Radio Hed: Audio Theatre

radio-hed-logo1By Jeffrey Hedquist

What are some of the skills you need to create great radio commercials? The ability to capture attention, tell compelling stories, involve the listener’s imagination, create effective dialogue, develop distinct characters, and use music and sound effects to weave an audio spell.

Funnily enough, these are the same skills you’ll develop doing audio theatre.

The term “audio theatre” is commonly used to describe longer forms of production than radio commercial writers and producers are used to. Long form for most of us is 60 seconds. Audio theatre can be 90 seconds, 3-5 minutes, a half-hour, an hour, or multi-hour compilations of episodes. It might run on commercial or public radio, on the Internet, be distributed on CD or cassette, downloaded as MP3s, or any combination thereof.

Audio theatre’s purpose is not necessarily to sell, but to entertain, involve, uplift, enrich your audience. It has the same demands as any other entertainment vehicle—a short story, book, movie, video game, live presentation. You’re competing for the audiences’ attention—just like you do when you create a commercial.

How can you get involved? There may already be an audio theatre group in your city, or you may be able to develop one with interested participants from writers’ groups, radio and TV stations, advertising agencies, production houses, theatre groups, improv groups, schools and colleges.

Use your favorite web search engines to find books, tapes and courses on audio theatre. One of the best resources is the National Audio Theatre Festival (www.natf.org). I was privileged recently to be able to give a couple of seminars and to direct a live half-hour radio drama at their annual summer workshop. I learned a lot.

Attending a NATF workshop will give you a chance to develop skills as well as network with some of the most famous innovators in audio theatre who are very willing to share their knowledge and experience of this wonderful medium.

And, did I mention that it’s loads of fun?

© 2001 Hedquist Productions, Inc