Some of you may have heard by now that the
audiobook platform Audible will be producing plays from emerging playwrights for our listening pleasure. Each play will have a limited-run live production, as well as an audio drama adaption. As a playwright, adult theatre kid, and huge podcast nerd, this is maybe the best thing that's ever happened to me. But while we wait for these shiny new commissioned audio plays to reach our ear-holes, why not acquaint ourselves with the wide world of audio plays that are already out there? Here are a few of the weird and wonderful audio-dramas you can listen to right now.
Audio theatre is a fantastic way to
bring literature to life, to bring drama to people who might not be able to afford a Broadway ticket, and to whisk you away on a thrilling, auditory adventure while you're sitting on a stalled subway train. Unlike audiobooks (which are fantastic in their own right), audio theatre usually relies on multiple voice actors, sound effects, and dialogue, rather than narration, to tell a story. From book adaptations to classic Broadway productions to brilliant podcasts, there's an audio drama out there for everyone. If you're new to this whole audio craze, you might want to check out a free trial on Audible, or download apps like OverDrive and Libby to rent free audio dramas from your local library.
And if you're in the market for some recommendations, here are a few great audio dramas to get you started:
'The Inimitable Jeeves' by P. G. Wodehouse, adapted by Chris Miller
The BBC offers a whole slew of audio dramas for free on their website, including this quintessentially British comedy series.
follows the adventures of wealthy, awkward Bertie Wooster and his brilliant valet Jeeves as they solve mysteries and get in and out of various scrapes. The Inimitable Jeeves 'M. Butterfly' by David Henry Hwang
If you missed the original, Tony-winning production of
M. Butterfly back in the day, you can still listen to the audio adaption online right now. Starring John Lithgow and B.D. Wong, M. Butterfly is based on the true romance between a French diplomat and a Beijing opera singer, exploring gender, race, and some very tricky espionage. 'Anansi Boys' by Neil Gaiman
You'll need to use that free Audible trial for this one, but it will definitely be worth it.
Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys follows "Fat Charlie" Nancy as he comes to terms with the karaoke-induced death of his spider-god father, and the sudden appearance of his strange, handsome, long lost brother. 'Locke & Key' by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez This graphic novel adaptation includes performances from Haley Joel Osment, Tatiana Maslany, Kate Mulgrew and the author Stephen King. So, you know, no big deal. Locke & Key is the disturbing tale of the Locke family, who are forced to leave their California home for the "safety" of their ancestral estate in Lovecraft, Massachusetts... but, as you can imagine, Lovecraft turns out to be anything but safe. 'A Raisin in the Sun' by Lorraine Hansberry is an absolute classic of American theatre. Lorraine Hansberry's play first opened on Broadway in 1959, chronicling the story of the Younger family and their life on the south side of Chicago. Her family drama about competing dreams and coming to terms with identity is still all-too relevant today, though, and you can A Raisin in the Sun listen to it right now. 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams
I'm going to commit book nerd sacrilege here, and claim that
The is Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series even better than the books. Or at least, it's every bit as hilarious, dismaying, and thought provoking, with the addition of brilliant voice acting and some very, very silly sounds effects. 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
Look. Sometimes, you just want to be carried off to the genteel, romantic countryside of Regency England.
The audio play recording of Pride and Prejudice can do that for you. It's a delightfully romantic adaption of a classic story that brings the characters to life right before your ears. 'The Bright Sessions' by Lauren Shippen
If you're looking for more of a long-form audio drama,
is a great place to start. This series follows an unusual group of therapy patients in their sessions with the mysterious Dr. Bright. Each patient seems to be coming to terms with some supernatural, singular ability as this sublimely strange story unfolds. The Bright Sessions 'Fruit' by Issa Rae
Yes, in edition to writing books and writing and starring in her own TV show, the multi-talented Issa Rae is the creator of
Fruit. This audio drama follows X, a football player coming to terms with his sexuality in the hyper-masculine world of professional sports. 'Crumbs from the Table of Joy' by Lynn Nottage is a modern classic by Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage. Following the death of his first wife, Godfrey Crump finds new meaning in religion and moves himself and his two teenage daughters from Florida to Brooklyn. Dragged away from everything they've known, young Ernestine and Ermina immerse themselves in dreams of far off Hollywood to escape the tension of their father's new life and his new, German wife. Crumbs from the Table of Joy 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Mysteries always seem to lend themselves well to an audio format.
is perhaps the best known mystery from the best known fictional sleuth, and you can now accompany Sherlock and his pals as they solve a dog-based crime in far off England. The Hound of the Baskervilles 'Alice Isn't Dead' by Joseph Fink
From the creators of
Welcome to Nightvale, is a surreal adventure that follows one trucker on her quest to find her missing wife, Alice. On her travels she encounters all manner of strange and inexplicable horrors in the small, often forgotten towns of America. Alice Isn't Dead 'The Message' by Mac Rogers The Message is an audio drama in several parts, telling the bizarre story of a modern-day cryptography consultant group, Cipher Centers For Communication. The team of cryptographers are attempting to decode what may be an extraterrestrial message, but cracking the code may put their very lives at risk. 'The War of the Worlds' by H. G. Wells
Of course, what's the fun of talking about audio plays if you leave out the original horror podcast?
is a radio play infamous for The War of the Worlds freaking people out in a major way, and convincing Americans that they were under attack by Mars. Take a listen for yourself, and see if it still sounds like it could be for real.