For one night only this week, Main Street Theater presented a staged reading of 1946, a new play by Tom Hagemann. Main Street had given a full production to Hagemann's Breakfast at Eight in 2010, and both these plays are part of a what will be a trilogy when the third play, End, is finished.
A "staged reading" can mean many things, and here they are all good. First, here only the actors in a given scene are on their feet, at lecterns (scripts aren't memorized), with the other actors seated some distance to the rear, until needed. This is a huge advantage for the audience, and curiously, often ignored.
Second, there was movement from the actors, and they provided, not only relevant intonations and intelligent vocal inflections, but also hugs, arms on shoulders and as much interaction as was feasible.
Third, all these actors had excellent diction and projection, so the audience didn't have to deal with mumblers (I know, that worked for Brando) or those who swallowed their words. The play was directed by Patti Bean, and I remain awestruck at how vivid were the characterization she evoked - with just two evenings of rehearsal.
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The story line for 1946 is set in San Antonio, and follows two air force pilots, portrayed by Justin O'Brien and Scott Gibbs, who return from Burma in 1945 after World War II has ended. Their love interests were portrayed by Crystal O'Brien and Shannon Emerick, while Christianne Mays portrayed a wealthy mother with stern opinions.
The reading in some ways was a family affair, as Christianne is wed to the playwright, and Justin O'Brien and Crystal O'Brien are wed. All were excellent, as was Gibbs, and the others in more minor roles: Bill Roberts, Brandon Balque, Rodrick Randall and Rosarito Rodriguez-Gonzalez.
The reading was held Tuesday, January 28 at 7 p.m., an event that was part of Main Street Theater's Part of the Art Series, at Rice Village, 2540 Times Boulevard. Wine and cheese were served, and the reading was followed by a discussion with the playwright. Admission was $25, with an entrance fee of $50 encouraged, with proceeds benefitting Main Street Theater's Capital Campaign.
These staged readings are invaluable, in that they give the playwright a chance to hear his or her words read aloud, they give actors a chance to practice their craft, they keep a theater front-of-mind with patrons - and they generate income. That it can be festive and fun is well is due to the professionalism of Main Street Theater.