Category: Hot Off the Stages Play Readings

Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night

A staged reading of Shakespeare’s play by Haley White and friends. A huge THANK YOU to all of the talented people and supportive audience members who made this evening magic!

A Special Surprise Reading with TNE and Friends!  TWELFTH NIGHT ON TWELFTH NIGHT!

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TNE Member Haley White had a brainchild this holiday season: What fun to do a reading of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on Twelfth Night! Originally intended to be an informal reading in her home, Haley’s shared her idea with friends at various holiday gatherings – and it sparked the imaginations of some of the best and brightest performers of the Fresno theater scene.

Sunday, January 5th. 7 p.m.
Mia Cuppa Caffe (formerly The Revue). 620 E Olive Ave, Fresno, CA 93728
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Reading from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Featuring an outstanding cast:

VIOLA- Danielle Jorn
OLIVIA- Sara Gettelfinger
ORSINO- Terry Lewis
FESTE THE CLOWN – Shannon Eizenga
SIR TOBY BELCH- Chris Carsten
MALVOLIO- Haley White
MARIA- Kristin Lyn Crase
ANTONIO- James Sherrill
SEBASTIAN- Chris Borden

Admission is free, but please honor Mia Cuppa Caffe by purchasing a tasty beverage.
There will also be Twelfth Night themed appetizers and snacks on hand.

Donations will be gratefully accepted via cash or credit card. All donations from this reading to benefit Danielle Jorn’s January 7th move to NYC to pursue her dreams!


“Freud” reading brings largest reading audience yet!

The {tne} Hot Off the Stages Play Readings keep gaining steam after 2 years!  “Freud’s Last Session” brought 47 people to the back room at Revue Cafe in Fresno’s Tower District to listen to Jaguar Bennett and James Sherrill read the parts of Freud and Lewis.

The energy in the event is palpable.  Passionate theater-goers who love ideas enjoy these weeknight readings as a great way to grab a cuppa, unwind and learn about some of the finest playwrighting the theater is producing right now!

FREUD’S LAST SESSION, a Hot Off the Stages Play Reading coming January 29th

play5343The New Ensemble Theater Group reads

A Hot Off the Stages Play Reading of this hot New York play
for local theater lovers.

Can a Christian and an atheist have a frank discussion about the existence of God and still respect each other in the end? FREUD’S LAST SESSION, a Hot of the Stages Play Reading by The New Ensemble Theater Group, explores that question with an informal reading on Tuesday, January 29th at the Revue Café in Fresno’s Tower District.

Based on the best-selling book “The Question of God,” the hit Off Broadway play by Mark St. Germain sets up an imaginary sparring match between two expansive 20th-century intellects. Dr. Sigmund Freud, an atheist, who invites a then little-known professor, C.S. Lewis, to his home in London for a very specific agenda. Freud wants desperately to understand how Lewis, who used to share his atheism, has become a recent convert to Christianity. On the day that England enters World War II, Freud and Lewis clash over the issues of reason and faith, life and death. This astute story takes a strong, even-handed, and surprisingly civil look at one of life’s most thought-provoking discussions.

Read by New Ensemble members Jaguar Bennett and James Sherrill, this informal play reading is an intellectual thriller with humor and insight regarding belief in a complex world.

The New Ensemble’s Hot Off the Sages Play Readings offer local theater-goers the chance to hear an exciting play that’s entirely new to Fresno. A great way to exercise the imagination, become familiar with contemporary playwrights, and to keep up with what’s hot in the theater world, the Readings give theater-lovers the inside-track on some of the best up- and-coming plays of our time.

The New Ensemble Theater Company began the Hot Off the Stages Play Readings two years ago with the 2010 Tony Award winning play RED by John Logan. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, IN THE NEXT ROOM (OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY), SHIPWRECKED, and VENUS IN FUR are just a few of the exciting new plays read for Fresno audiences. In 2013, {tne} hopes to bring a total of four more readings to local cafes around for local theater-goers to enjoy.

FREUD’S LAST SESSION, a Hot of the Stages Play Reading will be read by The New Ensemble Theater Group on Tuesday evening, January 29th at 7:30 p.m. at the Revue Café, 620 East Olive Avenue at Broadway in Fresno’s Tower District. Admission is FREE with the purchase of a snack or beverage from the Café. The reading time is approximately 90 minutes. For more information on The New Ensemble, click to

FREUD’S LAST SESSION, a {tne} Hot Off the Stages Play Reading. 
Tuesday, January 29th from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
Revue Cafe, 620 Olive in Fresno’s Tower District.
Admission is Free. Please support Revue Cafe, who is donating the space for free, with your purchase of a beverage or snack!

