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Adapting stage drama for radio: techniques of preparing stage scripts for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio production Wynston, Gail Patricia


Since 1944, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, through its radio network, has been the prime disseminator of drama to Canadians. CBC radio reaches virtually every inhabited region of the country, including remote areas where little or no professional stage drama is presented. Canadian playwrights have often adapted their stage plays for GBC radio production in order to reach the largest potential audience. This study examines the techniques which have been used by seven playwrights to adapt their stage plays for CBC radio. The plays examined are: The Abdication by Norman Newton; The Action Tonight by Tom Grainger; Captives of the Faceless Drummer, by George Ryga; Do You Remember One September Afternoon?, by David Watmough; The Great Hunger, by Leonard Peterson; Women in the Attic, by Leonard Peterson; Quiet Day in Belfast and its radio version "Murder in the Betting Shop," by Andrew Angus Dalrymple; and Yesterday the Children Were Dancing, by Gratien Gélinas, translated and adapted by Mavor Moore. The stage scripts and their radio versions were examined to ascertain the changes that had occurred in the adaptation process. The playwrights and several CBC producers were interviewed. Comparison between the stage and radio versions revealed differences in the order of speeches, and additions or deletions of verbal and non-verbal elements. Dialogue was cut or condensed to shorten the script for radio. Occasionally the order of events was rearranged for the adaptation to insure clarity after elements had been cut. Some visual elements of the stage play received verbal equivalents in the radio script, while others were translated through radio production techniques, such as sound effects. In addition, radio production techniques which had no stage equivalent were added in the adaptation process to help create a mood or emphasize a character. These alterations appear to have been made for two reasons: to compensate for the lack of the visual element on radio, and to shorten the script to conform to the CBC network's time restrictions. The author of this study concludes that the adaptation techniques used in the scripts under consideration are relatively rudimentary. For the most part, the playwrights did only what was necessary to make the stage play understandable to the radio listener and did not fully exploit the potential of the radio medium. The radio listener can be stimulated to imagine an unbounded stage and need not be restricted by an aural translation of a physical stage setting. The author suggests that further investigations might explore techniques which would help the adaptor to transform his play more imaginatively for radio.

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