Selection of Material

The leader should explain that she or he has selected a play that has enough parts for all or most group members. The group leader explains that some roles require more reading than others. It is generally best to start by giving the more demanding parts to those who exhibit enthusiasm for the activity. This will allow those who are more hesitant to follow the example of more active group members.

Liveliness, length, and number of characters are all important considerations when selecting material. Ideally, the play should be able to be the read aloud during one group session. There should be enough parts so that every group member can participate if they choose to do so, and the play should be engaging. It is not so easy to find all three of these attributes together. Some of the plays that I have used profitably are:


All The Comforts of Home Hall of Healing

The Mother

Author Pages

Howard Amend ' 10

Sean O'Casey 36

Paddy Chayefsky 33

# of roles

Waiting for Dr. Hamle Doug Stewart 13 6M, 4W

A Wedding, or a Joke Anton Checkhov 12 8M, 4W

In One Act


Many plays, especially older ones such as most of those listed, are in the public domain and can be copied without any infringement issues. Make or purchase one copy of the script for each group member. Even those group members who are not reading a role should be given a copy of the script so that they can follow along.

Assigning Roles

Generally, simply asking who would like to read a given role works best. This way group members feel that they are involved in the decision-making process. If no one responds to a given role, then it is fine to request that a specific group member read it. This can be done with intention, as in assigning roles with or against a group member's own personality. Assigning roles that are consistent with group members' personalities will allow them to strengthen these qualities. Assigning against a client's manifest personality may allow group members to explore hidden aspects of themselves.

Sometimes, a group member will want to read the stage directions rather than a character. I suggest that only the overall stage directions (setting, description of characters, etc.) be read and not any stage directions that are specific to one line such as (raising her glass in the air, as if to make a toast). If readers want to try using such directions, that is fine, but reading them aloud diminishes the process.


Ask group members to project their voices so that everyone in the group can hear. You might want to start with a vocal warm up of some kind. This can include counting aloud (1 to 10 in one breath), tongue twisters, and the like. The group leader(s) should sit nearest to those group members who may have trouble picking up their cues.

This will allow the leader(s) to prompt as needed. The play is then read aloud.

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