Theory – Staged Reading – The New Ideas Festival – Alumnae Theatre

By Sam Mooney

Long title, isn’t it?

I saw Theory by Norman Yeung, a wonderful staged reading, on Saturday as part of The New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre. I didn’t go planning to review it but it was so terrific that I decided to write about it – and about staged readings.

Theory is a beautifully written play about a film course, a professor, her students, technology, new media, and privacy. There wasn’t really a set. There were chairs for the actors and for the person who read the stage directions. Each of the actors had a script and read from it. They read as if they were performing, not as if they were reading. It really is like a radio play.

You may be asking yourself “what is a staged reading?”

That’s what I asked my daughter on Friday. She reminded me (I suspect with an eyeroll but we were in the car and I couldn’t tell for sure) that I had actually been to one a few years ago – and loved it! Except I thought it was called a reading and I didn’t even realize that until afterwards. During the performance – if a reading is a performance – I just thought it was a really cool way to do a play. It let my imagination run wild, sort of like watching radio drama.

A staged reading is the same as a reading.

It gives the playwright an opportunity to put his or her work in front of an audience, to see how the audience reacts, and to get feedback. I think it’s fairly far along in the creative process and that the next logical step is to do some refining – if needed – and then mount a production of the play.

I hope that Theory is produced soon. I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

In the meantime there are two more staged reading as part of The New Ideas Festival:

  • THE FLYING AVRO ARROW – A Musical Comedy by Doug Warwick • Directed by Nonnie Griffin
    Saturday Reading at Noon – March 20
  • WEIGHTLESS by Kelsey Blair • Directed by Ramona Gilmour-Darling
    Saturday Reading at Noon – March 27

Both are pay what you can. There was a full house on Saturday so don’t wait til the last minute, you might not get a seat.

One caveat about staged readings

If you think that going to the theatre could be a bit intimidating – or a lot intimidating – the intimidation potential of a staged reading is quite high. They tend to be in small spaces – the capacity at the Alumnae Theatre Studio is 80 people – and they tend to attract a lot of theatre people. And that can be unnerving. Theatre people tend to be flamboyant, all know each other, and hug and kiss and talk loudly. At least that’s the way it can seem.

Three years ago I probably wouldn’t have gone to a staged reading on my own. But now, it’s fine. Anyone can do it.

If you’d like to go to one of the reading and don’t really want to go alone you’re welcome to come with me.  Email me and we’ll set something up.


-Staged Readings, Week Two and Week Three, The New Ideas Festival, Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley St)
-Saturday March 20 and Saturday March 27 at noon
-Tickets at the box office

0 thoughts on “Theory – Staged Reading – The New Ideas Festival – Alumnae Theatre”

  1. … so, the ‘imitation potential’ is based on three things, the size of the space, the people that go, and the intimacy between people? i can understand that smaller, low-lighted places can be intimidating, but isn’t the rest of your comment a bit of a generalization about who goes to a staged reading and what they do there?
    … the danger of your comment is it posits a deterrent to going to the theatre because of the people that go; a deterrent that is based on a generalization. … the intention of the comment might have been good, but, on first-reading, it struck me as irresponsible and in contradiction to a principle of this website that attempts to break through social and psychological barriers to theatre by offering an unpretentious approach, not introducing stereotypes about the audience.

  2. Hi Adam

    My experience with staged readings consists of two readings so I’m not an expert by any means. I do think though that it’s important to acknowledge that one of the reasons people don’t go to the theatre is because they think they’ll find it intimidating. And that it’s important sometimes to actually say it out loud so people know they aren’t alone.

    I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only middle-aged woman – or man – who avoided going to anything other than really main stream theatre because I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want to go somewhere that I might find intimidating.

    I guess what I was trying to say was ‘yes, it can be a bit intimidating but it’s such a terrific experience that it’s worth a bit of intimidation. Go. You’ll be glad you did.’


  3. I have to agree with Sam on this one. The point of Mooney on Theatre is to demystify theatre. The whole reason there is a need for something that is meant to demystify theatre is because a hell of a lot of people find theatre brutally intimidating.

    Sam is only recounting her observation, and she says ‘tend to be’, not ‘each and every one is’. And she knows this not only from attending theatre, but from having a daughter who is in theatre and knowing her friends. It’s a pretty accurate statement. Sure there are shy subdued theatre folks, of course there are, but they’re not the majority.

    I think it’s incredibly important to say if something has a high intimidation factor. Otherwise people will go, not expecting the intimidation factor, and then, when faced with it, think that’s just what theatre is and have all their fears confirmed.

    The thing is, as theatre-folk, we can forget how intimidating theatre is for people who aren’t steeped in it. There’s nothing intimidating about going to a mega-musical at Mirvish, but send someone to Theatre Passe Muraille without any guidance and they’re gonna be intimidated. Hell, I’m a theatre person, have been for basically always, and I was intimidated when I first went to Passe Muraille.

    That’s precisely why it’s so important to me that the reviews on MoT convey a sense of what the show feels and looks like. Because I want people to know the level of intimidation that they might expect.

    The joy of theatre though is that, once you’ve been a few times the intimidation factor diminishes. It’s a little bit like going to Jet Fuel. The first few times it’s crazy-intimidating, no menus, everyone seems to know everyone, the baristas can be surly in their playfulness, all in all, intimidating. But, after you’ve been there a few times and you know the game, it’s not intimidating at all, in fact, it’s downright fun.

    You said “it struck me as irresponsible and in contradiction to a principle of this website that attempts to break through social and psychological barriers to theatre by offering an unpretentious approach, not introducing stereotypes about the audience.”

    In fact, I would argue the contrary. I think it would have been irresponsible for Sam to *not* have talked about the intimidation factor. If it was noticeable to her now, after a few years of regularly going to ‘small theatre’, then imagine how intimidating it would be to someone who has only ever gone to a big Mirvish musical!

    Perhaps if the wording had been a bit different and didn’t say “who tend to be” but rather said “who were” you would have felt better?

    To “break through the social and psychological barriers to theatre” we need to tell people what to expect. Our goal here isn’t to have every reader go to every show. Our goal is to give as accurate a picture of the experience so that the readers can decide if that’s an experience they would like to have.

  4. I agree with Megan on this. I’m more of a film geek than a theatre geek, so I do find that some of the smaller theatre venues can be a wee bit intimidating, and Megan’s Jet Fuel analogy totally brings this point home (I know now, after several visits, that the Americano is $2!). I think it’s important for our reviewers to prepare people for the “feel” of a theatre/event, but readers should keep in mind that all reviews are merely writers’ opinions. It’s cool to disagree with whatever a reviwer thinks, or to go to something like a staged reading and come out afterwards thinking, “Hey, that wasn’t that indimidating at all.” After all, we’re all entitled to our perceptions!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *