Reader’s Theater

Perhaps it’s because I just did a workshop on how to write your own monologue, so I’ve got theater on my mind. Which means when I picked the activity for today, it ended up having to do with theater… Reader’s Theater to be exact. For those who have never heard of this type before, Reader’s Theater is when actors stand in front of a mic and read something to the audience, just using their voices and bodies to act. Maybe it’s a monologue, or a scene, or perhaps a full length play. Usually nothing is staged, meaning there is no movement, stage direction, props, and so forth. For a more in depth explanation on Reader’s Theater and children, check out this link.

This activity can be very flexible according to the needs of the participants. You can even do this activity one-on-one and then gather everyone together to read, but it can be more fun to do the whole activity as a group. To begin, gather everyone and distribute something to write with and something to write on. You can then either put guidelines into place or not. For those who are not as familiar or comfortable with the activity, give at least a few guidelines. For example, you can have everyone write 1 paragraph, or 1 minute of story, or 1 page, depending on their age and ability. It is often helpful to give a prompt as well. Some examples are as follows:

Tell about a time where you were proud of yourself

Finish the sentence: “Yesterday I won the lottery and today…”

What is the hardest part of being in the hospital?

Who are you?

Keep in mind that if you want the group to have fun interacting with one another, stick to a prompt that is light and simple, perhaps a silly story. If you want them to perhaps delve into emotions about being hospitalized, give a prompt that directs the ideas. Also decide whether or not the focus will be on telling a true story by each participant about themselves, or if there is more flexibility allowing participants to create characters. This is important to consider when working with adolescents who are in the identity versus role confusions stage and will also potentially make up the majority of the participants.

If the group is made up of older participants who are really into this activity, have them consider other questions while they write to help them craft their pieces: “Who is the character talking to?” “Where is this interaction taking place?” “What do you want the audience to gain?”

After the participants have been given time to write, bring them back together and have them read their pieces aloud. Depending on their comfort level you can have them each take turns reading to the whole group (very comfortable reading), or read to a partner (slightly comfortable reading), or have them all read at the same time (not very comfortable reading). Don’t force someone to read if she or he does not want to. Just writing it out can be therapeutic in and of itself.

Next, if there’s time, have participants give feedback and then edit their pieces. Depending on how much time is available, encourage them to read, give feedback, and edit the pieces multiple times. It can also be helpful to do this over a period of days or even weeks, but this is up to you and the group.

Finally, perform the pieces. This might have already been done when each person takes a turn to read their pieces to the group, and if that’s as far as you want to go, that’s okay. If participants want to go further, set a time and invite others to come and be the audience. Then taking turns, have each participant stand up and read his or her piece. If possible, video tape the performances and play them back for the participants to watch themselves. Don’t forget to take a bow when it’s over!

Reader’s Theater Notes

Age Group: 10 and up

Materials needed: Something to write with and on. If doing a performance, make sure there are ample chairs and an open space for participants to stand and read

Therapeutic value of activity:
Promote normalization
Build legacy
Exploration of emotions
Recall/process past events
Explore future desires

Questions or comments? Let me know!

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