Information on coordinating dramatic readings

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Dramatic works (which include both plays and "dramatic readings" - that is, texts not written as plays that have been put in script form) are a lot of fun, but they also involve a lot of extra work. The admin team has come up with the following good practice guidelines for dramatic works, which all current and prospective BCs, PLers, and editors should read. The idea here is not to dampen enthusiasm for dramatic works, but to ensure that the work is shared in ways that are fair to all parties involved. These guidelines are not new rules, but rather codification of policies that were already unofficially in place.


Text choice and preparation.

As with non-dramatic LibriVox projects, dramatic works should ideally use an online text from Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive, or a similar PD site. We realize, however, that Google docs or other BC-prepared online texts are sometimes necessary, particularly with dramatic readings. Since LV policy requires that the whole text be used as much as possible, dramatic works BCs are asked to comply with an "honor code" when preparing their online texts. What this means is that we ask you to not alter the original text when preparing an online version, apart from color-coding lines or inserting character names to turn a prose text into a "script." BCs will need to cite their sources by saying where they found the original text. This is so MCs can be sure it's public domain and also for linking on the final catalogue page. Please see this Google doc version of Euripides' Medea for an example:

Limitations on dramatic readings.

The admin team has implemented a limit of TWO dramatic readings per BC. For the purposes of this rule, a dramatic reading is considered to be any work which was not originally written as a play, but which the BC has converted into a script with multiple roles. The reason for this limitation is that dramatic readings are a huge commitment, both for the BC and the MC. We estimate that each dramatic reading involves between 3 and 10 times the work of producing a reading of a normal play. Should something unexpected happen to the BC, picking up the pieces is too much potential work for others. This is, of course, magnified in a situation where a BC is juggling multiple dramatic readings. The rule applies to admins who are MCing as well as BCing their own projects. The rule also applies to co-BCs.

Listeners, Editors & Narrators Wanted.

Before posting a new dramatic project, the BC should ensure that s/he has an editor (see item 5, below). BCs for dramatic readings should ensure that they have narrators in advance (see item 6, below). If the BC does not plan to edit, proof-listen or narrate the project, s/he should advertise in the Listeners and Editors Wanted forum: viewforum.php?f=21. We would prefer that the process of finding DPLs, editors, and narrators take place in the open forum, rather than via PM.

Proof-listening practices.

We do not necessarily expect BCs to line up PLers in advance, although it is a good idea to try and do this if possible. BCs should be aware that if they do not arrange for a DPL - or get one by advertising in the open forum - that they will need to do the PLing themselves within a reasonable time of files being uploaded. Proof-listening for dramatic works should be performed against the text, to ensure that all lines are recorded and none go missing, although it is up to the BC how "word perfect" those individual lines should be. (Some BCs demand completely word perfect readings; others accept slight differences from the text that do not change the meaning of the words.) When recruiting PLers for dramatic works, BCs should make sure they know to PL against the text. Ideally, all finished files (acts/chapters) should also be PL'd against the original source text. However, this is only essential if Google docs or other BC-created texts are being used (see item 1, above).

BCs should line up editors in advance.

Editing a dramatic project (particularly a dramatic reading, which usually has far more sections than a play) is extremely time-consuming. Ideally the BC for the project should edit the final product. If the BC does not intend to edit the project, or plans to share the editing, s/he should ensure that there are editors for ALL sections in advance. We recommend having no more than two editors for a smaller project (for example, a five-act play), and no more than three for a larger one (for example, a dramatic reading with many chapters). (The reasoning behind this recommendation is that there will be more consistency in editing style and sound of the finished files with fewer editors.) The BC agrees to check in with the editors regularly throughout the project's duration (particularly since editing usually happens toward the end of a project, particularly with a play). The BC should indicate in the first post (or somewhere clearly posted at the top of the project thread) who will be doing the editing. It's possible an MC won't sign up to your project until you have made firm editing arrangements. Please do not solicit for MCs in the forum or by PM.

Narrators for dramatic readings.

Reading the narration for a dramatic reading (usually a novel that has been “dramatized,” or turned into a playscript) is a big job. The narrator is essentially reading the whole book apart from the dialogue. Wherever possible a BC should serve as the narrator for a dramatic reading. However, if the BC does not plan to narrate, s/he should ideally recruit a narrator in advance (or narrators, if s/he plans to divide the narration between books/volumes of a novel).

Each section needs to have an editor assigned in the MW.

Once an MC has picked up the project, each section of the dramatic project (act, chapter, etc.) should have a section in the MW, below the list of characters. The editor's name should be placed in the "reader" box, so that it's clear who will be doing the editing for each section.

Suggestions for editing a dramatic work.

Although many BCs and editors have different approaches to editing a dramatic work, the following are a list of suggestions that we recommend. Phil Chenevert has also prepared a video on how to edit plays:

    • Import the narrator's file into an Audacity file on its own. Save the file as an act or chapter (for example, "Act 1" or "Chapter 12"). Listen to a portion of the file using headphones to determine whether it needs noise-cleaning. Apply noise-cleaning and/or adjust the volume as needed. Make sure not to over-noise-clean a file; you want to remove background noise without adding the metallic-sounding “artifact” that is produced when a file is noise-cleaned too much.
    • Import the other characters' files into a separate Audacity file. Save the file as "Working files, Act 1" or something similar. Name each track with the individual character's name to keep track of everyone. (To name a track, click on the tiny arrow next to the file name at the head of the track. A drop-down menu will pop up, with "Name" at the top. Click on that, and you will be able to type in the character's name.) Listen to each character file individually using headphones (by clicking "solo" at the head of the track) and determine if noise-cleaning is needed. Apply noise-cleaning and/or adjust the volume as needed to each character track individually. Aim for making the volume approximately equal for all tracks before beginning to edit. (You can use the "normalize" function in Audacity or do each one manually.)
    • You can move the tracks up and down in the "Working files" to place characters next to each other who are speaking to each other in a particular scene; this often makes editing scenes with two or three characters much easier, rather than having to scroll up and down to reach a character's tracks.
    • If you come across a missing line while editing, mark the space by adding 5 seconds or more of silence (by going to the "generate" function in Audacity and selecting "silence" and putting in the desired time). You can also mark any place in the track with notes by going to the "track" function in Audacity and selecting "add label." That way if you have a missing line, or something that needs fixing, you can label exactly what needs doing so you can find it easily later.
    • Following along with the text, cut and paste each character's lines individually into the narrator's file. Make sure to pay attention to timing (getting the right amount of space between lines, for instance).
    • Although LV policy emphasizes the inclusion of "the whole text and nothing but the text" in finished projects, stage directions can optionally be left out of plays, where their sense is conveyed by the speaker, but all text should be included in a dramatic reading.
    • In keeping with LV policy on sound effects and music, please do not use any in dramatic works. If a character sings a song in a play, it's fine to have the reader make up a tune (as long as it's PD) and sing it without accompaniment for the recording. Alternatively, the BC could come up with a melody for the song and have the readers perform it. Copyright issues can be tricky to handle with sound effects and music, so we try to avoid taking on these issues whenever possible.

File naming format.

Finished acts or chapters (final versions that will be cataloged) should follow this naming format (common to all LibriVox finished files):

titleinoneword_##_authorsurname.mp3 (where ## is the act or chapter number)

This filenaming scheme must be used for all types of plays or books, even if you have a dramatic reading with "book x, chapter y" division. In such a case the narrator should read "section x of book name" in the very beginning of each file, just like we do for regular group projects or solos.

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