Clue: Behind the Scenes of A Staged Reading

By: Shoshy Ciment  |  January 2, 2017
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On a dark and stormy evening, six wealthy guests walked into the mansion of an unknown host, never to be the same again.

This very story unraveled before the students of Yeshiva University on Thursday night at 9 pm in Furst 501. It was here that the men and women of YCDS performed the staged reading of Clue, a murder mystery infused with comedy. As an actress in the reading (I was Yvette, the French maid), I was able to observe and take part in the process of putting the show together, from auditions to the final bow.

For those who don’t know what it is, a staged reading is very similar to a full-fledged play, minus the sets, costumes, props, and memorized lines. The purpose of a staged reading is to focus chiefly on the acting and interpretation of the lines. Staged readings are generally more relaxed than usual plays, and they do not require much rehearsal time. Although the rehearsal process was short, the result was far from unimpressive.

Based on the popular board game, Clue came out in 1985 and starred Tim Curry in the lead role of the butler, Wadsworth. The plot surrounds six guests who arrive at the mansion of their unknown host. All addressed by pseudonyms, the guests quickly realize that their host, a Mr. Body, has been blackmailing them all for months. Chaos ensues when Mr. Body is found dead and the guests frantically search for a murderer in the house. The staged reading was based on this original script, and included all three of the alternate endings that were originally featured separately in different theaters when the movie was released. 

The YCDS staged reading took this script and adapted it to make a new and unique version. Director Ariela Greengart had a clear vision for Clue. She saw the script as a framework to build off of. Improvisation was encouraged, which contributed to an unpredictable and comfortable environment among the actors and the audience. Additionally, Greengart encouraged audience participation in the story. Index cards were handed out to audience members during intermission for them to decide “who dunnit?” The suggestions were read at the start of the second act, and made the audience feel like they were a part of the action.

But behind the scenes was where Clue truly shone. YCDS’ Clue was unique because it gave the actors and actresses of Yeshiva University a rare chance to work and perform together. The rehearsal process, though short, brought together a group of people who would probably never have met under regular circumstances. The rehearsals were a chance for everyone in the cast to experience performance trial and error in a safe and supportive environment. Perhaps staged readings like this are the start of a movement to finally fill the void of co-ed dramatic events.

Overall, the evening was a success. The room was filled to capacity, and though I can’t speak for myself, the other actors did a phenomenal job, as measured by the laughs and participation of the audience. Hopefully this marriage of talent is not just a one-time occurrence and we see many more events like Clue from YCDS in the future.

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