EN 202 Approaches:  Readers Theatre
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For more information about using this approach of the Readers Theatre Assignment, contact Dr. Ware at EAWare@grove.iup.edu

Directions for Readers Theatre Assignment

Your assignment is to work in small groups (approximately 4-6 students) to write and perform a Readers Theatre script based on research you have done. Your research should come from a variety of sources, for example, library sources including books, articles, newspapers, reliable Internet sites, interviews, observations, as well as other sources pertinent to your topic. Six to eight good sources should be enough to use throughout this project. When you write your script you will document your sources parenthetically within the script and then include a Works Cited page at the end. When you perform your script you will not need to cite your sources aloud unless that approach works with the type of program you are presenting. The purposes of this assignment are to encourage you to do extensive and interesting research; to improve your integration of research sources into your writing; to stimulate your creativity; to work effectively in a small group; and to practice your oral skills by presenting your research and writing in a public forum.

There is no single way of creating and presenting Readers Theatre—be creative and experiment!


Definition:

Readers Theatre is a production in which oral readers help an audience to experience a topic. It is creative oral reading.

Some Elements of Readers Theatre

Scenery and costumes are usually not used or are only suggestive.

Action and physical movement is minimized.

A narrator talking to the audience often establishes the context and connects the various scenes together. A chorus is also an option.

A script is carried by each reader. There is no need to memorize because readers can interpret from the script.

A continuing effort to maintain as intimate a relationship between the audience and the readers—audience participation is a plus.

Emphasis is placed on the readers’ words, thus upon ideas. The primary purpose is to make the audience think—to be intellectually involved.

Experimentation is welcomed.

Length of Presentation

Your Readers Theatre production should be12-15 minutes in length. If you have access to your own camcorder, you may videotape your production outside of class and then show it to the rest of the class on a TV monitor. If you decide to do a live performance in class, I will videotape the production.

Adapting Sources: The sources you can adapt are limitless. You may combine scholarly research studies, newspapers, letters, interviews, diaries, poems, plays, short stories, novels, essays—whatever helps you to reach your audience. Your writing will be adaptive from sources rather than wholly creative. Originality comes from the selection and arrangement of materials and the ways they can be used to influence the audience. Sophistication is achieved by making effective connections, juxtapositions, and transitions among your sources.

Developing a Script

To develop your script you must first have a focus/thesis and a purpose aimed at your audience. You may wish to persuade, inform, entertain, make them think, or other purposes you may devise. Then you must gather and analyze a variety of sources from which you will select the ones that have intellectual appeal and dramatic potential.

Leslie Cooper and Melvin White in Readers Theatre Handbook (on reserve in the Library) offer some advice about selecting and adapting sources (21-25).

Look for sources that have "evocative power" to excite the audience’s mind and emotions.

Develop interesting characters and interactions among the characters. You may develop your own characters and their ideas based on a scholarly source you have read and/or you may import characters that other writers have created.

The characters must be involved in some mental action whether it be thinking and/or feeling. Conflict which is usually the foundation of dramatic action can be with outside forces or characters or a character’s own internal psychological turmoil. Action is suggested rather than physically acted out; therefore, the script must contain clear action that the audience can visualize through mental images.

The script must be thought-provoking, but the enriched language should also provide an emotional experience for the audience. Poetic sound effects such as alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, repetition can contribute memorable auditory effects.

The script should possess a wholeness, a sense of being complete. Therefore, it needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Because your presentation will only last 12-15 minutes, you will have to cut and adapt your sources, perhaps condensing and telescoping events and characters to fit the time limits.

Writing the Script

Your small group will have lots of in class time to work on writing the script, but you may also have to devote some out of class time to this endeavor. The script should set the scene, indicate the floor/stage plan, give the cast of characters, develop dialog between the characters, indicate any stage directions for props and reader movements, parenthetically document sources, and include a Works Cited page. The script should be typed.

Directing the Production
 
You may decide as a group how you want to cast and stage the production, or you may want to select a director who can do much of the management of these tasks for you.

Rehearsing

While there may be some class time for rehearsing your production, you should also plan to do some rehearsing outside of class.

 


Assessment of Readers Theatre Project

Grade

A
The script evokes a strong positive response from the audience and provides a memorable experience. The script has a wholeness that gives the impression of a complete experience. The story line and characters are clear and well developed. Research is thorough and well integrated into the script. The script showed control over grammar, documentation, and Works Cited page. The stage arrangement and readers’ movements are creative and visually effective. Music, lighting, visual effects, and readers’ clothing are used creatively and add to the total effect of the production. The readers make the characters come alive by projecting distinct and realistic personalities. The readers handle their manuscripts unobtrusively, making frequent eye contact with the audience, and keeping their voices loud enough to be heard. The readers have projected energy that keeps the audience interested throughout.

B
The script evokes a positive response from the audience, providing a memorable experience.The script generally has a wholeness, but there may be one or two places that need more development to give an impression of completeness. The story line and characters are clear. Research is well done and adequately integrated into the script.The script had an occasional problem with grammar, documentation, and Works Cited page. The stage arrangement and readers’ movements are visually effective. Music, lighting, visual effects, and readers’ clothing add to the total effect of the production. The readers adequately project the various characters.The readers adequately handle their manuscripts, making occasional eye contact with the audience, and generally keeping their voices loud enough to be heard. The readers maintain audience interest throughout most of the production.

