[Originally published in the Star & Wave newspaper on March 8, 2023.]
By Roy Steinberg, Producing Artistic Director
The most important element of any theater production is the story it tells. It is what we do with that story, however, that creates great moments of theater.
Cape May Stage is proud to launch its 2023 Reading Series this month with two readings of timely plays performed by professional actors. We are excited about the series’ diversity—in subject matter, viewpoints expressed, casting and choice of playwrights.
Theater is a highly social art form today. Typically, it brings together actors, directors, designers, technicians, dancers, singers and musicians. But long before they assemble, for the creative process to even begin, a writer must face a blank page or an empty computer screen and start writing.
A reading is a first step for many theater productions, including ours at Cape May Stage. On the first day of rehearsals for a show, we ask actors to read their lines out loud alongside fellow cast members. With no set, no lighting, and no costumes, the focus is totally on hearing the words.
Theatergoers in the UK speak of “hearing” a play, while patrons in the US refer to “seeing” a play. The difference is noteworthy. British audiences were raised to listen to language in a way that many Americans were not.
This year’s Reading Series kicks off March 20 with “The Alabama Story” by Kenneth Jones. Based on true events, the play is about a children’s book featuring a black bunny and white bunny that was banned in the 1950s until a tenacious librarian sued in state court and won the case. The topic could not be more relevant.
We will also read “Kill Move Paradise” by James IJames on April 24. The play deals with the untimely deaths of four black men who are in a kind of waiting room for the hereafter. Directed by Chase Jackson, this story, too, seems to be ripped from today’s headlines.
Both plays, plus others later in the series, will be considered for future full productions. These first two readings will be streamed, since there are fewer people in town this time of year, and we will resume live readings in the summer and fall at the theater. All of these readings are open to the public and free of charge.
Our Zoom readings offer Cape May Stage unique opportunities as a theater, from getting artists from as far away as New Mexico for our March reading, to refining our technological skills.
And our in-person readings allow us to present new works to a live audience, in some cases for the first time. By doing so, those in attendance get to “hear” the play in its early stages and we get to provide valuable feedback to the playwright from both the actors and the audience.
In the Bible, John 1:1 tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word.” I encourage you to visit us at Cape May Stage and hear the words that may begin what could become a fully produced play at our theater sometime in the future.
For more information about our 2023 season, Reading Series and other theater events and activities, visit www.capemaystage.org.