On Marketing Monday, I talked about Reader’s Theater over at Bubble Stampede. Part of the reason it had been on my mind was that I was attending a Reader’s Theater event last Friday night that was part of the Minnesota Reading Association’s annual conference.
Mary Casanova, John Coy, Lynne Jonell, and David LaRochelle were the readers (see a picture from the event), and they performed six scripts (written by Heidi Grosch) based on their various middlegrade and young adult novels. It was interesting to see Reader’s Theater possibilities for older classrooms.
I talked about the basics of RT at that Bubble Stampede post linked to above. But I thought I’d share a few thoughts about what I personally felt worked best and didn’t work so well for RT. I’m thinking hard about this because I want to write a script for Stampede!
I really preferred scripts that condensed the entire novel as opposed to just a scene or two. The script based on David LaRochelle’s Absolutely Postively Not wonderfully captured the entire book in 8 minutes. (But…it still would have made me want to read the book if I hadn’t already, I think.) The script for John Coy’s Box Out was another excellent summary of the entire book. They really captured the conflict, struggle, and resolution.
I can see how teachers might use RT scripts, though, to get kids excited about a book. The group performed the intro only of The Klipfish Code, a mg novel by Mary Casanova. The dramatic wartime scene really made me want to read this book!
Refrains are fun! “Absolutely, positively not!” All 4 of them would say that at critical point–It was built into the script. So it wasn’t only a refrain. The line leading up to it would be some kind of question, like, "That didn’t mean I was different, did it?" And all four would respond, "Absolutely, positively not!" Fun!
Also, it’s very cool when they finish each other’s sentences, and when the narrator makes some kind of funny, summarizing sentence—like a Greek chorus or offscreen narrator.
I don’t like it much when different readers play the same character. I found it occasionally confusing, and I think at the primary level (which would be the audience for my script), it would be doubly so.
Talking with too much of an accent: Funny, but hard to understand. But animal sound effects? Excellent! The barking during To Catch a Burglar (a mg novel by Mary Casanova) was too funny.
Playing with sound is just terrific. In Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat (mg novel by Lynne Jonell), Rat says "Freeeeeeeeeeee" at one point, and I think all four readers joined in to emphasize the importance of that moment. And it trailed off as Rat ran away, getting farther and farther away.
Also repetition. “Shoot." "Rebound." "Shoot." "Rebound." "Shoot." "Rebound.” That alternated between two readers in John Coy’s Box Out, and it was very effective.
Using these different elements can make a Reader’s Theater script a real melding of story and spoken word.
I’m so glad I attended this event (are there events at your local teacher conferences that are open to the public as well?). I have a much better idea of some of the fun, special effects elements I want to incorporate into my own Reader’s Theater script. And it was an entertaining event, too!