Do you read plays?

If you enjoy seeing plays in the theatre, it’s likely that you can’t see as many as you’d like — especially at the moment, due to pandemic closures. An alternate way to experience a play script is to read it, trying to bring it to life in your mind. It’s a different activity than reading a novel or a nonfiction piece, because the words on the page are only part of the story; the rest is supposed to be added by the stagecraft of actors, directors, and designers. This can be challenging, but also gives you the opportunity to “direct” the production yourself, or to imagine how your favorite actors would play it.

A play I’ve been meaning to reread …

I don’t often read plays; I confess that when I do, it usually leaves me wishing I could see a really good production, or remembering shows that I have seen. Perhaps if I made play-reading more of a habit, I’d get used to experiencing it on its own terms. There are so many great plays that I will probably never see on the stage, but it would be a pity to miss them entirely.

Do you enjoy reading plays, or do you find it too much work? What plays have you read, or would like to read?

Linked in the Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight.

Join the Enchanted Circle

The Enchanted Circle newsletter offers subscriber-only content about my writing and reading life. You'll also receive a separate monthly blog post summary (unsubscribe any time). And I'll send a free gift!

Unsubscribe anytime.

33 thoughts on “Do you read plays?

  1. I do love reading the Greek tragedies. And Shakespeare, although when I read a play, I try to borrow a production from the library and read along with it. I think there is value to both. For entertainment sake, you can’t beat seeing the real thing as there are different ways it can be performed but to actually study a play, I do think you need to read it.

    1. Oh, I haven’t read any Greek plays since my school days and you remind me that I’ve been wanting to revisit them since who knows when. This may be the kick up the backside I need, thanks!

      1. You’re so welcome! I’ve actually also reminded myself (prompted by Lory) that I need to get back to reading them! I’ve read most of Aeschylus’ plays and I was going to move on to Sophocles (although I’ve already read his Theban trilogy) I’ll keep a lookout on your blog if you do. I just popped over to it and it’s quite lovely. I’m always looking for more eclectic readers to follow!

        1. I shall push myself to dig out some of those plays now; sadly, I think a selection I had a few decades ago has disappeared in one of our many house moves… And thank you for you kind comment, I like eclectic too so shall check yours out too!

  2. I’ve read quite a few plays over the years, from GB Shaw to Chekhov to Conor McPherson, plus Shakey of course (and a few screenplays). I must admit, without all the directorial touches, they can seem either dry or chaotic on the page unless you’ve seen a production – Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard in which they’re all talking at each other and not really listening needed to be seen for me. Whereas Conor McPherson’s The Weir is conversations and characters taking turns storytelling to a group in the pub and was easy to see in my head as I read. That said, I’ve never really had to study a play which is a different experience.

    1. Yes, there are some kinds of scenes that must be staged to make sense. I appreciate so much the actors and directors who make these work.

  3. I do read the odd play now and then, and have to say that apart from modern stage plays I much prefer to imagine my own production, to ‘direct’ it as you succinctly put it. Elizabethan plays onscreen can be quite entertaining and informative (especially when there is a large and confusing cast list) — except when I disagree with an actor’s interpretation! — but I have quite a few bad memories of watching Shakespeare in the theatre when gabbled speeches lost me completely when they made no sense of the complex nuances and wordplay.

    And that struck me too with rereading Milton’s Comus: how much would I have picked up from an actual performance that I couldn’t from a close reading? The poetry, the emotions, the stage effects remain very vivid from just the text.

    All that said, I have missed the range of theatre that I enjoyed in my younger days, whether virtual or actual — classical Greek, Ibsen, Chekhov, Beckett — all of which I would appreciate better now with increased maturity, experience and (whisper it) wisdom.

    1. If one has the imagination to “stage” them, I think reading plays can be a very rewarding experience. I’ll never be as good at it as some of the master stage artists I’ve seen though.