How To: Hold a Successful Theatrical Reading


1.  Serve alcohol.

2.  Keep it casual– allow the audience and actors to mingle before the show and during the intermission (if you have one).  They all love it.

3.  Give them something to bond over– like the noises from the cafe venue or the heat in the tiny theater with a tinier air conditioner.

4.  Sell water (see #1 and #3).

5. (and most importantly) Cast exceptional actors and then let them do what they know how to do.

Last night’s reading of “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play”, during TNE’s FREE PRIZE INSIDE SHOWCASE WEEKENDS, was a stunning success. We greeted twice the number of patrons as we expected and they all endured the hot little black box theater and cramped seating (it’s part of the charm of the Broken Leg Stage– that feeling that you’re all in this together!), and the feedback was tremendous.

Of course, Sarah Ruhl’s beautiful words and exceptional story had much to do with it.  It is simply an exquisite play.  And because it is an exquisite play I did what I could to bring on board some of the finest talent the area has to offer– including Gabriela Lawson, Brooke Aiello, and Jaguar Bennett (regular players with Woodward Shakespeare Festival), Eric Orum and Kristin Lyn Crase (both having leads in successful shows at Good Company Players this year) and various members of the TNE troupe.

And why is that so important?  After all, if the play is so exceptional, couldn’t it speak on its own?

Of course it could!  Don’t be a dolt.  But eventually the thing will need to be spoken by actual human beings, hopefully by smart ones.

So I gathered these actors for a simple, one-time table read of the play earlier in the week.  Explained that it would be a straightforward  sit-and-read, and instructed them to review the script another time before coming to the theater on Friday.  End of story.  (Talented actors are also busy actors and a quick prep for a reading helps keep them available for readings.).

But something extraordinary happened at the top of Friday evening during set up.  We got into the space, began to set up the chairs for a typical static reading of this lovely play, and everyone seemed to realize that it just wasn’t going to work. It would have been fine– funny and intelligent– that way.  But perhaps a little cerebral.  And after some discussion and a little brainstorming, I did something a director usually hates to do.

I stepped out.

I had to, actually.  Being a small company, I was also handling box office set up and it had been neglected.  So, I had to turn it over to this group of seven actors to figure out.  When I came back in, the few props I had brought for set decoration were set up for practical use.  The chairs were divided into two rooms.  A chair was set aside for a piano bench.  The actors were mingling with guests, calm as could be.

Then, we started the reading.  And these talented actors improvised the entire staging of this reading off the top of their heads.  They agreed on the parameters; they watched each other’s movement to make quick and decisive choices on their own.  And by standing up and sitting down and crossing when they felt they needed to, they were more open and more affected by the words Sarah Ruhl had written.

That’s not to say that there weren’t clusters along the way, but -truth be told- the audience seemed to like watching them work it out as they went along. They improvised a staged reading on the spot, like pros.  And many of the reading performances that came out of those actors were worthy of the script and showed exactly what talented actors can do when they HAVE to do it and there isn’t anything standing in their way.

Like a director.  DirWRECKting.

I felt proud and redundant simultaneously.  It just reinforced my idea that directors are first and foremost facilitators: midwives.  We can get all conceptual with designers, and we often need to shape the story and work with actors on certain ways of telling it.  But ultimately, if you believe you have the best cast you can get for that play at that time, and you’ve prepared them as well as you possibly can with the time you have, there comes a point where you need to get out of the way and let them do what they know how to do.

Thus, #5.  (And the reason that I love actors).

Heather Parish

Artistic Director, TNE


First Play Reading Series: Success

Tonight we wrapped up our premiere HOT OFF THE STAGES Play Reading Series and we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

Our first night we had 20 people and by our third week we had grown to 34. About half of week two and week three were repeats, which means we had about 42 unique visitors total. For a company that seats a maximum of fifty seats any any one of our shows, that’s quite an accomplishment! And, by my estimation, about 40% of that total audience had had no previous connection to The New Ensemble at all– this was their first touchpoint with our work! Very exciting to see new people taking an interest in independent theater in Fresno!

We hope to be able to do another series in the fall or winter. For those of you who attended, please let us know what you thought of the experience and how we might improve it at the earliest possible convenience!

Many thanks and may you all have wonderful summer theatrical experiences!

Heather Parish
Artistic Director