Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does it mean to give a play a reading?
A: A reading varies, depending on the needs of the play, the playwright, and the director. Usually, however, a few characteristics remain constant. The play is not memorized by the actors - they carry their scripts in binders. They familiarize themselves enough with their roles that they don't have to read every word off the page, and the actors perform the script for an audience with the help of Reader, who reads aloud the settings and important stage directions. Rehearsals occur day-of for Breaking Ground, beginning in the morning going into the afternoon.

Q: What's the benefit of not having the actors memorize their roles?
A: Each reading has a short rehearsal time - sometimes as short as five hours. For the actors to dedicate as much energy as possible to interpreting their roles and delving deep into the play requires that they not spend as much time on memorization. This aids the playwright as he or she hears the work aloud.

Q: Are readings fully staged?
A: Usually no. In most cases a reading will consist of the actors seated in chairs in front of music stands, and in such a case, the director has mapped basic entrances and exits, as well as small bits of action.


Q: What is the benefit of having an audience at these events?
A: For the playwright, it is paramount. Theatre is a live art played out in front of an audience by other human beings. Writing, on the other hand, can be an isolated activity. A playwright can imagine the dialogue in his or her head, but he or she will never really know the end result until it is heard in the mouth of an actor, in front of an audience. In this way, the audience is as much a participant in the development process as anyone on the artistic team. Tracking audience reactions helps the writer understand whether their play has had the desired effect. Additionally, each reading and workshop in the Breaking Ground Festival is followed by a brief post-show discussion with the dramaturg and playwright. This forum allows the writer to ask audience members questions about their experience of the piece.


Q: Who makes up the artistic team for these readings?
A: Our writers are a mix of Huntington Playwriting Fellows finishing up their 2 year initial residency, as well as writers from around the country and are brought to Boston by the Huntington to work on their plays. In the past, the directors have been a mix of local talents, graduate directing students, Huntington resident directors, and visiting artists. Our actors are mostly cast from the local pool; sometimes we cast certain roles from New York. Finally, the literary and dramaturgical support come from within the Huntington's artistic department.

Q: How do I find out more about Breaking Ground dates and plays? 
A: Sign up for the Huntington's email list.

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