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Additional Ideas on Writing a Reader's Theater Script
by Kim Harris
kim_harris@hp.com

These are additional thoughts on writing Reader's Theater(RT) scripts, based on working with Barbara Waugh to create the GLEN RT.

The Editor's Role

It is vital that one person write a story and another person edit it. We are generally too attached to our own story to be objective. The editor's goal is to interpret it from the viewpoint of the intended audience, decide what purpose the story contributes to the whole script, and edit it so that it satisfies that purpose.

Analyze the audience

  • How familiar are they with the subject, background, terminology (vocabulary, names of places and organizations), cultural norms?
  • What approach and style will cause the audience to have empathy for the story's author or character, communicate feelings, or draw a conclusion that they will remember?
  • What actions can the audience take afterwards? What are you asking them to do? The script should support both. Only include stories that support both questions.

Decide on the purpose of the whole experience

  • The GLEN script's purpose was to "raise awareness, visibility and consciousness of the need for domestic partner benefits and what it's like to be gay and work for HP."

    This purpose is useful as an introduction to the issues and answers the question "Why are we talking about sexual orientation?" It does not educate about how to improve the work situation or advocate action.

  • Other possible purposes:
    1. Education: terminology, coming out issues, action to improve, what it's like to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender
    2. Entertainment

Purpose of each story

Decide on the categories of "objectives, points" or "messages" that support the overall purpose. Analyze each story to clearly and briefly make the appropriate points.

See the GLEN readers' theater objectives matrix column headings for examples.

Balance the stories

Make a matrix of objectives versus stories for the whole script. Look for compete and adequate coverage of points you want to communicate. Look for too little and too much emphasis on each point. Edit the stories to achieve the balance that satisfies the result you want the whole experience to produce.

Ensure a mix of positive, visionary stories along with negative one. For example, include a story in which the system (i.e., company, interpersonal relationships) is working ideally and a story that communicates specific problems that need improvement such as harassment or lack of management support.

Content of stories:

Edit stories to achieve the following:

  • Brevity: clear, understandable, straightforward sentences and vocabulary
  • Conversational style: one person talking to another, first person monologues
  • Delete digressions: make only one point at a time (e.g., avoid: "while this was going on, something else happened")
  • Memorable stories: simple, clear, compelling, easy to remember
  • Simplicity: make only 1 to 2 points in each story.
  • Emotion and feelings: moderate excessive anger, eliminate blame and recrimination, amplify impact to other people and organizations, build empathy by connecting to common human experiences, needs or feelings.

Beginnings of stories

Segue from the previous story (e.g., "I know what you mean about , I had a similar experience.")

Introduce or explain what comes next (e.g.,

  • Speaker 1: That's why we have to tell our stories.
  • Speaker 2: Well, I'll start.

Endings of stories:

Choices:

  • Summarize in 1 sentence:
    • The story or your experience (e.g., "It takes a lot of energy hiding ...")
    • Your feelings about the story (e.g., "I like that.")
  • Link to the objective
    • Make your point (e.g., "When can I feel safe?")
  • Link to the positive or vision
    • e.g., "Won't it be nice when we can ... rather than ... ?"

Presentation:

  • Position the chairs in the front of the room. Have the readers sit for the introduction, stand-up during the RT and then sit again for discussion.
  • Bring tissues if the topic could be emotional.
  • If appropriate, prepare handouts describing next steps. Distribute them to the audience at the close of the discussion, and go over each item on the handout.

Reader's Theater Table of Contents

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