompromised, dream-team cast.
But open-to-the-public play readings don't happen on a regular basis here in Indy. Occassionally one happens at Butler University (see my column on "The Exonerated" here). Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre has presented script-in-hand readings of Kurt Vonnegut's "Happy Birthday, Wanda June" and other works. And a group of Indy's finest got together a while back to read some Shaw. But these are exceptions rather than the rule.
That's changing as of Feb. 18 with the launch of Indy Actors' Playground.
Run (loosely) by actor Bill Simmons and your's truly, Indy Actors' Playground is a monthly series of play readings held at Indy Reads Books. Each month, a different actor selects a play he or she has a passion for. That actor rounds up the cast for the reading (another is added to read stage directions) and the selection is presented on the third Monday of the month. Threre's no charge to watch and the actors aren't paid…but book or cash donations to Indy Reads are appreciated.
This month's cast featured Simmons, along with Karen Irwin, Ben Tebbe, Rob and Jen Johansen, and Claire Wilcher.
What's the play? Well, part of the fun of Indy Actors' Playground is that we don't announce what the play will be. Could be Shaw. Could be Shakespeare. Could be an unfamiliar play only seen in a rational theater elsewhere. It has to be a play that hasn't been performed Central Indiana in recent memory and isn't on any upcoming schedule. This isn't a testing ground for new plays (don't submit previously unstaged work please)–it's a chance for actors to dig into terrific parts.
Want to stay in the loop? I'll announce more here, but you can also follow Indy Actors' Playground on Facebook.