C
The script evokes a response from the audience, but needs a little more work in order to provide a more memorable experience. The script needs more work in several places in order to gain a sense of wholeness.The story line and/or characters may be a little confusing. More research is needed and/or it needs to be more seamlessly integrated.The script had some problems with grammar, documentation, and Works Cited pg.The stage arrangement and readers’ movement have some awkward spots.Music, lighting, visual effects, and readers’ clothing do not enhance the production.The readers have some difficulty projecting the various characters.The readers may have awkward handling of the manuscripts and/or make infrequent eye contact with the audience and/or difficulty in keeping their voices loud enough. The readers may lose audience interest in several places during the production.

 


Teacher’s Reflection on Readers Theatre Projects

After working with you for the last month, watching your presentations, and reading your reflections, I want you to know how delighted I have been with your work. Most of you say that you have learned so much, and I agree with you. I want to share with you what I have learned, and I’ll organize my thoughts based on the purposes of the assignment: 1) to encourage you to do extensive and interesting research; 2) to improve your integration of research sources into your writing; 3) to stimulate your creativity; 4) to work effectively in a small group; 5) and to practice your oral skills by presenting your research and writing in a public forum.

  1. While I stated that six to eight good sources should be enough to use for the project, most groups went well beyond that, with an average of 13 sources. You found quite a variety of research materials and in a variety of places, including the following: personal interviews, CD ROM database articles, Internet sites, popular magazines, scholarly journals, books, museums. From your reflections, it’s clear that each of you became more comfortable with research skills and also learned new in depth information about your specific topics.
  2. You also learned how to integrate research sources into your scripts in many ways. The analysis of the killers in the Columbine project, the debate between professionals about piercing, the arguments about Vietnam, the movie reviews about Jimmy Stewart were all not only innovative, but were evidence of your attempt to go beyond mere summary of sources in order to incorporate your critical thinking. I learned that some topics are more conducive to critical thinking than others. Those with an argument are generally easier to think critically about while a biography is much more difficult; this will help me to guide students to more appropriate topics in the future.
  3. This project definitely stimulated creativity in a number of ways, letting various students contribute their special talents. We had several students who clearly have a talent for acting and public speaking. Creativity was also evident in the way the projects were designed and directed. A few creative moments that stand out for me were the 911 call from Columbine, the great Powerpoint visuals concerning tatooing and also Vietnam, and the poster and Harvey bunny from the Jimmy Stewart presentation, but there were many, many more.

  4. I learned that most people had fine experiences working in small groups, with a few exceptions. Groups with seven were probably a little too large, so five students is what I will aim for in the future. Most learned that group work is a series of negotiations and sometimes compromises. Often great individual ideas must be sacrificed in order to develop ideas that the group is satisfied with. Individuals with strong personalities must learn to fit in with the group rather than try to dominate it. In spite of that, leadership skills do emerge and help to forward the projects. I’ve also learned that there needs to be some designated person in each group who will encourage shy students to become more involved. Shy students sometimes receive lower peer evaluations because they have not voiced their opinions or contributed enough to the group effort. I’ve also learned that groups have very low tolerance for members who are absent from meetings and subsequently lower their evaluation of those persons. One of the problems may be that we did not have enough class time to get most of the work completed; after hearing your suggestions, I realize that 5 weeks would be more appropriate than 4 to complete the project. I also learned, however, that students should spend more time in class doing the actual work rather than talking about what they plan to do.

  5. This project definitely helped you to develop your oral presentation skills. Shy students commented that it was a difficult task to get up in front of the audience, but they were able to do it because the rest of the team was up there supporting them. I realize that in the future it might be useful to have one peer group critique a rehearsal of another group’s presentation. That might allow for some objective feedback about the level of voices and the amount of eye contact that is being made. From my point of view, this was the weakest feature of the presentations, and perhaps we just needed more time to fine-tune the productions. I also realized that we are an audience used to very sophisticated entertainment; we demand visual and audio stimulation throughout a presentation or we become restless. Because of this, I think that long speeches by one person are not especially effective. When the focus of attention changes frequently, the audience seems to stay more involved. I also think that there needs to be some minimal movements added to each production so that the readers do not sit the entire time—some type of variety is needed.

Audience awareness is something that I think we all learned through this project. The Columbine and piercing projects were topics quite familiar to students in your age group; therefore, you maintained your interest in them. The Vietnam project would have been very appealing to an audience of 45 to 55 year olds because they lived through that controversy. The Jimmy Stewart project would have appealed to the 45 to 75 year age group because Stewart was so popular in the "old" movies. To help you get an understanding of where your group stands in relationship to other groups as far as audience feedback goes, please examine the number of students who scored your group in the following categories:  Scoring was from 1 unsatisfying up to 5 very satisfying

My evaluation of the groups coincided with your evaluations as far as the actual presentations go, but for my grading purposes, I am also taking into consideration other factors such as the amount of research done, how the sources were used in the script, and how the script was produced. Each group will receive a base score that is my overall evaluation of the project. Individual scores that are worked into your final grade, however, may vary from the group score depending on my evaluation of your individual performance, your group’s evaluation of the work you contributed to the group effort, and your reflection on the project.

 

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