We’re not entirely sure how or why we decided virtual table reads would be a good idea, but at the start of the First World Lockdown in March, somehow it coalesced into a thing and before we knew it, we had over fifty professional actors signed up to perform and/or listen to some B7 Media scripts that had been circulating in development for a while or had already been produced and were commercially available.
It was partly cabin fever, partly the need to do something that would engage and entertain us and the acting community, but it would also help us get to know the skills and strengths of the interested actors. Some we already knew, but others joined us as the weeks went by – and with a number of projects in active development, we were optimistic that eventually we would be able to cast from our now not-so-little acting pool (or informal “B7 Rep” as it came to be known!)
The table reads evolved into a mutually beneficial experience – We had in-house scripts read by some fabulous actors, which helped writers pinpoint dialogue or scenes that may not have worked as well as they had anticipated and highlight others that worked better than they imagined. We used the NeRoPa Method to balance the gender roles in one script, which was a truly eye-opening experience for everyone and led to permanent changes in that particular script and at least one other still in development.
Whilst hugely rewarding, they were time-consuming to organise; more so than we expected. Mind you, it was lockdown, so it’s not like we were going anywhere! Each table read took two to three days to plan, including prepping the event pages using Eventbrite and Zoom, reviewing the scripts and amending where necessary, emailing, confirming…. Casting alone often took the best part of a day, but the effort was overwhelmingly worth it to see and hear the end result.
There were some real highlights – An outstanding and scarily realistic performance by actor Nick Santa Maria as Jimmy Stewart in “Jimmy Stewart and the Yeti’s Hand”, the Creepy Child Callys in “Blake’s 7: The Animated Adventures” (inexplicably, almost all played by actors called Natalie) Karl Jenkinson’s East End gangster Frank Deacon in “Angelfish” and Julie-Ann Dean’s charmingly distracted Gemma in the comedy, “Jude Law & Disorder”. There were many, many more but we’d be here all day…
Ultimately, the “B7 rep” has become invaluable, with seven – appropriately enough – drama projects either confirmed, funded, in production or a combination of all three, it’s reassuring to know that we now have a huge pool of talent to call on. And while the table reads were initially just designed to keep us busy, engaged and entertained, in these tough times, they proved to be so much more.