Interpretive reading is a very important facet of both storytelling and public speaking. Sure, it's standing in front of a group of people and reading a printed text, but it's much more than that: it's reading from the heart. Do not confuse it with "cold reading", which is reading something you haven't studied, practiced, made your own. If you're asked to do the scripture reading at church as you come through the door that morning, that's "cold reading." Put up your hand if you've had to do that. Yeah, me too.
The Vocal Coach, Chris Beatty, talks about the Ear-Brain-Larynx connection in regards to singing. (http://vocalcoach.com/blog/2012/10/thinking-about-the-larynx/) I want to talk about the Heart-Mind-Body connection. If you have a few minutes, take a look at the Vocal Coach link, because there is much that relates to the craft of the storyteller.
When we read silently, our hands hold the book, our eyes read the words, our minds take it in, and every so often, it touches our hearts. When we read out loud, we engage more of our minds and hearts because now our mouths speak out the words our eyes see, and our ears hear them. This involves so much more of our senses, and it becomes that much more potent to our hearts. (As a writer, I read my material out loud as an important part of the editing process!)
All of us, at one time or another, have had to read aloud before an audience. I daresay most of the time we were seeing the text for the first time ("cold reading"). For some, this can be a frightening experience. Many people have a hard time getting their tongues around the words they are reading; others have a hard time just reading. This kind of reading rarely reaches the heart because the mind is in too much of a panic mode—the reading becomes stilted, stumbling, and strained.
But, oh my goodness, if we can throw our hearts into what we're reading, it takes it to a whole other dimension. This will take work. We need to believe what we're reading. We need to own it. We need to practice it. And we need to make the Heart-Mind-Body connection. The reading will be more dramatic when we throw our hearts into it, but that's okay because it's the heart speaking. When the reader's heart speaks, the listeners' hearts respond. It is an inside-out process. It's sinking into the words, allowing them to fill us, and then expressing their truth. Have you ever heard anyone read Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham with character voices and over-the-top expression? (Dr. Seuss kind of calls for over-the-top treatment!) Have you ever listened to somebody reading the Bible with so much heart it brought you to tears? I have.
So how do we master interpretive reading?
Step 1: Pick the piece
If it's a church service, chances are real good you will be assigned a reading; you read what's in the lectionary or what the preacher has requested. At other times, the choice is up to you. Take into consideration who the audience is, what the time limit is (sticking close to time limits is a way of making sure you're invited back), and what is appropriate for the situation. Most of all, pick a piece you can believe in.
Step 2: Feel the heart
Read through the passage out loud several times. Allow it to speak to you. Start to get a feel for its flow: should it slow down or pick up speed? Should you pause now and then? Should you repeat any phrases? Feel the rhythm. Are there characters you should use different voices for? Are there any gestures or movements you can use?
Step 3: Own the truth
Practice! Practice it out loud sitting down, standing up, and walking around. Let the words become a part of who you are. Plant them in your heart. Exaggerate the drama: have fun with it (then scale it back to what feels right). Master the pacing, gestures, vocal inflections. Get so comfortable with it that you will be able to look up from the page more often and hold eye contact with your audience. That makes the reading personal.
Step 4: Share the wonder
Present the reading to your audience. Let your heart speak to theirs. Allow the words come from within you and out. The inside-out process. And have faith that as you took these words into yourself, they will find fruit when you speak them out.