Cold reading series challenging actors, writers

The third Victoria Cold Reading Series takes place at the Victoria Event Centre on Tuesday, June 28.

When Andrea Peek handed the script for her high concept comedy to an actor who had never read it before, she wasn’t sure how they were going to pull it off in front of a live audience with zero time to rehearse.

The script involved a sexy robot who gets frustrated calling 911 because the 911 voice is an automated machine. How the audience would react to her sense of humour was anyone’s guess.

“Some things I thought were funny in my head maybe weren’t funny in front of an audience,” said Peek, noting the audience wound up understanding her writing.

“That gave me permission to keep that, push the envelope and ask, will this work? You get to see the audience, where you are losing them and where you are gaining them again. You feel the energy.”

After that cold reading series in Victoria last November, Peek went back to her script and cut half of what she had written. The actor had elevated her play to a level she couldn’t have imagined, she explained, and also gave her new ideas of how to make her character deeper.

Dabbling in writing for a number of years, Peek attended several of the Vancouver Cold Reading Series, which was established in 1993 and now has international chapters. Writers submit screenplays in advance, then a reading committee selects three to five to be brought to life in front of an audience.

Actors show up at the event, ready to audition on the spot, then hit the stage — sometimes within minutes of being handed the script.

Following the same format, Peek organized Victoria’s first cold reading series in November, which she said was met with resounding success. The reading committee received 20 scripts to wade through, and local writers, directors and actors packed the Victoria Event Centre for the event.

A third cold reading series will now be held on Tuesday, June 28 where 40 speaking roles will be filled in the span of an hour. The actors will have anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour to read through the script and determine a plan.

The purpose of the events, said Peek, is to bring the local film/theatre community together in a welcoming forum.

“They (local producers and directors) get to see what writers are out there. I’m hoping this will create some relationships and some projects being made,” said Peek, noting the experience is invaluable to writers.

“You can only bring your writing to a certain level before you start putting it out there…Knowing that you had it read out loud, that it works, gives you that confidence.”

The third Victoria Cold Reading Series takes place at the Victoria Event Centre. Doors open to the public at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5.

For more information visit coldreadingseries.wordpress.com.