1. As IBJ's A&E editor and arts columnist, I've seen a lot of terrific theater over the years. But one of the things I've yearned for here is a regular series of play readings. There's something unique and wonderful about what can happen when talented actors–without the aid of sets, costumes, special lighting or even memorization of lines–can bring a story and characters to life. Perhaps it's a throwback to the pleasures of radio drama. Perhaps it goes even further back to having stories told to us at bedtime. Whatever the case, the format draws me.
2. In conversations with actors over the years, I've found that most have plays that they are dying to do–if only some theater would produce them. But these plays may not have a commercial hook. They may not have a director passionate enough about the project to pitch it. They may be too expensive to fully stage because of cast size or design requirements. Or they may be too risky for any of dozens of other reasons.
3. Often, the casting of plays is a compromise. A desired actor may already be booked at a scheduled time. Another may not be quite the right age or look to be "right" for a full production.
Recently, actor Bill Simmons and I–after casually talking about the above for years–put those three elements together and launched Indy Actors' Playground.
Each month, we find an Indy actor with a play he or she is passionate about (new, classic, unknown oldie, whatever) but that hasn't been staged here in the past few years and isn't on an upcoming schedule.
He or she casts it, makes sure everyone has a script, and we read it on the third Monday of the month at Indy Reads Books on Mass Ave. No payment. No publicity push. We don't even announce what the play will be (We do keep a Facebook page here for feedback and to announce casts).
Our first reading, selected by Simmons in February, was thrilling. This month, Paul Hansen (ATI's "Gypsy," Cardinal Stage's "The 39 Steps") picks the play and is joined by Chuck Goad and Jolene Mentink Moffatt.
Spectators are welcome, of course–at no charge (although we encourage bringing some books to donate to Indy Reads).
The goal is to give Indy talent a chance to dig into a play and for talented actors to explore together without worrying about the realities of getting a full production staged.
Care to join us on March 18th?