The Sonic Society

Showcasing the very best in new Audio Drama

CBC Rediscovers Audio Drama

Rebranding Audio Drama as “Fiction Podcasts” seems to be all the rage. Some time ago we called these “podficts” for short. Regardless, it’s nice to see the CBC taking the medium seriously again.

Check out Fiction podcasts are giving new form to the old art of the radio drama and maybe give them a nudge that the Sonic Society has been in their backyard for 15 years 🙂

Long before our multi-screen, multi-platform world existed, people used to huddle around a radio to listen to the latest episode of a drama series. Today, this old art form has been given new life in the form of podcasts.

Fiction genres — like drama or horror — are a booming area in the podcast universe, which so far has been dominated by reality-based offerings featuring true crime, news or interviews.

That they’re mobile and often free has also helped bring them to a larger audience than ever before.

New York-based podcast company Gimlet Media says fiction has untapped potential for audience growth in the podcast arena.

“Fiction really is our big bet for, like, groundbreaking new content that doesn’t sound like anything else,” says Nazanin Rafsanjani, Gimlet’s vice-president for new show development.Nazanin Rafsanjani, Gimlet Media’s vice-president of new show development, says fiction genres are ‘groundbreaking new content’ for podcasts. (Alice Hopton/CBC)
The bet has already paid off: Gimlet’s first scripted series,Homecoming, proved so popular that Amazon turned it into a Golden Globe-nominated TV series starring Julia Roberts and Canadian actor Stephan James.

“What’s exciting about fiction is that you can tell any kind of story … if you have the right talent writing it and creating it.”

Gimlet also produces the macabre tale The Horror of Dolores Roach and a comedy, Sandra, starring Kristen Wiig.

“The way you’d want to sit down and watch a movie or get super engrossed in a television show, that is how our fiction team really thinks about the projects that we take on,” says Rafsanjani.​

Homegrown theatre
A Toronto team has taken Canadian plays and turned them into serials on the PlayME podcast, bringing homegrown talent to listeners around the world.

“We want playwrights to become a household name,” says Laura Mullin, co-creator of PlayME and co-artistic director of Toronto’s Expect Theatre.

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After 20 years in the Canadian theatre industry, Mullin and business partner Chris Tolley set out to put a bigger spotlight on Canadian writers and talent.

“We just wanted to have an opportunity to take the great work that we were seeing and let a larger audience [hear] it,” she says.

Since its launch in 2016, PlayME has received more than one million downloads in more than 90 countries, and has ranked as high as #2 in the Arts category on the iTunes chart.

A recording session for What a Young Wife Ought to Know, for the CBC Podcast PlayME. Chris Tolley, left, with playwright Hannah Moscovitch, centre, and Laura Mullin. (CBC/Evan Mitsui)
“We’ve heard everything from people telling us that they’re listening to learn English [to] people that are going out to [see] shows because they had heard a play,” says Mullin.

She hopes programmers and artistic directors are also listening.

The PlayME catalogue, which is now on CBC’s roster, features a diverse range of stories from coast to coast, with 60 per cent of the writers female and 60 per cent people of colour.

‘Intimacy’ of radio drama
Hannah Moscovitch, a Dora Award and Trillium Book Award winner, says podcasts make Canadian theatre much more accessible because audiences don’t have to be local or shell out for pricey tickets.

“This way people can access the work all the time, whenever they want. I want people to be able to hear my work.”

A series of letters she discovered inspired her to write the story about a young wife trying to get legal birth control in Ottawa in the 1920s, which has been turned into What A Young Wife Ought To Know.

“I loved the intimacy of radio drama,” she says. “I’m happy that it’s coming back in this way.”


About The Author

Born to Teachers and Amateur Audio Enthusiasts in the small rural community of Belwood, Jack's first love was stories- writing, reading, telling, and singing. He developed his acting skills through High School, University, and through film and community theatre. Jack writes the lion's share of Electric Vicuna's Audio Drama scripts and has his own writing site at www.jackjward.com He's thrilled to co-host the Sonic Society with his wonderful, talented, friend David Ault!

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