  4. I used to read plays quite a lot but have fallen out of the habit. I like wordy plays best to read, so yes, Shakespeare, the Jacobeans, Greek tragedy, Wilde, Stoppard. I like Beckett too. In many cases (especially Shakespeare, Aeschylus etc.) I’d rather read the play before I see it, I find I miss a lot when I’m listening. Still, I do agree that more modern plays especially are quite hard work to read, quite dry (unless you have directorial ambitions!).

    Back in the day, when I lived in London, many productions sold a copy of the play instead of a programme and that was really nice. I don’t know if they still do it, but it’s a much better keepsake than a glossy assemblage of adverts.

    1. Yes indeed, that would be a good way to remember the production and revive it in your head. A good way to support the author too.

  5. I do like to read plays and have especially enjoyed teaching them because with a class I can facilitate a discussion about how we, as a group, would bring the words to life on stage. I had a lot of fun teaching Lysistrata, for a while, and talking to students about past productions in order to get them thinking about possibilities, like using balloons as phalluses.

  6. I’ve just finished reading a Shakespeare play, and it wasn’t that bad, but it’s not something that I would read for fun. I love paraphrasing Shakespeare though.

  7. I almost never read plays. I much prefer to see them performed or (though it has been many, many years) perform them. I have to read a play for the Back to the Classics Challenge this year and will probably choose something by Oscar Wilde. I read “Lady Windemere’s Fan” a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

    1. I’d gladly see everything in performance but sadly that is not possible. Even without lockdown, I’m unlikely to get to an English theatre any time soon, so filmed performances will have to do.

      I think some plays are easier to read than others. Wilde’s wit definitely comes across on the page, whereas some other dramas need the enlivening of performance.

  8. Back in High School (before you were even a glimmer in your parents’ eyes – probably before they were old enough to have any romantic relationship), I read plays ALL the time. I was in the theater group, so… I still have a whole shelf of plays from back in the day. I don’t read them often anymore, but if I see a play I really like, I might actually buy a copy of the play.

    1. Come now, I don’t think you are really that aged compared to me. Anyway, our common love of theatre transcends all boundaries of time. 🙂

      1. I’m 63, and I’ll be 64 in June… I’m old! (But I’m happy because I’m retired and I can spend as much time as I want on my blog and visiting other blogs!)

        1. Well, when you were in high school, then I was a toddler, so not QUITE old enough to be reading plays. (Although I supposedly learned to read when I was 3 years old, so it didn’t take me long to catch up.) Anyway, I’m glad you are enjoying your reading in retirement. I certainly can’t imagine anything better to do in my spare time.

  9. I very much read plays, and I love reading plays! It’s a neat (low-cost) way to become familiar with new work and new writers, and then if they have something else on in a place where I also am, I know enough to know whether I want to see their thing or not. I looooove it when bookshops have a drama section.

  10. Lory, I left a comment earlier, but it doesn’t show up which sometimes happens when I put a link in a comment on a WordPress site.

    I only read plays when I was younger in high school and college (a long time ago). My current goal is to read some Shakespearean plays but I will start with ones I am familiar with.

    I have a post for Reading the Theatre. I am TracyK at Bitter Tea and Mystery, and my post is on Stage Fright by Christine Poulson. Set in Cambridge, England, it is a mystery set around the production of a play. I am omitting the link this time.

    1. I read more in college too (as an English major). I’d like to revisit some of those, either reading them again or in actual performance.

  11. I’ve read plays that I’ve seen already, but I don’t think I’d read one without having seen a version of it first? I read Blood Brothers and the History Boys last year, because I loved the show and the film, but can’t imagine myself ever sitting down to read Shakespeare or something long, for fun

    1. I had to read Shakespeare (Hamlet in high school British Lit) before I ever saw one of his plays performed, so I got used to doing that. It’s an advantage to be able to slow down and really work through the language, but I think seeing a good production is more fun!

Comments are closed.