Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink—co-creators of the bimonthly podcast Welcome to Night Vale—know a thing or two about what goes bump in the night. Set in a fictional desert town, the show is conducted in the style of a community radio broadcast hosted by announcer and journalist Cecil Palmer. We caught up with Cranor before the show heads to the Berklee Performance Center on Sept. 23 to chat characters, creepy crawlies and crafting your own narrative.
How did you get the idea to create a fictional town? It was something my co-writer Joseph Fink and I started working on in early 2011. He and I were friends, and we were both writers in New York City. We wrote a play together, and in the process of working on that play, we did a lot of fun co-writing back and forth. During those meetings, we talked a lot about podcasts and how much we loved them, and he suggested we do a podcast next—mostly because it was fun, but also because it was a lot cheaper than producing theater. A couple of months later, he had written the pilot episode and given it to our friend Cecil to have him record it. It came about from two people who liked writing stories and who didn’t really see anything in the fictional world or the podcast world that reflected the types of stories we wanted to hear, so we decided to write it ourselves.
What is your process for creating storylines and characters? When we started, we didn’t really know where it was going to go. It wasn’t mapped out like a novel or a series or anything like that. We just decided it would be this ongoing show with continuing storylines in and around this town. The only rule that we set for ourselves was that we had to keep strict continuity and keep in mind that people get older and change, and storylines grow and develop. One of the beautiful things about it is that we’ve gotten to know these characters over the past six years, so it’s really fun to keep having their lives change in different ways and have them grow and evolve as people. As a writer, you can always find new relationships to work on and new dangers to put in people’s way to watch how they overcome them.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the live show? I just hope that they have a hell of an amazing time. I want them to take away the same thing I take away when I go see theater, which is that I just want to feel excited for having been present. That it was a special thing that is not really replicable. We’re doing 40 shows over the next few months, but each night is its own special thing that has its own connection to the audience.
Would you ever live in Night Vale? [Laughs.] Oh no, absolutely not. I would be dead so quickly. It seems like a very dangerous place to live. There are a lot of spiders there, and I don’t like spiders. I have enough of them in New York.
2018 FALL ARTS PREVIEW: DANCE | BOOKS | COMEDY | MUSIC | PERFORMING ARTS | PODCASTS | VISUAL ART