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A Radio Drama Project
This unit is appropriate for any class dealing with subject matter—literature, history, government, science, etc. The project may be done at any time during the year, but is probably most effective if done in the second half of the course, so students will have plenty of material from which to select their event.
Step One: [Time: variable]
Listen to some recorded radio dramas to familiarize students with radio drama. Before listening, be sure to inform the students that they will, at some time during the year, be expected to write and produce a radio play of their own. The actual listening can be accomplished over several weeks of playing an occasional radio play and discussing its elements, or playing 2 or 3 plays immediately before starting the unit. Providing a script and having the students read along with the recording and then discussing script format helps.
Step Two: [Time: one-half period]
Form groups. The ideal group size for writing the script is two or three students. The writing portion of this activity is the most beneficial part of the project. The larger the group, the less the participation of individual members. Groups of more than four are not recommended. Small groups will usually require intergroup work when it comes to production, but inter-group cooperation can be a very positive activity. Have each group turn in a paper listing its members and identifying the head-writer.
Step Three: [Time: one-half period]
Plan the script. Provide students with a list of important events that have been studied in the class. Have each group select an event to dramatize. At this point the teacher must decide whether to allow different groups to select the same event. Have groups write a brief summary of their event (beginning/middle/end) and list the characters in their scene.
Step Four: [Time: one, two, or three periods]
Discuss sound effects use. Playing an example of a radio play with good sound effects is a good way to begin this step. Having some students create a simple sound effect as an extra-credit activity may also be helpful. Important points about sound effects that should be covered are: (1) Use sound effects sparingly. (2) Sound effects should support the story and suggest action, but too many sound effects may make the scene difficult to produce and detract from the story. (3) Sound effects that must be timed precisely with the dialog should be done manually—a knock on the door, for instance. (4) Certain manual sound effects are more difficult to perform and should be avoided unless appropriate equipment is available [Example: For footsteps to be effective, an appropriate medium—gravel, wood sounding board, etc.—along with proper microphone placement is necessary.] (4) Sound effects or music that serves as background or mood may be recorded earlier and played back on a boom-box fading in and out as needed. To avoid rewinding tapes, be sure to record several minutes of each background effect.
Step Five: [Time: 5 to 8 periods depending on availability of computers.]
Write the scene. Groups should incorporate sound effects and music notations as they go. For this step, access to computers with word processors is a definite advantage. With computer access, writing time can be cut to about one third the time required for writing the scene in longhand.
Step Six: [Time: 3 periods]
Cast and rehearse the scene. The groups writing the script should be responsible for this step. In most cases, because of the size of the cast and the number of technical jobs, inter-group cooperation will be required. Allow groups to trade duties with other groups, whenever possible. Some assistance may be needed from the teacher here.
Step Seven: [Time: variable, depending on class size]
Perform the Scene. Very effective performances may be accomplished with only 2 or 3 boom-boxes for ambient sounds.
It is always a nice touch when scenes are recorded and copies of these recordings are given to the students involved. To do this properly, however, a bit more equipment is required. The following equipment is recommended if you plan to record the productions.
Write and produce a 3 to 5 minute radio play scene about an event that you have studied in this class.
AThe Last Leaf@
Radio Drama Version
by O. Henry
adapted by Don Kisner
C FADE IN, HOLD FOR A COUNT OF FIVE, THEN FADE UNDERNEATH NARRATOR.
NARRATOR:[COUNT TO SEVEN AFTER PIANO STARTS THEN BEGIN] In New York City, there's a small district just west of Washington Square, where the narrow, irregular streets have run crazy and broken themselves into short strips called places. It's an ancient, residential community where many of the beautiful, old, brick houses date back to the 1820's, when an epidemic forced people from the city to what was then a rural suburban village. Now, in the final year of the nineteenth century, we find clusters of colorful restaurants, theaters, and shops.(PAUSE)
It's an evening in late spring, and the dinner hour finds the little Eighth Street Delmonico's busy as usual. Most of the patrons this evening, the village old-timers, blend into the surroundings: but now and then there's one who stands out, a recent arrival. Joanna Gaines is one of these. Alone in the crowd, she looks new, fragile, out of place.
She pays for her tray of food, then standing for a moment, awkward, she looks around. Finally, spotting her goal, chin out, she crosses the room to a tiny table with two chairs and only one diner.
JOHNSY: Excuse me! All the other tables seem to be taken. Do you mind if I sit here?
SUE: Oh! No! Of course not! I'd love the company. Please! Join me.
JOHNSY: Thank you! My name is Joanna Gaines.
SUE: Hello, Joanna! Susan Cross. Friends call me Sue.
JOHNSY: Hi, Sue. My friends call me Johnsy.
SUE: (THOUGHTFULLY) Johnsy! I like it.
JOHNSY: It's really busy in here this time of day, isn't it. Do you eat here often?
SUE: Just about every day. It's the cheapest, and the best place around. I haven't seen you here before, have I?
JOHNSY: No, this is the first time. I just got to town three days ago. It's all so very different from California.
SUE: Oh, California? I was there once. What part are you from?
JOHNSY: A small town near San Francisco, Sebastopol. Do you know it?
SUE: Afraid not. I only spent a few days there, all of them in Los Angeles. Why'd you come to New York?
JOHNSY: To work, and study, I'm an artist. Or at least I'd like to be.
SUE: Oh! Wonderful! So am I.
JOHNSY: Have you lived in the Village long?
SUE: About four months.