First read-throughs (or 'table reads') are a nerve-wracking time in the rehearsal process. Usually held on the first day, they're when the cast sit down with the director and other company members to do a script-in-hand read through of the entire show.
Here are seven pieces from the Curtain Call team - several of whom are professional actors - to help you get through.
1. Don't panic
This is not an audition. You've already got the role. Nobody is going to fire you for screwing up a line, or putting in a flat performance. The aim of a read-through is to give the company a sense of the play/musical in its entirety, as well as provide a team bonding exercise. Often the roles are swapped around, which can help calm the nerves.
2. Take a pencil and pad
Things will be said - by the director, by your castmates, by stage management, etc - that you will want to write down. So be prepared and bring a notebook. Or, this being the 21st century, you could always rely on a handy tablet.
First read-throughs will be most helpful to those who concentrate less on what they're saying, and more on what those around them are saying. The director will give useful pointers; you will learn valuable insights into other characters; and you may even change your mind completely about your own. Also, if something is instructed about how you should read (eg comedy accents might be encouraged to break the ice), be sure to follow it.
4. Don't go OTT
This is not the time to deliver your big soliloquy full-throttle, or to try and nail that joke in Act 2. That will all come. Read calmly and assuredly; there's nothing worse than an actor going way over the top early on and having nowhere left to go. This is not about 'acting', it's about reading.
5. Be committed
Don't be so laid back you appear nonplussed. It's easy to spot an actor whose heart isn't in a role at first read-through. As part of this, try to find time to read the script beforehand so you're not flying blind.
5. Ask questions
If questions are encouraged and you have them, be sure to ask them. And remember that sometimes it will be too late by the end of the read-through. If, for example, you're unsure whether to attempt your finest Welsh accent for Fluellen straight off the bat, maybe check beforehand to see if others are planning to use their character's voice.
You're a nice person, right? So show that to your new castmates. Surliness is rarely a quality to be admired - few of us have the gravitas to get away with it. Be friendly and generous to the other performers. Theatre's a team game, after all. If someone else is trying to be funny, throw them a laugh.
7. Mistakes will be made
Words will be mispronounced, line emphases misinterpreted and awkward moments such as kisses handled... awkwardly. That's all part of the process, and can even often provide constructive feedback to the director about the script. So if you stumble (and you will), don't sweat it. You've got weeks left to get it right.
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Image: Kunal Nayyar and Annapurna Sriram backstage during The Spoils at Trafalgar Studios, © Matt Humphrey 2016Back to news