Saturday, December 8, 2012

E-Reading Scripts

One of the joys of being a dramaturg is the opportunity to read a lot of plays. Some of the plays are ones that you've seen produced or would like to, some are submissions to theaters or festivals and others are plays that a playwright has asked for your feedback on.

One of the downsides of all those plays is finding a way to read them. In the past, playwrights would send a paper copy of the play to a theater, but now that many submissions are via email, the onus is on the person reading the play to figure out a way to read it.

I've always been the type to print out the script and read it that way. There's a weird disconnect when the play stays on a computer screen. It's hard to get into the play, since you're straining your eyes to look at it. But, when you have to print out 40+ scripts over the course of a few months, the bill can get pretty pricey, not to mention all the paper and ink you're using, all the trees that need to be cut down, etc.

Last year, my solution to the massive amounts of paper issue was to get a Kindle. I didn't get the Fire version, just the regular old Kindle, with a keyboard.

There are definitely pluses to using a Kindle to read plays. It's really pretty easy to email yourself the scripts. If you're getting plays emailed to yourself already, all you need to do is forward them on to your Kindle.com email. You set who can send you emails at your Kindle, so you don't have to worry about getting a spam email that will destroy your e-reader. The machine handles both .doc and .pdf files, though mine has crashed twice when reading a .pdf.

Since I have the keyboard version, I can make notes on the play as I read, just as I would with a paper script. I can also highlight text or dialogue that stands out to me as I read.

Despite the ease of use, reduction in ink and paper costs, and the note taking, I'm not sure I'm sold on the e-reader, especially when it comes to reading plays. After working my way through over 40 scripts this fall, I found it more difficult to write responses and reports after reading on the Kindle. One of the joys of reading an unpublished play is the ability to flip back and forth so easily through the stack of paper. It's easy to find what you're looking for or briefly go back to scene you want to examine again. Plus, there's something about holding the play as you read it that makes it sink in better, I think.

It's really hard to navigate the play on a Kindle, unless you take copious notes and notate every single instance you think you might want to look at again. You can't search the text as you can on a word processor. You can't search by page number on .docs.

I'm going to keep using my Kindle for reading plays, since it's much more convenient and cheaper, but I think I'll always prefer the physical copy of a script over it's e-version.