Who we are, and how can you join?
Our current project, which forms part of a larger research enterprise led by Dr Martin Wiggins, is to read the entire extant repertory of the Lord Chamberlain’s, later the King’s, Men, the company of which Shakespeare was a member and which performed chiefly at the Globe and Blackfriars theatres between 1594 and 1642. You can read more about our current research project here. Our unfolding consideration of the plays has already generated new insights into the casting, structure, and personnel of the company – as well as producing a lot of enjoyably silly jokes.
All are welcome to join this friendly, scholarly community, which includes participants from across the world. You may prefer to listen to the plays, to comment on them in the lively chat-box, or to read a role, either occasionally or regularly. No specialist knowledge is required. Readings, prefaced by an introduction from Dr Martin Wiggins, take place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, usually starting at 20.00 (UK Time). They are also available to listen to as recordings for a limited time after the event.
Reading Early Plays is a not-for-profit organisation, and members pay a small subscription to cover running costs. For membership and other enquiries, click here.
The history of the Thursday Night play readings:
REP develops from, moves online, and replaces, comparable activities that for many years took place at The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon.
In January 1993, a weekly Thursday evening play-reading was founded by Stanley Wells and Martin Wiggins; it ran continuously in term-time until March 2020 and enabled members, friends, and alumni of the Institute to hear aloud, in real time, plays written before the closure of the theatres in 1642.
In 2013, Martin Wiggins developed the concept into a play-reading marathon which ran every June up to and including 2019. This entailed an intensive three-week reading of a complete body of related plays, often a large authorial canon, and enabled participants to see the connectedness of the corpus of early English drama, detecting patterns of language, thought, and theatricality that are usually invisible when the focus is on individual plays alone, read at some remove from one another.
REP continues this emphasis on the drama as a complex, integrated phenomenon which may be explored and better understood by seeing plays in juxtaposition. But it also continues the tradition of reading and enjoying each individual play in convivial company from across the world.