The latest audio drama workshop run by Mike Lane was based on an extract from Othello. Kirsty Mealing’ and Jennifer Smith played Emilia and Desdemona. I’m picking-up loads of very useful coaching techniques from Mike, who has a very carefully and organised way of helping the participants ‘unfold’ the meanings and expressions within the text which gets brought out in the performances. These recording sessions are a work-in-progress that have helped me to understand how performers bring the written text to life, through a combination of understanding and intuition. Kirsty and Jennifer’s emotionality really starts to open-up and come through in their successive performances, as the workshop developed and as we made each recordings. I’m really looking forward to developing more of these workshop sessions and to sharing the content that we produce.
Audio drama has a huge scope for creative development and presents many challenges both in terms of creative writing, performance and audio production. Yesterday we held the first of the De Montfort University Audiotheque Workshops, where a small group of audio drama enthusiasts got together to create some mini-dramas over the course of the day.
The Audiotheque project has been running for a couple of years now, and it’s zigzagged a bit in terms of it’s development. We’ve tended to move in sudden bursts and stops. This is one of our more active periods, which I’m hoping will be sustained and allows us to establish a base where we have a regular crew of people producing independent audio dramas.
I organised the workshop via Facebook, with the help of colleagues at DMU, Ross Clement and Jonathan Taylor. Ross is an audio and multimedia whizz, and Jonathan is a creative writing champion. Between us we managed to get fifteen people to turn up on a Saturday morning to take part in the workshop. We had audio production, drama and creative writing students all working together to produce a short drama.
To get things started, after tea and biscuits, we worked out our ideas. This is always the hardest part, because you are starting from a blank sheet of paper. To help kick-start the ideas I downloaded a couple of apps to my phone. WordDot is a random word generator, and Oblique Strategies is a technique used by Brian Eno when he’s producing bands to help move them one. These helped us set a frame of reference for the stories that would be conceived, which where then put to a setting derived from a photograph shared by the writing teams from their phones. The range and variation of the stories was really interesting, from a car crash to a walk in the mountains, and from a business meal to a fairy-tale with a wooden boy.
It took us most of the morning to get the ideas defined and scripted, so we had a working lunch. Then we moved into the recording studios, which where ably run by Jurgis Masilionis. This is the fun part, though it had Jurgis working flat out to quickly capture the sessions, but he rose to the challenge admirably. We got a bit perfectionist at one point, when it would have been better to have run through the performances quickly. We learnt that the performance is best done in one take, that way the performance has more energy and there is less to do afterwards in terms of adding sound effects.
Ross was brilliant at collecting sound effects, and he stretched every sinew of his imagination to find sounds that supported the actions and the interactions of the characters. Padding a jacket as a substitute for footsteps on a mountain worked wonders. Adding the noise of a glass of wine being pored and drunk, added the punctuation that moved the story from being something that is merely being talked through by the characters to something that is lived and experienced.
At the end of the day we were all pretty exhausted. We didn’t hit our target of getting the pieces on to the Audiotheque site in the same day, but there are promises that they will be edited, mixed and posted to the site very soon.
We are going to run another workshop day in January, but in the meantime we are going to try and produce and share some simple dramas made on mobile phones and recorded in impromptu places, like cafes and shopping centres. Keep an eye on the Audiotheque site and listen out as more of the dramas are posted up.