This is a play intended not just for professional actors. With a little preparation, any group can pick it up and read it for an audience.
When I was working on the final drafts of the script there was a point where I needed to step back and just hear it. So we moved the furniture downstairs, packed out the room with an audience of friends, family and neighbours and eight women read the play from around the kitchen table.
This play does not just dream of a life in theatres. It dreams of being picked up by all sorts of groups of women & girls and read around kitchen tables, in libraries, and bars, and book clubs, in aged-care homes and prisons, in universities and schools and bush communities. Wherever women & girls are, and will gather to listen.
Victoria Midwinter Pitt, writer
Image of Julie Bates by Walter Maurice/Urban Village
You need eight women with a bit of juice in their tanks, a bit of oomph, who can handle reading in public, and ideally who share something essential with the individual character you’re asking them to read. That alignment does not have to be identical or literal, what matters when you cast your reading is that each reader really gets her character. Casting this play is a lot of fun.
This play comes alive and makes the most sense when it’s read with an audience in the room. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least twice the number of people in the cast. Plan for no-shows and drop-outs and invite a few more.
A set of ten scripts is a good idea: eight for the readers, one for the person who is either running the projections or reading these as narration, and one as a spare in case a cast member drops out and need to bring in a replacement.
To encourage people to stage their own readings of the play, Currency Press is offering a special deal on orders of 8 or more scripts: 20% discount & free postage.
Use the code IMWITHHER20 at the checkout.
When you hand out your scripts, spend some one-on-one time with each of your readers – tell them why you want to do a reading of the play, and why you’ve asked them to read this part. Ask them to do a rough first out loud reading of the monologue – that will give you a good chance to tell them how good they’re going to be, and to throw them suggestions (see the tips below).
Time – the show takes 2 hours including a twenty-minute interval. The clock is your best friend! Get a nice strong willed friend to be the time marshal, and 10 minutes before the start time, ring a bell, or bang a saucepan, to let everyone know the show is about to start. Then start - bang on time! Do the same with the interval – 20 minutes in total, with a warning bell 5 minutes before Act II begins.
The play has been written to be performed with no set or props, but makes use of projections with images and information. By the end of September 2022 the complete set of these projections will be available for download from the website, as mp4s that can be played through a projector but also via a laptop on a tv screen.
Alternatively, the projections can be read out loud and this works well in a small setting– if you’re going to do that, choose a ninth person to be the narrator.
1. Read your part out loud a few times to get ready.
2. Make sure you know which number woman you are and mark up all the pages where your character has lines in the play (including as part of the ensemble), not just your main monologue.
3. Slow down. Don’t rush through it at a million miles an hour
4. Make good use of the numbered breaks inside your monologue – they mark a new chapter or story within the story. Before you start a new part, take a breath, look at someone new in the audience and feel that you’re taking us into a different moment.
5. As you’re reading, feel like you’re having a conversation with the audience – that’s where this play comes from, hours of conversation. So talk to the audience, (not at them).
6. Trust that the story makes sense – don’t feel like you’ve got to do a big acting performance. You don’t – these women’s words will really carry you.
7. Look at the audience – make sure that from time to time, you take a breath and actually look at the people who’ve come to listen. Don’t be afraid of looking up – be curious– what’s going on for your audience?
8. Really listen to the other readers. And, without drawing focus away, feel free to quietly watch the audience too.
9. Have fun – when it’s funny, enjoy it!
10. Go nice and quiet and soft on the Epilogue. Get closer to each other. Talk right to the audience.
Image of Nikki Keating by Lucie McGough
You’ll probably find that the conversation just starts at the end of the play.
Get ready to field some of that, and send some of the questions or comments around the room, making good use of the readers too.
There are more resources – readings, links – being added to this website every month. We’d love to see you and your readers & audience come back and use it. We’d also love you to send us pictures or short video clips from your readings.
And lastly, expand the circle: encourage your guests to move the furniture in their own kitchens and host their own reading of the play.
From leading educator Vana Watkins with expert strategies for teachers and brilliant activities for students to get stuck into the play, and join the conversation.