Imagine cozying up by your fireplace (or space heater) with a warm blanket, mug of cocoa or glass of wine on a cold evening, and reading a play with some really cool people. The authors range from William Shakespeare to Caryl Churchill, and topics from murder mystery to musical comedy.
The Cleveland Actors’ Play Date (APD) is a local play reading group that does this once a month. Although the live and in-person version has been suspended temporarily due to the real-life action-drama called COVID-19, the group keeps the joy of the Arts going once a month via Zoom.
“APD is sort of a book club for actors – a chance to read plays out loud with other actors in a casual, no pressure atmosphere,” says co-founder Katie Atkinson. “We do one read a month – the moderators (myself / Nicole McLaughlin Lublin / Monica Zach) choose a play, send out a call for RSVPs, cast it based on those RSVPs, then send out a PDF version of the script before the read date. On the read date, [pre-pandemic] we would meet at the host’s house (a group member’s home or other designated space), have drinks and snacks, and read the play out loud. No memorization or even preparation needed!”
According to a study entitled “A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity” published in Social Science & Medicine, “Overall, adults who read books survived almost 2 years longer over the 12-year follow-up than non-book readers1.”
Need more proof that reading is good?
Based on other studies noted in their article titled “Five Ways Reading Can Improve Health and Well-Being2,” The Huffington Post has cited these benefits of reading:
- Reduce Stress
- Slow Cognitive Decline
- Improve Sleep
- Enhance Social Skills
- Boost Intelligence
Add friends and plays to the mix, and APD makes for a great distraction from negatives brought on by the plague such as anxiety, boredom, and worry. Even if it’s not in-person right now, the party is still going online. Actors get their fix, friends get their social time, and often times participants can read roles that they’d maybe never get to play in real life. Or, those present can just sit back, listen and enjoy!
“COVID hasn’t actually changed too much about the process, except we now meet virtually (via Zoom). We still do one read a month, we still snack and drink, we still have lovely people join us – but it’s all virtual. The one thing that is pretty different is that we used to have at least one “open mic” a year – a night to just get together and sing live with an accompanist, or bring monologues/short original works – but we think the logistics of singing live over Zoom are too much of a challenge,” says Atkinson. So, no holiday concerts anytime soon.
Atkinson is fully aware of what she misses most. “It’s just hard not seeing people in person, which I don’t think is exclusive to APD. We miss seeing our friends! We miss meeting new people in person! We miss drinking wine with other people instead of alone in our houses! I will say that having everything be virtual has made it easier for people to join us in some ways – friends who don’t drive, or have trouble leaving the house, or friends who moved away/don’t live here in the Cleveland area have joined us from LA and Boston, for example. We really haven’t changed much about the process except for the Zoom meet-up, but maybe we’ll add a Zoom option after the pandemic subsides – this might help even our locals when we have Cleveland winter weather!”
The most recent November 2020 event was the comedy “Baskerville” by Ken Ludwig. December 2020 will feature a female playwright, as the group tries to have at least half of the year’s titles authored by female playwrights.
Groups like the Cleveland APD are more important now than ever. With quarantine restrictions that prevent social gathering, it’s essential to provide something that connects people to each other.
Atkinson says, “I think it’s important for everyone to have an outlet, even if it’s just once a month. Creative outlets are so important, especially ones that don’t take a lot of work. People are stressed on so many levels, and we offer a social opportunity that’s also safe and low-pressure – no need to be the best in the room, no need to impress a director. We love it when people try new things, we don’t judge if your British accent isn’t perfect, and we also don’t always cast to type, so if there’s a role you’re dying to play we try and honor that as much as we can (while keeping things fair).”
If this sounds like a salve for your artistic soul, APD is accepting new participants. If you like reading plays and meeting other theater people, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
1 Bavishi, A., Slade, M. D., & Levy, B. R. (2016). A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity. Social Science & Medicine, 164 (September), 44–48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.014
2 Healthline. (2017, October 13). Five Ways Reading Can Improve Health and Well-Being. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/five-ways-reading-can-imp_b_12456962