Saturday, October 6, 2007

Mastering Dialects

So you want to put on your own audio drama? GOOD FOR YOU! Do it. Maybe you'd like to utilize some dialects in your show, in order to keep your listener's interests piqued, or to help keep the characters separate.

Here's a few pages from the 1943 book "Manual Of Foreign Dialects For Radio, Stage, And Screen" (my copy was evidently owned by Judith Krauss, somehow associated with the Will O Way Playhouse, according to the signature on the flyleaf). Be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the phonetic symbols (click each picture for a larger, easy-to-read version) before attempting to read the Irish dialect passage that I've included here:

WHEW! Did you try it out loud?

This book is a really, really rough read! No easy thing to do, learning dialects from a book - but if you were in radio or theater, having a big list of dialects on your resume meant getting more work. Nothing like doubling or tripling your salary by reading multiple parts in the same show, hm? I wonder what kind of money Paul Frees made when he performed EVERY ROLE in the OTR show "The Player"?!?

Of course, I have to mention to everyone that's interested in producing their own audio drama (or "radio shows", whether they are heard on the radio or not) how important it is to study what went before. There's a reason why the (good) old shows are as good as they are, even after 60 years or so: these writers and actors and sound effects men were all PROFESSIONALS. They made their livings doing this. If they weren't up to snuff, they didn't have a job!

So isn't it your responsibility to research the past? Pick up books and scripts that are related to Old Time Radio, and soak them up. As with any profession, you must first learn the rules before you go out and break them. There are tons of old "how to" books out there about radio writing, production, direction, and sound effects - pick up a few and LEARN HOW IT'S REALLY DONE. Besides, the books, just like the old radio shows, are a window to a different time...certainly not very politically correct, worth a nervous laugh or two (I'll post another book snippet later about why women are just not cut out for careers in radio!).

MAH'r LAY/uhr!

("More later!") 8^)#


Ayeshalan said...

Just checking in for the first time. As a co-producer of a New Time Radio show, (or whatever the splat everyone else decides they want to call it this week) as well as a big fan of Old Time Radio (as well as that era in general) I'm really enjoying this blog.

I also really liked your comment here about having to know the rules before you go breaking them. Truman Capote once said this about writing: "Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does or music. If you were born knowing them, fine. It not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."

You'll definitely be hearing more from us!

Jamie Lawson
Co-Producer, "Afterhell"

ilamfan said...

Glad to hear that you're enjoying the blog - and thanks for adding feedback, it lets us know that there's people out there, and a reason to continue! ;^)

I think that a lot of today's producers simply don't realize the wealth of information that's out there about their craft, waiting to be digested. Those old time radio folks KNEW what they were doing! And most of those old "how-to" books are awfully cheap these days.

Who could ask for more? Maybe we can save/reinvent this artform, after all...