Radio Drama Adaptation


Erin Anderson
Narrative and Technology
Summer 2012

Course Website



This project is an exercise in creative adaptation, which asks you to select a short work of alphabetic fiction and re-imagine its possibilities as a short (8 to 12-minute) radio drama. In groups of 2 to 3, choose a short story that lends itself – in whatever way you dream up – to creative reanimation in voice and sound. Drawing on our discussions of radio drama genre in class, this project asks you to:

Script (draft and revision)
Produce a script (of at least 5 single-spaced pages), which includes character-based dialogue and cues for relevant music and sound effects. In writing your script, keep in mind that adaptation is a creative practice in itself. Your script should not represent a simple transfer of existing dialogue into a new format. You are encouraged to take full creative liberties with the narrative content and stylistic features as long as you stay true to the basic plotline. You will turn in both a draft script and a revised version incorporating feedback from our in-class workshop.

Audio record a live performance of your scripted drama, using your own voices and the voices of “actors” who you recruit for the project, alongside music and sound effects of your own design. To get a feel for what it’s like to tell a story “on the air,” your recording should mimic the conditions of live radio transmission. In other words: practice ahead of time and record from start to finish – no edits allowed. Remember, mistakes are part of the process. Embrace them.

Reflect (individual)
Write a 2-page (double-spaced) reflection on your composing process, in which you consider the challenges you faced and the decisions you made in creatively adapting a written story for reanimation in sound.

Export your audio file as an .mp3, upload it to your SoundCloud account, and embed it in a post on the course blog (be sure to title and tag it!)



Leading up to this project, we read selections from War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells and listened to the infamous radio drama adaptation by Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater on the Air. We discussed the ways in which Welles’s adaptation drew upon the affordances of audio and the conventions of radio as a mass medium and students wrote analytical blog posts on this topic. We also looked closely (in class) at “The Signal Man,” a short story by Charles Dickens alongside the script for its radio drama adaptation by Charles Tazewell and discussed the various moves made by the playwright in creating the adaptation.

I chose to make this project a “live” recording rather than an edited audio piece, in part because I was interested in students’ experience of the radio drama genre in its original form and also for the sake of time in a condensed summer course. Students learned audio editing in a later assignment in the sequence (audio documentary).



“The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson

“Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe (Group 1)

“Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe (Group 2)