Stage-frightened folks have the opportunity to dabble in theater without facing crowds thanks to a new script lending library in Belfast.
The Belfast Maskers, a local theater group, has so far amassed scripts for seven plays, which have from five to 13 characters in each. The plays are about aging, tradition, ideological differences, romance and humanity.
The idea is for a group of people to hold table readings — that means to read a play out loud, with each person choosing one of the characters and reading those lines from the script when it’s their turn.
The lending program is intended to help foster community and an excitement for theater without forcing people to perform under the bright lights of a stage.
All of the scripts in the lending library have underlying messages that Maskers’ Beth Whitman hopes will foster discussion and deeper thinking after the readings, just like in a regular book club.
“[I chose this group of scripts] to dig into a subject that can shift somebody’s perspective a little bit, where you get to know a situation or people and what they’re experiencing through this play that just takes you out of the perspective that you’ve always been in,” she said.
Whitman will hold regular readings, lend out sets of scripts and help people plan their own reading parties. The in-theater readings will cost $5 and a set of scripts can be checked out for $20, with all money going toward building the library collection.
Whitman was inspired by similar script reading parties already being held in town, as well as feedback from local residents who wanted to participate in theater with the Maskers, but did not want to sign up to be cast members.
“There are a lot of people who would like to experience a little bit of theatricality but not have to go to rehearsals, memorize lines or be in shows,” Whitman said. “The library allows people to experience theater, participate in it and do some dramatic readings.”
Whitman recently tested the idea at the Belfast Senior College, where she and Maskers board member Tom Maycock ran a weeklong table reading class with 15 students last week.
Kristin Frangoulis, who took the class, said the table readings were unique opportunities to connect with people she would otherwise have not gotten to know.
“One of the things that I love about theater as a creativity is it’s something that you do with other people,” Frangoulis said. “You get to know people and get to appreciate who these strangers are.”
With the testing out of the way, the Maskers’ library is officially unlocked.
While the collections are readily available for anyone prepared to host their own party, Whitman said she can help people plan table readings at the theater and help them find people to attend.
The Maskers will also host table readings periodically, with the first one scheduled for March 14.
Those interested in learning more about the readings can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.