May is Mental Health Month. Itâ€™s also Better Speech and Hearing Month. May 4-10 is â€œReading is Funâ€ Week. So letâ€™s talk about reading your work to an audience. Iâ€™ll assume you want to do it well.
A google for â€œshow business for writersâ€ turned up nothing. Ditto for â€œstage etiquette for authorsâ€ and related searches. But I did find advice from some great entertainers. So here are the first three tips from an ongoing list.
#1. At public readings people arenâ€™t there to admire your looks or talent. All audiences hope above all to be entertained. That doesnâ€™t mean â€œmake them laugh.â€ To â€œentertainâ€ originally meant â€œto hold together.â€ Your job is to hold the audienceâ€™s collective attention and give them a complete and satisfying experience.
#2. Read your best work. There is no substitute for good material (says Liza Minnelli). When youâ€™re planning what to read, variety is nice, but if you must choose between variety or quality, choose quality.
#3. Nervous about it? We all are. So plan, rehearse, and time your program well before the performance date. This bestows confidence. All entertainers prepare with rehearsals. Select your work, put it in some sort of order, and get comfortable with your chosen program by reading it aloud several times. Some writers say, â€œI get there and check out the crowd and then decide what to read.â€ That isnâ€™t as cool as it sounds. Iâ€™ve seen it result in self-conscious, muddled ("uh, I dunno if I should read you this one. . .â€) and overlong performances. â€œOverlongâ€ means longer than youâ€™ve been asked to read. Every audience hates a stage hog. I once saw a local poet introduce a nationally famous poet by reading his own 20-minute ode to her. Everyone wanted to murder this guy.