SIGHT UNSEEN: The Basic Principles of Reading Cold by Simon Furness
The purpose of ’cold reading’ is to equip the actor with the skills necessary to deal with the ‘real life’ situation of:
Being asked to read a completely different scene at a casting to the one you have prepared because of last minute script changes.
To read off camera at a casting or self tape session when you will have had little or no time to prepare.
To read in for an actor who is ill or otherwise absent from a rehearsal.
Here are basic principles:
1) Hold the script close enough to glance down quickly and keep it at the same position throughout the reading. Use your upstage hand to hold the script. At about 45 degrees. Make sure the script is stapled or held in page order so you can turn/drop pages quickly and keep your thumb in the margin of the script at all times so you don’t lose your place. Practise until you can master this physical skill.
2) Establish a CONNECTION with your partner first of all by LOOKING at them and silently noting something about them which strikes you or has interest for you.
3) If your the first person with the line then LOOK Down at the script and read the line silently to memorise it before looking up and feeding the words into your partners eyes. As you read and memorise silently allow the words to AFFECT you in any way they do. There’s no right way. Include their response to what you’ve said as you sit there silently waiting before you look down and repeat the process to pick up the next line phrase or sentence.
4) If you’re LISTENING then listen to the very end of your partners speech. Don’t cheat by looking down whilst they’re still speaking. You’ll know it’s your turn (cue) to speak when they STOP speaking.
The above process is effective for any kind of script and any length of speech. practise it daily yourself with any kind of text. You can do this alone or with someone, but do it aloud.