“Night Vale is a friendly desert town where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while everyone pretends to sleep.”
The podcast centers around a community radio station that broadcasts the news, weather and traffic updates in a fictional desert town where the supernatural is a normal, daily occurrence.
The live shows focus on a particular event in the town, like a mayoral race between the "Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home" and Hiram McDaniels, a five-headed dragon. This time, Ghost Stories will evoke images of scary stories told around a campfire.
“Ghost Stories is intentionally kind of a much quieter and creepier version of the live show,” said Joseph Fink, who co-created Night Vale with Jeffrey Cranor after meeting in a New York-based theater group. “We wanted something that was more like campfire storytelling and so I think this is our creepiest live show.”
“I think it hits more real emotional places than our previous live shows. We really try to see if we could find moments of real human emotion in this live show," Fink said. "So yeah, if you've seen previous Night Vale live shows, I think this is our most ambitious one we've done yet and I think we're all very proud of it.”
Cecil Baldwin voices the main character, Cecil Palmer, a radio host who nonchalantly talks about bloodstone rituals, floating cats, angels and secret police in the same reports as city council meetings and new business openings.
Baldwin said performing on stage is second nature because of his theater background, but it’s a different process from voicing the podcast.
"It's a very different animal performing for the podcast and performing for the live shows but the preparation is kind of the same,” Baldwin said. “We've been doing Night Vale for four years now and this character is kind of in my bones."
Co-creator Jeffrey Cranor said the live show has a different energy than the podcast, which is pre-recorded.
“So I feel like the energy is always, not dissimilar to the things somebody might feel if they see a really great standup comic, or if you're into church things, like a really amazing preacher. There's a lot of intimate connection you get with a single storyteller, is the thing we go for.”
Tampa is the first of nearly 30 other stops on this international tour. After the tour ends and the script is retired, a paid version will be released on iTunes and BandCamp for download. Four previous live shows are currently up for grabs to fans who couldn’t make it.
Tickets for the July 7 Tampa show are available for $36 at the Tampa Theatre Box Office and online for $40 at TampaTheatre.org.
Here are some more snippets from the interviews with Night Vale's creators and actors:
On the show's notoriety for writing and casting diverse characters:
Joseph Fink: “It wasn't, I think, at the beginning a thing of like, ‘Let's fix diversity in podcasting. ' It's just I think that we were really interested in writing about the world honestly and writing about the world that we saw. And the world as it is is not a world of white, straight people. That's just not the world that exists. So if you write shows that are only white, straight people it's you intentionally ignoring the world. It's you pretending that the world is different than it is and we don't want to do that and so we from the start we just tried to write about the types of people that actually existed in the world.”
Jeffrey Cranor: "A lot of times people are like ‘thank you so much for that.’ And I always think it feels weird to get thanked for something you're supposed to do. I mean like it's like somebody thanking me for not running them over with my car.”
Cecil Baldwin: "It just seems like this is the way art should be. And when you kind of look at mainstream media and you know you look at Hollywood casting, you know white people as Egyptians or Africans, and you just wonder ‘Why? Why is that? Why are they making it so difficult when it really in the end could be just this easy?’ I think the difference is that we're an independent production. And we're kind of following our own artistic hearts and that makes it so much easier to kind of represent the world as we see it.”
On the fandom and cosplay:
Joseph Fink: “People make these amazing glowing clouds and stuff and you know as long as they put them away before the show and it's not in front of or blocking anyone's view, it's really awesome. We have had we've seen some amazing costumes over the years and that's really fantastic. It's neat that the fans are able to engage in that way during the live show.”
Jeffrey Cranor: “It’s really amazing to see a 17-year-old dressed as the "glow cloud", like full on electric blue, puffy many-colored cloud, and then also to see kind of like a 55-year-old dude just wearing his Night Vale shirt, not there with kids or anything, just like ‘I like your podcast.’ So it's pretty fun to see; I like all the different variations of who listens.”
Cecil Baldwin: “I love the fact that people have taken, you know, these characters from Welcome to Night Vale that have very minimal description of what they look like physically, and have kind of expounded on that with their own imagination. And so they come to these shows and we've seen people dressed up as Cecil and Carlos and "Old Woman Josie" and angels and the "Man in the Tan Jacket." And it's always the excitement of getting to see how people interpret these characters and the love and the craft that they put into making their costumes.”