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Definition: Radio drama (or audio drama, audio play, radio play, radio theatre, or audio theatre) is a dramatized, purely acoustic performance. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener imagine the characters and story: "It is auditory in the physical dimension but equally powerful as a visual force in the psychological dimension." Radio drama includes plays specifically written for radio, docudrama, dramatized works of fiction, as well as plays originally written for the theatre, including musical theatre, and opera.
This page provides an incredibly detailed history of Radio Drama - just be sure to verify any information you find using the article references or a secondary source of information.
Click through to read about the history of Drama in radio. Via Britannica School (access is automatic if you are at school and connected to the school network. Click here for our Offsite Access Guide.)
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" originally was a 1978 BBC radio series, written by Douglas Adams, which first premiered in the US on PBS radio in 1980. The subsequent TV show (available on DVD) recreates the insight and beauty of the radio broadcast with visuals that were precognizant and beyond “state of the art.” The book of the same name was actually a transcript of the original audio. The book pales by comparison to the original radio episodes because of the genius of the audio effects.
In our audiobook collection on Sora, there are a number of full cast dramatisations that you could listen to for inspiration, including mysteries such as And then there were none by Agatha Chrisie, fantasty classics like The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein, plus some Jane Austen and Shakespeare.
Explore the BBC's extensive collection of dramatic podcasts
Video: What is Radio Drama?
Watch this video to understand the elements of Radio Drama and explore how a performance is put together.
What is Radio Drama?
Radio drama is a dramatised audio performance, broadcast on radio, or other audio media.
Radio was first invented in 1895, but it wasn’t until 1922 that the BBC were able to broadcast radio shows in the uk. By the late 1930’s, radio drama was widely popular in many parts of the world and the most accessible ‘digital’ way to experience drama.
There were, and still are, lots of different programmes in many different genres, from mysteries to thrillers, soap operas and comedies
The 4 Elements of Radio Drama
Video: Sound Effects Tutorial - Headless Horseman Radio Play
Video: Amazing Short Film on Old Time Radio Sound Effects: "Back of the Mike" (1938)
Insider's view of the 1930s radio studio showing the production of dramatic sound effects.
A boy lies on his bed (wearing a white shirt and a necktie), listening to a radio western. We see the images the radio creates in his mind, then we cut to the studio, where we see that this whole fantasy world is created at a frantic pace by announcers in three-piece suits and sound-effects technicians operating incredibly complicated jury-rigged devices. We get to see such things as one guy doing both voices in a conversation, an adult do a very convincing impersonation of a child's voice, guys playing cowboys impersonating the sound of conversing while riding by playing "horsie" while reading their lines, and all the weird stuff used to make sound effects. Since this is a Jam Handy picture, the good guys catch the bad guys in the end because the good guys are in a Chevrolet and the bad guys are only on horses.
A real gem of a short. Watch it the second time with your eyes closed.
Producer: Handy (Jam) Organization Sponsor: Chevrolet Division, General Motors Corporation