A stage reading is a theatrical production without sets or elaborate costumes. The actors, reading from scripts, sit or stand with only minor movement. Sometimes a stage reading is done to try out a new play, so the playwright or director can get a feel for the audience reaction. Often a stage reading is used to illustrate concepts to new viewers, and sometimes it is used to simply entertain and give the actors a chance to share. Stage readings expand the experience of live theater. Dear Liar was a very entertaining stage reading at the Tacoma Little Theatre.
Dear Liar is a story of love, friendship, and growing old. Actual letters covering decades of correspondence between playwright George Bernard Shaw and actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell are the basis of the script. The actors bring the correspondence to life. The first time Peg and I saw Dear Liar it was performed at Tacoma Actors Guild in their first home at St. Leo’s Catholic School.
George Bernard Shaw was born in 1856, He began his theatrical life as a reviewer. He became offended by the lack of quality plays and decided to write better ones. He did. His plays are still performed and still studied. Mrs. Patrick Campbell was a much sought after actress for the stage in both Britain and America. She was born in 1865. When Shaw wrote Pygmalion, which later was made into the musical, My Fair Lady, he had “Mrs. Pat” constantly in mind for the part of Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl and guttersnipe transformed to a lady.
Tim Hoban played Shaw and Casi Nicole Wilkerson played Mrs. Campbell. Peg and I have known Tim for nearly forty years. We didn’t know he was reading in Dear Liar until we were handed the simple program fifteen minutes prior to curtain. Casi, looked familiar, but we couldn’t think of any particular production from Seattle to Olympia where we had seen her. Martin Larson directed the presentation. After the production the two actors and the director had time to chat with friends and pose for photos.
Staged readings are the hidden gems of a season of plays. This year Tacoma Little Theatre produces seven plays as well as seven stage readings. The cost in minimal, the audience is sometimes sparse, but the experience is always rewarding.