Readers' Theater Program: Uncover the Unexpected
This program is based on “The B(ook) Files: Uncover the Unexpected,” the 1999 Young Adult Reading Club presented by the Montgomery County Memorial Library System.
Fantasy, science fiction, horror, and readers’ theater.
Ages 14 to 18; 10 to 30 attendees. This program may easily be modified for younger audience by using different scripts.
Prepare for the program by designing an FBI or Men In Black badge. An example may be found at www.meninblack.com/newagent/ register.html.
Write three readers’ theater scripts as outlined below.
Compile a bibliography of fantasy, science fiction, and “strange and unusual” non-fiction titles in the library collection.
Gather some of these books to display during the program. Also, dis play the books upon which the readers’ theater scripts are based.
Gather CD’s of music from the X-Files television show or from the X- Files movie.
Develop a list of science fiction and fantasy web sites that will appeal to teens. (Include some that focus on aliens and conspiracy theories.)
Copy the readers’ theater scripts, the bibliography, and the webliography for distribution at the program.
Ask area bookstores to donate science fiction and/or fantasy paper backs to give to the program attendees. Placed in plastic bags and tape them beneath the chairs, or use them as door prizes.
Prepare snacks or invite the young adults to bring them.
As program coordinator, the librarian wears a dark suit, a badge, and act as the “project director.”
Before the Men in Black program, “undecorate” the room to make it look as stark and blank as possible to simulate a debriefing room. Keep the lighting low. Arrange the chairs in a semicircle facing a long table with a few chairs. Display fantasy, science fiction and related non-fiction books, videos, and CDs on tables around the room. Serve snacks on one table. Play music from the X-Files television show or from the X-Files movie.
Young adults who attend this fantasy/science fiction party pretend to be agents investigating the “strange and unusual.” Their goal is to “Uncover the Unexpected” in the world of books. Major themes are Men In Black and X-Files and other popular television shows and movies. The program will provide those young adults who love the strange and unusual with a variety of titles to read and enjoy.
As attendees arrive, the librarian hands each a Men In Black or an FBI badge as well as a plain manila folder containing the bibliography, the webliography, and three readers’ theater scripts. When the program begins, these new agents will sit in the chairs as the project director begins to explain the mission of determining the truth behind three strange occurrences. If attendees are to read the scripts, the director will then ask for volunteers to participate in the readers’ theater presentations. Allow the participants quickly to practice their readings as the other agents peruse the other materials displayed on the tables and eat snacks. For the readers’ theater presentations, have agents sit again in the chairs in the semicircle while the readers sit at the front desk and read their parts.
At the end of the program, offer agents a chance to determine the truth behind these and other strange happenings by reading the books on which the readers’ theater scripts are based. Also invite them to read the books on the bibliography and those displayed on the tables. Ask them to look for the gift books in plastic bags taped beneath the chairs, or draw names for door prizes for the books donated by local bookstores. Invite them to explore the list of science fiction and fantasy web sites on the webliography using the library’s computers.
Performing Readers’ Theater
Readers’ theater is often defined by what it is not. Props, costumes, and sets are not required. Participants do not memorize or act out the script in any way. They read the scripts dramatically and may use their voices, facial expressions, and small hand gestures to interpret the characters. Here are some tips for a smooth performance:
Arrange the readers in a row or semicircle facing the audience. They may all stand or they may all sit. If the readers stand, they may take a step forward while reading and step back when finished. If they are sitting, they may stand while reading and sit when finished. Readers may be either the teens attending the program, members of the Young Adult Advisory Board, and/or staff members.
If there are two narrators, put one on each end of the stage.
Readers may hold their scripts or the scripts may be placed on music stands.
A participant may be assigned to read more than one role. This works best if the two characters do not have consecutive lines.
Review words that are difficult to pronounce and define words that the readers may not understand.
Allow time for the players to read the script silently. Provide pens and markers for them to highlight their lines and make stage notes, such as “use a gruff voice.” If time permits, let them read the script aloud before the performance. It is best if the readers know their lines well enough to look at the audience at least half the time. Readers may rehearse the scripts a few times in advance with assis- tance and suggestions from the program coordinator.
Ask one player to introduce the title and author of the story. Instruct all players to freeze until the audience is quiet and ready to listen.
When the reading is finished, the readers freeze for a long moment and then they all bow together.
Writing Readers’ Theater Scripts
Choose several science fiction/fantasy novels that will appeal to the young adults. For each book, choose an exciting, dialogue-filled passage that gives just enough information to catch the attention of young adults. Rewrite that passage as dialogue. Include lines for a narrator that provides pertinent information. Below are some books that lend themselves to readers’ theater.
Magic Kingdom For Sale—Sold! by Terry Brooks. In the latter part of the fourth chapter, the narrator explains the strange circumstances after a simple introduction. This chapter gives enough information about the book to whet the appetites of potential readers without revealing the entire plot. Write dialog for Ben and Questor Thews that is closely related to the text.
Look for Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn. Chapter seven sets the mood for the entire book and introduces most of the main characters. It features excellent dialog from which a readers’ theater script may be written.
In any of the X-Files books designed for young adults, the second chapter almost always involves Agents Mulder and Scully discuss- ing the strange case that is to be solved. Simply rewrite that or a similar passage as a readers’ theater script.
In almost all of the books in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, Buffy and her friends discuss mysterious occurrences that describe the book’s premise in a chapter or part of a chapter. These passages contain the pithy conversation for which both the television and the book series are known and are excellent as a basis for readers’ theater scripts.
Host the “B(ook) Files: Uncover the Unexpected” reading club for young adults. “Agents” who join the club receive name badges and a reading log to record the books they read. Keep agents’ files in manila folders. Present the above program as a beginning or ending party.
Write and present readers’ theater scripts based on Look For Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn or Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold! by Terry Brooks.
Additional Young Adult Resources
- Alien Abductions: Creating a Modern Phenomenon by Terry Matheson.
- Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer motion picture and television series.
- The Immortal (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder.
- Lirael: Daughter of Clayr by Garth Nix.
- Men In Black motion picture.
- Shades of Simon Gray by Joyce McDonald.
- Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card.
- Skin by Ben Mezrich (X-Files) and others in the two series for YAs and adults.
- Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce.
- The X-Files: Book of the Unexplained, Vols. I and II by Jane Goldman.
- X-Files motion picture and television series.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Album. Collection of music from Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series.
- Men In Black: The Album. Soundtrack to Men in Black motion picture.
X-Files Motion Picture Score.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Official Site by Warner Brothers TV Network
Men In Black by Columbia Tristar Interactive
UFO Watch by Adam Finzel
The X-Files Official Site by Fox Network
- Introduction to Readers’ Theatre: A Guide to Classroom Performance by Gerald Lee Ratliff.
- Quest: The Search for Meaning Through Fantasy by Larry Rochelle in English Journal 66 (October 1977): 54-55.
- Readers’ Theatre: A Library Media Specialists Best Friend by LaVonne Hayes Sanborn in School Library Media Activities Monthly 10 (May 1994): 31-33.
- Readers’ Theatre for Young Adults: Scripts and Script Development by Kathy Howard Latrobe and Mildred Knight Laughlin.