116 3rd St SE
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If novelist Stephen King, director David Lynch and Chris Carter, who created “The X-Files,” decided to create a fictional podcast, it might sound quite a bit like “Welcome to Night Vale.”
Playwrights Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink developed a story-based podcast a decade ago, which artfully combines the macabre and the mundane that occurs in the Southwestern desert town of Night Vale, which doesn't exist.
Narrator Cecil Baldwin reads local news in his sonorous baritone. Weather via song, and traffic in poem form are delivered. There's nothing quite like the podcast, which airs twice a month and now is on the road.
What: “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast presents "The Haunting of Night Vale Tour 2022" live show
Where: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 17, 2022
Tickets: $15 to $36, englert.org/event/welcome-to-night-vale-3/
Artists’ website: welcometonightvale.com/
The live version of the podcast stops Friday at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City.
“We're so excited about our podcast going on tour,” Cranor said by phone from Upstate New York. “Joseph and I are theater kids. Before we came up with the ‘Night Vale’ podcast we were doing off-Broadway shows. So we’re all about the stage.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a story in which there is a town where every conspiracy was true,’ ” Cranor said. “Isn’t it interesting to try to explain things we don’t understand.”
Cranor, 47, grew up loving quirky shows like “Twin Peaks” and “The Twilight Zone,” as well as Stephen King novels. However, a non-commercial high school radio station had perhaps the greatest impact on him.
“(KEOM) would do the community calendar, weather and traffic,” Cranor said. “I would listen to high school students learning about radio. That station had an impact but so did TV comedy, like Comedy Central’s ‘Short Attention Span Theater’ and ‘The Simpsons.’ If you mix up a bunch of those influences, you have ‘Night Vale.’ ”
The twice-monthly podcast is selling out theaters around the country. However, Cranor and Fink, 36, only attend select shows.
“We won't be there in Iowa City, but you don’t need us,” Cranor said. “Cecil Baldwin will be there.”
Baldwin will narrate.
“Cecil is a fixture, whether it’s the podcast or the live show,” Cranor said. “Cecil will be there doing the community calendar. There will be audience activity. You don’t get to do that much as a podcaster. It’s a high energy show that’s touching and dramatic.”
Those not familiar with the podcast but are intrigued by the concept do not have to try and get up to speed to enjoy the show.
“We write these live shows to be stand-alone,” Cranor said, “so you can bring your roommate, dog or your wife to the show. They can jump right in. They don't need to know anything about ‘Night Vale.’ For fans of ‘Night Vale,’ it's just new material.”
Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin are the tour openers and they will perform the weather song.
“Having that weather song is part of every show, even the live events,” Cranor said. “It’s great having the caliber of musicians like Danny and Carrie. They're a big part of this wonderful event.”
The good news for “Night Vale” fans is that no end is in sight for the podcast.
“It’s not like it is in the world of television, where you’re going to get canceled, unless you're ‘60 Minutes’ or ‘The Simpsons,’ ” Cranor said. “We love the fact that the rug won’t be pulled out from under us. We really enjoy doing this, so why should we stop?”
Why quit when you have a cottage industry? Three novels written by Cranor and Fink — 2015’s “Welcome to Night Vale,” 2017’s “It Devours!” and 2020’s “The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home” have sold, thanks to the podcast's strong fan base, and have received critical acclaim.
“We have nothing to complain about,” Cranor said. “It’s been an amazing 10 years and the great thing is that we have so much more to say in the town of Night Vale.”
Speaking of “The Faceless Old Woman,” she is voiced by actress Mara Wilson (“Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Matilda”).
“Mara was a fan of the show, and she’s now part of it,” Cranor said. “I never imagined anything like that happening when we started this. Joseph and I have come a long way from off-Broadway.”