“Golden age radio theatre for the new millennium” — that’s how narrator Cecil Baldwin describes the live tapings of Welcome to Night Vale, perhaps the program that started the podcast addiction trend. And while staying in is more popular than ever, coming out to see the magic of Welcome to Night Vale , which presents two live shows this Saturday (April 8) at Berklee Performance Center, up-close and in-person certainly has its perks.
There’s the thrill of seeing emcee Meg Bashwiner in action. There’s the bonus of seeing house band Disparition perform their original music for the show live. And of course, there’s the spectacle of seeing other fans. “Because of the cult success of the podcast, the live shows tend to resemble The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with fans dressing up as their favorite characters — the Glow Cloud being a perennial hit,” Baldwin says.
For once, a solitary activity is actually bringing the masses out of the comfort of their introverted abodes. The Welcome to Night Vale podcast operates on the premise of giving bi-monthly news updates about the fictional southwestern town of Night Vale, from announcements and advertisements, to the weather report, which features music from a different independent artist every week. Created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the program quickly became a cult favorite amongst podcast fanatics and paranormal horror enthusiasts.
While the creators of Night Vale design the live shows for fans who have listened to all 100-plus episodes of the podcast, the performances are also easy to follow for people who have never tuned in before. That common denominator makes the Night Vale live tapings ideal for couples, families, and circles of friends; anyone can follow along, it’s just the diehard fans who might appreciate some of the more intricate details.
“The amazing thing about live theatre is that it is a communal experience, as opposed to a podcast which is pretty much a solitary one. These live shows are a chance for people who love the ‘underground’ feel of the show to finally get a chance to see who else is listening besides them,” Baldwin explains. “Often, you’ll see multiple generations of a family attend, where the kids started listening through Tumblr or Twitter, but then turned their parents onto Night Vale because it reminds them of The Outer Limits or The Shadow.”
Perhaps most exciting of all, Baldwin boasts “pushing the boundaries of audience involvement” as being a core part of the live tapings. While the narrator is tightlipped on the details, the chance to become one of Night Vale’s mysterious residents is always lurking in every live performance.
“Joseph, Jeffrey and myself are all theatre artists –so our live shows don’t shy away from the fact that audience and performer are in the same place, creating an unrepeatable experience together,” he adds. “We’ve always looking to push the boundaries of audience involvement within the fictional boundaries of the story.”
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE + ERIN MCKEOWN :: Saturday, April 8 at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston, MA :: 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., all ages, $27.50 to $32.50 :: Advance tickets: Early show / Late show :: Berklee event page :: Featured photo by Whitney Browne