Saturday, June 6, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on May 8th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 10

Central Coast Live Read holds sixth performance to benefit the Ian M. Hassett Foundation


Since 2016, Central Coast Live Read has been hosting live table reads of film scripts in both Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo.

I had zero acting experience when Central Coast Live Read (CCLR) founder Alli Wallace asked me to join the cast of the group’s inaugural production—a live table read of the Toy Story screenplay in 2016. Full disclosure: We’ve been friends since preschool, so the offer to read the pivotal role of Slinky Dog—who woofs a whopping total of 15 lines or less—could be seen as favoritism.

Biased or not, I wasn’t about to turn down the chance to wear socks (“dog ears”) on my head in front of a live audience. And it was encouraging to learn that most of the cast was made up of other non-actors, including Wallace herself.

“Although my mom to this day will recount to you my leading role in a fourth grade play about the California 1848 Gold Rush,” she clarified. “I don’t think acting experience is necessary. Embracing the character and the overall experience seems to be the key to success.”

Aside from the use of a few props and flourishes—including the sock ears I mentioned—the desired outcome of each CCLR production is not to immerse audiences visually, but audibly, in the same fashion as a radio play.

Staged readings of plays and novels aren’t new to the Central Coast, but CCLR’s prime directive in bringing movie scripts to life gives the group a unique edge. Wallace became inspired after seeing footage from a celebrity-led table read of The Princess Bride screenplay, part of director Jason Reitman’s (Juno, Tully) live script reading series at LACMA.

“I was instantly hooked on the concept, and the idea of mirroring it on a local level,” Wallace said.

Christian Schmidt gave voice to Kevin McCallister during Central Coast Live Read’s table read of Home Alone in 2017.

Following its Toy Story debut, CCLR has presented one-night-only readings of Back to the Future and Home Alone in Santa Maria as well as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Napoleon Dynamite in San Luis Obispo. A Bug’s Life, the group’s sixth venture, will be read on Friday, May 17, at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Maria.

Like the five readings before it, proceeds of A Bug’s Life will benefit the Ian M. Hassett Foundation, which offers scholarships, grants, and art supplies to young artists and students. Although admission to the reading is free, donations will be collected to benefit the local charity. The foundation is dedicated to the memory of Ian Hassett, an aspiring artist and musician who died of cancer at age 19 in 2012, two years after graduating from Righetti High School. Many of the volunteers behind CCLR, Wallace and myself included, were Hassett’s classmates.

“Ian was my friend in later years of high school, and his family has been incredibly supportive of all of our creative endeavors,” Wallace said. “I don’t even think there was any conversation about the show benefitting Ian’s foundation. It was just the natural choice.”

The one-night-only reading of A Bug’s Life takes place on Friday, May 17, at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Maria.

As for choices that do come into question, several movie ideas get thrown around before it’s finally decided which one CCLR should tackle next. One major factor in determining whether or not a script will make a good table read is if there are enough interesting characters for people to play, CCLR organizer and actor Chris Lambert told the Sun.

“We have a lot of fun ‘casting’ movies with our friends and acquaintances, to see if a live read will hold up,” Lambert said. “Sometimes a movie sounds great on paper, but doesn’t hold up to those kinds of tests. Sorry, no Kill Bill.”

Part of the fun for Lambert—whose roles have included Woody in Toy Story, Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Hopper in next week’s A Bug’s Life—when it comes to table reads is getting to voice characters without worrying about the physical aspects of traditional theater.

“I actually think I’m a better reader than an actor, because I can’t really commit physically, but I can usually mimic voices and inflections pretty well,” Lambert said. “Playing George McFly [in Back to the Future] and Kip [in Napoleon Dynamite] were great because people recognized the voices and laughed as soon as I started reading, which is really the only validation I need.”

Grasshop to it
Central Coast Live Read presents its live script reading of Pixar’s A Bug’s Life at Grace Baptist Church on Friday, May 17, at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Ian M. Hassett Foundation. The church is located at 605 E. McCoy Lane, Santa Maria. Visit for more info.

On the other hand, CCLR actor Kris Chavez embraced a very physical approach to his role as Pedro in Napoleon Dynamite, Lambert explained. The night of the performance, Lambert and Chavez walked into a dark alleyway, armed with hair clippers.

“There’s a scene where Pedro shaves his hair off because it’s making him too hot. Kris decided to go all in by actually shaving his head at intermission,” Lambert said. “So I got to do the honors in the alleyway behind Lincoln Market and Deli. It was a lot harder than we thought it was going to be. His hair was thick.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood wouldn’t say no to a free haircut in a dark alley. Reach him at

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