Readers’ Theatre

Goals for All Forensic Competition

Our Forensic events are designed to promote intellectual growth through friendly competition and positive educational experiences and opportunities. The goal for each participant and coach is to learn, to grow, to exercise and share skills and abilities in a courteous, polished manner.

All participants, observers, and coaches are expected to observe the general principles and concepts of:

  • Ethical behavior
  • Appropriate demeanor
  • Proper decorum
  • Honest and original best efforts
  • Free interchange of ideas

The aims and responsibilities of a speech & drama coach are to guide the intellectual development of the speakers to promote and provide opportunities for them to develop their skills, as well as to engender good sportsmanship, fair play and individual integrity. The coach is not a speech writer or a theatrical designer. The coach is primarily an educator.

The following practices are considered unethical and pedagogically unsound and are not condoned:

  • The altering of material in interpretive events that is contrary to the author’s intent.
  • The writing of speeches and introductions by anyone other than the student(s).
  • The use of canned (i.e. re-use of previously prepared) speeches for original oration.
  • The use of emotional appeals without the evidence to support them.
  • The distortion or falsification of evidence.
  • The breaching of normal courtesy by heckling, grimacing, or loud whispering while another student is speaking or performing.
  • The use of the same material in two different years by the same individual.

Description of Event

Twelve minutes maximum (there is no minimum). Readers’ Theatre is a group presentation in which an open script must be used, either in hand or on a lectern. Each performance group may be as few as three (3) and as many as six (6) readers. Each school may enter up to two teams, one with any combination of 5th and 6th Grade students, and one with any combination of 7th and 8th Grade students. It is allowable for 5th or 6th Graders to read as part of the 7th/8th Grade entry if needed to complete the team, but at least one reader must be a 7th or 8th Grader.

A Readers’ Theatre script may be drawn from any form of literature, poetry, or prose. Acceptable sources must be generally available to the public. Examples of acceptable sources include published and printed novels, short stories, plays, screen plays or poetry. Audio/video recorded material that is not printed and published is not an acceptable source. Adaptations of the original source material may be for the purpose of continuity only. During the presentation a reader must name the author and source from which the selection was drawn.

The content of Readers’ Theatre pieces may be dramatic and serious in nature, or sentimental and touching, but they also may be humorous. In fact, this style of forensic competition is ideally designed for entertaining through humor. Students should select pieces that are appropriate for them. Considerations for selecting a Readers’ Theatre piece should include the students’ ages, maturity, and the ethos of Lutheran Schools.

No costumes are allowed; students are encouraged to dress in a color theme (all black, all blue jackets, etc.). Dressing in school “bling” (sweatshirts, T-shirts, etc. with school logo/mascot etc., special school L.E.S.T. Northwest apparel) is another encouraged option. Readers may move no further than three feet from their original position. This includes turning; a common technique in Readers’ Theatre is having readers turn their back to the judges/audience when not in the scene. Readers may not touch each other. Upper body gestures are allowed, and facial expressions are essential (although intentional lack of expression may have its place). No props may be used. Sound effects are limited to those sounds that performers may make with their own bodies, scripts or stands. Different styles exist for Readers’ Theatre. Judges shall attempt not to penalize competitors for their choice of presentation style.

Readers’ Theatre is an audience-focused interpretive event. At no time are readers to make eye contact with each other. Rather, they should look out toward the audience, as if the person they are speaking to is out in front of them rather than standing beside them. Eye focus may shift to different locations out in front to indicate a reader is looking between multiple individuals, but they may never actually physically look at each other.

Selecting / Cutting a Competition Piece

Finding competition pieces can be one of the most difficult parts of Readers’ Theatre. There are so many potential pieces, and everyone wants to find the right one. One of the most important things to remember is for the readers to find a selection that speaks to them. They should enjoy the piece, and it should fit their aesthetic and make sense to them. Each team should seek a story that they will enjoy bringing to life. Coaches may play a critical role in guiding teams to competition pieces, but the final decision of what piece to perform should rest with the readers themselves.

There are billions of potential pieces out there across various types of mediums. The best pieces are always going to be found by reading. Short stories, poems, novels, children’s books, mysteries, plays, musicals, essays – all are excellent sources for Readers’ Theatre. While novels and short stories are often adapted for Readers’ Theatre, when first trying the event the simplest route is often to draw from a play or musical, something written for stage performance. If adapting from a literary source, look for literature that:

  • is interesting or has compelling content.
  • has a strong story line, interesting characters, conflict, plot action, humor.
  • uses dialogue.
  • is not filled with descriptive passages.
  • flows at a steady pace.

Keep in mind not all sources may be appropriate content for a Lutheran School competition.


Judges will score each team, giving up to 100 points based upon how appropriately the readers follows the rules of RT as well as meet the following performance elements:

  • Reads with expression, proper emphasis, and clear enunciation, using voices effectively to convey meaning.
  • Uses blocking effectively within the limits of Readers’ Theater rules.
  • Projects to the audience. 
  • Is familiar with the part and can read it with fluency.
  • Paces themselves effectively.
  • Demonstrates poise, energy, and self-confidence.
  • Stays within the time constraint.

Points             Placement     Award             

90-100            First                Blue                

80-89              Second                                  

70-79              Third                                      

Readers’ Theatre teams are judged on their own performance, not compared to other teams. Awards will be given for blue ribbon winners. The judges’ scoring sheets, with valuable comments, will be given to each school at the closing of L.E.S.T. Northwest. 

It is important that judges write a complete evaluation. They should not wait until the round is completed to begin writing constructive feedback! Writing during performances is permitted. It is critical for the readers and their coaches to have the educational feedback that justifies judges’ decisions. Judges must strive to be objective in their ratings, not allowing personal opinions or biases regarding an idea or particular selection to predetermine their impression of a presentation.

Disruption – If a judge feels that circumstances beyond a team’s control seriously impaired the performance (for example, a fire alarm, loudspeaker announcement, etc.), the judge has the option to allow the team to begin again. Judges should proctor the room to maintain a positive atmosphere.

Time Limits

All forensic events are timed. A team’s time should be recorded on the ballot. An introduction is considered part of the speech or presentation and must be timed.

Readers’ Theatre performances have a 30 second “grace period”. If the judge(s) in a round determine that a student has exceeded the 12 minute maximum allowed time and gone beyond the “grace period,” the student shall receive an automatic five (5) point deduction.

How to Participate

Each school should indicate on the L.E.S.T. Northwest Registration Form their intention to participate in the Readers’ Theatre Competition.

When registering, if a team had not yet chosen the source material for their performance piece, the title and author of the selection may be submitted later by returning again to the registration form, submitting no later than January 17, 2024.

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