This past week the Greensboro Screenwriters Organization put on a reading of one of the members of its organization. The Organization – which requires a once-a-year donation of thirty dollars – is dedicated to helping its members improve their work. This group of regular attendants was mostly comprised of people in their late-20s, with some of the older members being senior citizens. This age diversity made for a wide range of voices in the post-play critiques, which meant that a lot of the problems that the play potentially had were addressed.
The meeting, which was at the Stephen Hyers Theatre downtown at 7 p.m. ran until shortly before 9 p.m., spanning roughly two hours, was a dry reading of sorts, with no more on the stage than a set of black chairs and music stands.
A black curtain was behind the readers, making it so that the only thing that you could really pay attention to was the readers. To someone unfamiliar with what the process of screenplay reading would entail, it was an effective way of going over the play. By having someone besides the writer read the play aloud, I heard someone explain, it gives the writer perspective on aspects of the play that they might not have thought about before.
Based on what one of the members – who I spoke to after the show was concluded – told me, the meetings function similarly to UNCG’s workshop classes in that members bring in segments of their work, and that these segments are discussed and critiqued. Throughout this process, the person being critiqued takes notes and answers questions when they are addressed.
These evaluations are applied to the screenplays going forward as the subsequent scenes are presented until a finished product is created. These critiques happen on the second Wednesday of each month, with a variety of other programs being offered, such as directors’ workshops. Any time that there are five Wednesdays in a month – an occurrence that happens only about four times in any given year, playwrights hear what the plays sound like spoken aloud.
Most of the people reading the play – six of them, all women as the play featured an all-female cast with another woman reading screen directions – had to read more than one part, and afterwards, there was a time set aside for critiques and questions.
This program is open to the public for a small donation of about $30 a year, which you can pay online. I would definitely suggest attending a meeting if you are seeking outside help on a play or short story.