Acting out stories is almost as old as history. Such acting may take the form of miming in a dumb show, or it may be a dance to music, with the story being told in a song. However, when the stories acted out in words or speeches, it is identified as a play, and a play that portrays characters in conflict is known as drama.
The Bible is traversed by different real life dramatic scenes. Here are some of the spectacular ones:
- The encounter between Joseph and his brothers in Egypt (Genesis 42 – 45).
- Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21 – 28).
- Samson’s finale (Judges 16: 23 – 30).
- David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17: 1-51).
- The crucifixion of Jesus (Matthew 27:15-54).
- Paul and Silas’ midnight prayers (Acts 16: 16-34).
- The dramatic storm/shipwreck (Acts 27: 13-44).
- Silence in heaven (Revelation 8: 1)
- Sounding forth cry of doom (Revelation 8:13).
Radio broadcasting in today’s world is a veritable tool for information dissemination and entertainment. Radio plays are still popular sources of entertainment despite the ascendancy and proliferation of cable television and movie theatres. The advantages of radio broadcast over visual transmission lies in its scope of coverage, low power consumption and affordability.
Most of radio broadcast emanates from a script or manuscript. The technical nature of radio production and the strict time limits observed by most radio stations make it expedient that a script should guide the broadcaster, even if he or she is superb at extemporaneous speaking. For radio drama, a script is not negotiable.
Radio drama themed on Christian values and concept is an important tool of evangelism. As children of God, we must not forget our Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:15). Psalm 68:11 states that “The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those that published it.” By writing Christian radio dramas, you can be part of this great company because broadcasting is a form of living publication. Come to think of it, the life of every believer is drama because the new man (just like the old uncrucified man) reacts to conflicts and trials that he encounters, albeit differently. The Bible does not promise the new man that his life in Christ shall be devoid of conflict. Rather the Bible even guarantees conflicts but assures of victory over every turbulence. The successful struggle of a Christian during a crisis or temptation is a perfect storyline that can be transformed into an inspiring drama script. Strong Christian characters in a radio drama will not only encourage a listening audience but should even win souls for the kingdom of God. People readily identify with drama characters because conflict is a universal experience.
Methods of Presenting Radio Plays
I want to encourage Christians with an aptitude for writing to venture into writing radio drama themed on core Christian values. With many Christian broadcasting stations springing up the African continent, you may just be the genus that the radio producer has been searching for. When writing your radio drama, always remember that there are three basic methods of presenting radio plays:
- As completely self-contained stand-alone plays of 30, 45 or 60 minutes in length
- As serial dramas of stipulated minutes in length. Here, the action goes from one episode to the other.
- And as series drama. Here each broadcast may last for half-an-hour and completes one whole episode of a serial The producer usually makes provisions for the opening and closing presentation as well as station identification or advertisements.
Tips for Radio Dramatists
#1. Write About What You Know: Everyone cares passionately about something or someone important to them. A Christian who has a genuine relationship with Jesus ought to be passionate about his or her faith. Creativity emanates from God, and when a child of God employs his conscious experience with the Holy Spirit to theme a play, he or she will most likely paint a convincing picture of the drama. For many writers, their personal experiences often birth their first works. Perhaps, you could use your first encounter with Jesus to write your script.
#2. Be Careful About Slangs: Radio drama, like any other play, must capture the reality of life in its setting. However, before employing slangs and other peculiar expressions, be sure that the audience the play is meant to entertain, understands your colloquial expressions. Unless you are writing for a very narrow audience, do not assume knowledge on the part of your audience. Try to express your ideas in such a way that the maximum number of people can understand and enjoy them.
#3. Get the Right Mix of the Elements of Radio Drama: Radio drama is made up of four distinct elements: speech, sound effects, music and silence. Decide exactly what “sound picture” and what mixture of these four elements the listener needs to hear in each scene. But beware of using too much background sound because the play stands or falls by the words you have written, and not by your sound mixture.
#4. Keep your Cast List Small: If there are too many characters in one scene, an audience unable to “see” them will simply lose track of who is who. A maximum of six main characters is appropriate for a one-hour play.
#5. Keep Track of Your Characters: Your audience needs to know where your characters are at any point in the play. You will be able to indicate a good deal of this with sound effects, acoustics and music.
#6. Keep Dialogue Real: Beware of allowing one character to tell another information he or she already knows. Listen to the rhythms of your character’s dialogue and try to keep it as real and as natural as possible. One of the attributes of a good playwright is the ability to achieve a believable dialogue.
#7. Avoid Multifarious Themes: Don’t make your play too complicated, with too many themes or plotlines.
#8. Avoid Monotonous Themes: Vary the pace and length of your scenes as well as the background acoustics and location of the action. A radio play which has five scenes each twelve-minute-long and each set in the same couple’s living room is unlikely to be as effective as one which varies scene length and location.
#9. Learn from Listening to Radio Drama: Every vocation has a period of pupillage. Try to listen to as many radio dramas as you can. BBC World Service is an example of an international radio station that offers superb radio dramas. Analyse the different techniques are ways of telling a story that is utilised by award-winning playwrights. There is no right way to write a play, but by listening to a wide selection of productions, you may be inspired to experiment.
#10. Partner with the God: Invite God to be a part of your project. Remember that unless the unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain (Psalm 127:1). Invite the Holy Spirit for inspiration and ability. God is already on your side as far as writing this drama is concerned. He wants you to fan your gift of writing into flame (2 Timothy 1:6). Enjoy writing your play. If you enjoy it, the chances are that other people will enjoy it and be blessed.