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Audio Drama Looks to Reintroduce Itself to World

Groups seek to reignite the magic of telling a story

Audio Dramatists at Work

Nearly 80 years ago, Orson Welles took to the airwaves of radio and brought the story of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” to life. The production from Welles and the Mercury Theater was so well done that it caused a minor panic among some listeners who thought an actual alien invasion was occurring. That was the power, and the popularity, of audio drama at that time. To this day, that remains the seminal instance of audio drama, but a group of radio and web-based stations across the world are hoping to reintroduce people to the new form of audio drama with the third annual, world-wide Audio Drama Day on Oct. 30th.

“Audio drama has had a challenge of reinventing itself and reinventing the idea of what it is over and over again since network radio stopped playing drama on a regular basis,” said Sibby Wieland, president of Sound Stages Radio, which is located in Houston. “It’s a lot harder for audio drama to find a home and to find an audience.” But Wieland believes Audio Drama Day can reignite passion in the art form by “people who may have forgotten how much they’ve enjoyed radio.”

Sound Stages Radio, a web-based network that plays original and classic audio dramas, as well as podcasts and other types of audio programs over its three online stations, will be one of the many groups that participate in this year’s event. Among its plans for the celebration will be a rebroadcast of Welles’ original “War of the Worlds” on its Noir Dame Radio station in a marathon that starts at 7 p.m. CST on Oct. 30th. On Halloween, it will air coast to coast — also available internationally in Canada and England — in an audio horror marathon on its Martian Room station, starting once again at 7 p.m. CST.

Ever since Wieland purchased Sound Stages Radio from Ice Box Radio Theater in 2013, she and her team have strived to give audio dramas a home online and help remind people what it can offer.

“In audio drama, it’s all in your head,” said Wieland. “You can tell a very sophisticated story and it can be acceptable to teenagers and adults in a way that might not be possible for television or film.”

Wieland also sees audio dramas having a part in educating communities, one example being audio dramas that have instructed people in third-world communities about protecting themselves from HIV. But primarily, Wieland sees it as an intimate form of escapism. “It allows you step away from the work-a-day world … and just tune into something that, in a way, is just for you.”

To find out more information on Audio Drama Day, including other events scheduled, visit the website.