Sneak Peek Inside a Musical Theatre Festival: 29 Hour Readings

Welcome to Part 2 in the Sneak Peek Inside a Musical Theatre Festival series. If you’re just tuning in, I’m producing Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals and am blogging about the process over the next few weeks! Click HERE to read Part 1.

The 29 Hour Reading

Village Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals consists of 6 new musicals which will each receive 29 Hour Readings.* Just so we’re all on the same page, the “29 Hours” refers to the amount of time Equity actors can participate in each reading.

In a 29 Hour Reading you CAN:

  • Hear live actors reading/singing your musical
  • Invite an audiences to get reactions and feedback
  • Utilize your Equity actors for 29 hours (or less) including rehearsals AND the reading
  • Equity actors who participate receive a $100 stipend

On the other hand… you can’t use costumes, sets or props. Non-equity actors, directors, accompanists, and writers are not subject to 29 Hour rules.

Stanley Bahorek, Terence Mann and the cast of The Giver in rehearsal for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's festival. (Photo by Kristin Fullerton.)

For some directors and writers the limitation of having talented people at music stands singing the work can be intimidating. There’s no possibility of hiding a bad song or troubled book with flashy costumes or dance numbers. The show has to stand on its own merits and that’s the whole point!

There’s often the temptation to add blocking or get clever with music stand “props” but the best readings I’ve ever seen are simple and clean, leaving the words and music clear and exposed.

29 Hour Readings are very specifically a tool for development of your new musical, and very specifically not your Broadway debut. It’s never fun to have your flaws exposed but smart writers manage to get over that pesky ego (yes, we all have one!) and take advantage of every minute of the process to hone and finesse the script and score.

Personally, I will have succeeded as a producer if each writing teams walks away at the end of the festival having had a great time seeing their show on its feet in a safe and supportive environment, receiving valuable feedback from passionate patrons and artists, and armed with a solid to-do list for tightening and fine-tuning their fantastic new musical before its next step toward success.


  1. The 29-hour reading sounds intriguing….can you share the details of what actually transpires in the different part of the 29 hours?….what its structure is?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *