I've just finished up the year by putting on two
, the multi-Hugo winning
graphic novel 'Gaslamp Fantasy' series. For friends at their New Year's
Eve party we performed
, and for
my shared family's New Year's Day party (because I wasn't around for
Christmas) we performed
I asked permission from Phil and Kaja first and got a response from Alice,
one of their minions, to the effect that they're intending to release the
scripts and the shows under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial
license (which it says in the headings of 'Minor Heroes'). I didn't get
around to getting a script from them in time, so I ended up transcribing
the shows myself - I'm sending them the files for their own reference, in
case that helps them.
Overall, reactions were good. I only had helpful feedback, anyway, no
criticisms, and we got more and more people packing in for the later
episodes at the first event. I think sometimes it struggled a bit as both
the audience and some of the actors weren't familiar with the genre or the
characters and story, but that's hardly a problem. It was pretty cool to
Here are some notes for myself and others should people find themselves
wanting to do this well in future:
- You want to have as many microphones as there are people. Make sure
the actors know how to use them too. If necessary, people can share mics
but it means people have to duck in and out and slows sometimes crucial
bits down. Three people per microphone is probably a working maximum.
- You definitely want everyone to have their own script. Highlight
your own character's lines, so you can flip pages over in advance to see
if you've got a line coming up. Keep your place in the dialogue. Sharing
scripts means embarrassing pauses are more likely. You also want to keep
ahead so that everyone doesn't turn the pages over at the same time.
- If you do have to share scripts, have them on a music stand. Start with
the sheets on the right-hand side of the stand, then move the first page to
the left. As you progress, move sheets so you're reading from the left-hand
side as much as possible. Yes, this will mean that you're going to end up
with your sheets back-to-front - deal with it later.
- If you're recording in a studio rather than live, read through one page,
then everyone turns the page over at the same time and you resume where you
left off. Then you edit the page turns out later. This is much cleaner.
- Everyone needs to practice their lines. You don't need to do it from
memory, but you do need to do read a complicated line without any
hesitation or confusion about pronunciation. Your aim is to minimise the
number of times you correct yourself or get confused about what you've
- Make sure you get at least one full rehearsal with everything live.
Practice your timing on fast dialogue, especially where people are
interrupting each other.
- Make sure you have a full list of sound effects beforehand. Make sure
you've got whatever devices necessary to make them, and that they work. I
used a 'sound board' application for my new phone and the interface kept on
going to sleep to save power, causing embarrassing pauses before zapping
- In your scripts, mark your emotions or timing for lines you're
uncertain about. Some scripts I wrote up didn't try to convey the
emotions - this was a mistake.
- It is absolutely vital that you avoid the impression that you're reading
from a script. Add lots of extra intonation and emotion into your voice.
You might think it sounds hammy now but it'll sound much better in a
- Try to avoid a person doing more than one voice. If you have to have one
person doing two parts, try to minimise the amount that they have to talk to
themselves. Each voice should be quite distinct - use accents, high and low
tones, nasal vs open, rasping or sibilant, etc. to distinguish the two voices.
You can get away with this much easier in a recording studio - a live
performance is much less forgiving.
- You need to have an introduction before your first performance to explain
what it's all about. This needs to cover, amongst other things, the license
that you're performing the shows under; it's also helpful to give a bit of a
potted summary of the scene.
- The Girl Genius radio plays are well written in that there's an
announcer at the start that introduces each of the characters in turn as part
of the whole show, so that the audience has a clue who's who. If you don't
find this in your script, then it may be useful to add it to your introduction.
- If there's audience participation in the lines (e.g.
whenever anyone says "Agatha Heterodyone", everyone says "Girl Genius")
you will need to beg, plead and encourage everyone beforehand to join in.
Most of them won't. This won't be bad.
Hopefully this advice will stand you in good stead if you happen to want to
perform a radio drama some time in the near future. If not, what's wrong
with you? :-)