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Radio drama

A radio drama or radio play is a play to listen to (i.e. with sound only), for radio broadcasting. They were especially popular before there was television. They were often live.

Probably the two most famous radio dramas are Under Milk Wood, a 'Play for Voices' by Dylan Thomas, and (in the US) Orson Welles's version of War of the Worlds, originally a book by H. G. Wells.

Radio drama is still popular-much more popular than televisual plays. Partly this is because of the need for the audience to use its imagination in picturing scenes and characters. Many film, stage and TV writers got their start in radio drama, including Tom Stoppard and Caryl Churchill. Broadcasters that produce radio drama often require a large number of scripts, since they cannot be reused in the way that a stage play can. The relatively low cost of producing a radio play enables them to take a chance with works by unknown writers. Radio is a good training medium for drama writers as the words written form a much greater part of the finished product; bad lines cannot be obscured with 'stage business'.

The lack of visuals also enable fantastical settings and effects to be used in radio plays where the cost would be prohibitive in a visual medium. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was first produced as radio drama, and was not translated to television until much later, when its popularity would ensure an appropriate return for the high cost of the futuristic setting.

Radio plays often include the work of Shakespeare and other playwrights.

Radio dramas can be regularly heard on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio 1, and the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio 4 and Radio 3. The networks sometime sell transcripts of their shows on cassette tapes or CDs or make the shows available for listening or downloading over the Internet.

Transcripts of many pre-television shows have been preserved. They are collected and traded by hobbyists today as old-time radio programs.

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