CARLSBAD — After a two-year hiatus, the Carlsbad Playreaders returns to action with a reading of “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw at 7:30 p.m. on April 4 at the Dove Library in Carlsbad.
The Playreaders is a collection of actors who read through an entire script, including stage directions, from a range of plays rarely produced in the San Diego area.
The thespian collective was founded by Jim, 91, and Pat Hansen, 90, in 1995 due to their love of the arts and performing. In 2020, the Playreaders shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are ready to once again take to the stage to bring to life some classic plays and books through their acting.
“Jim was a beloved teacher in Oceanside, and I was devoted to Carlsbad City Library for many years, we both have had the good fortune to work at what we would have volunteered to do if not for needing to make a living,” Pat Hansen said. “And the good fortune to continue our love for live theatre at many junctures.”
Jim and Pat Hansen met in 1951 at San Diego State College, where they shared their love of live theatre, Pat Hansen recalled. After being drafted, Jim Hansen spent a brief time in the Army before the couple was married 70 years ago. After tying the knot, the pair eventually moved to Carlsbad six years later.
Both became teachers with Jim Hansen directing the senior play at his school in the Mountain Empire School District before relocating to Oceanside and El Camino high schools. Pat Hansen briefly taught fourth grade in Carlsbad before transitioning to the role of housewife and library volunteer, which eventually to a position with the city. They both retired in 1990.
In retirement, the couple created the Carlsbad Playreaders and produced every show for the first 10 years. Since then, performances have been helmed by a variety of art directors, including A.J. Knox, formerly of New Village Arts, who is directing “Pygmalion.”
Since the Playreaders never had a formal venue, the Hansens decided to begin with play readings.
“This is a way of presenting a complete script in a rehearsed reading by experienced actors, with a narrator added to describe the scenes and characters as needed,” Pat Hansen said. “A Community Arts Grant was available through the City of Carlsbad that could pay actors and directors for their time, and royalties and other expenses for producing a play reading.”
And instead of charging for tickets, the Hansen’s opted for a suggested $5 donation or whatever someone was willing to pay to help cover costs, Pat Hansen said. The cost is covered by the Carlsbad Library and Arts Foundation’s Robert H. Gartner Cultural Endowment Grant.
Once the Schulman Auditorium opened at the Dove Library, the Carlsbad Playreaders became part of its regular programming on Mondays, a traditional “dark night,” or day off, for performers.
As logistics changed and the group evolved over the years, the Playreaders made adjustments. For example, auditions became impractical, so the directors chose their actors.
As for the shows, Pat Hansen said they are selected for their humor, relatable issues and moving dialogue, among other characteristics.
“Each of the succeeding leaders has contributed to the production values of the presentations,” Pat Hansen explained. “Board members suggest their favorite plays and artistic directors have the final choice.”
As for the pandemic, Gerilyn Brault, the current artistic director, said they were forced to shut down, but since they are funded by grants, the company was able to step aside and let other theater companies take on more patrons and business to survive.
Brault said the Playreaders’ mission is to explore the human condition and enrich the lives of audiences in Carlsbad and elsewhere.
“That mission is our guiding light in everything we do,” Brault said. “The beauty of a reading is we can pick shows just for the content of the work and give audiences chances to see these great works, without worrying about full production budgets, or needing shows that will sell well at the box office for weeks.
“Other times readings provide the unique opportunity to hear stage directions read aloud. Some playwrights continue their brilliant writing voice in the stage directions that are usually never heard by the audience. Readings are really a great way to experience a play.”
The Playreaders perform once per month and the season runs through Nov. 7.