Note: There are a few references made in this article and they are starred so as to not confuse you, dear listeners.*
Podcasts and Radio Dramas are, at least typically, an audio experience. Yes, there are pictures of the cast online and a few videos here and there of them speaking at panels, but for the most part, what you hear is what you get. Welcome to Night Vale, once again, breaks this mold. They are currently on their third tour, presenting their live show “The Librarian” to fans across Canada and the U.S. . I was one such lucky fan this weekend to see what I had only ever heard, come to life.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a “Respect My Craft” article on the company that puts on Welcome to Night Vale, Commonplace Books. If you have never heard of Welcome to Night Vale before, you read a detailed explanation of what exactly this bizarre show is all about there. I suggest you do, or the article that follows will make very little sense to you… It is likely this article will still make very little sense to you, but there is much in Night Vale that makes no sense anyway. That’s half the fun of it.
The night started off with hundreds of fans lined up outside the venue, many of which were cosplaying as their favorite characters, myself included. Meeting other “Night Vale Citizens” was half the fun of the night. Photos were taken, skits were acted out, and as a Glow Cloud cosplayer walked down the line, a large chanting of “ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD”* broke out. Waiting in line wasn’t something of displeasure. Many fans had actually been looking forward to it because it gave them the opportunity to talk about the podcast with others who love it, something we don’t get to do very often. Welcome to Night Vale is very successful, but it still has somewhat of a cult following.
When allowed into the theatre, fan communication continued. All of us were giddy at the thought of seeing our idols and putting living, breathing faces to the voices we were so in awe of. Fans lingered in the lobby of the Paramount Theatre to chat and take photos before filing into the theatre and taking their assigned seats, many of us bouncing where we sat out of excitement.
The show began with Meg Bashwiner thanking us for coming and laying down a few ground rules for the performance. She did this with a great amount of wit and poise. Firstly, she invited us to take as many photos of the performance as we wished, but asked that we not record audio or video. She explained that the cast and crew wanted everyone on the tour to experience the show in the same way we would. Meg went on to say that the live show would be released later online for purchase, as the last live shows had been. Meg also asked us to silence our cellphones and to not take photos in a way that would hinder the performers as well as the audience. If any of us were to do this, the audience would “think unkind but not untrue thoughts about you,” Meg told us. That being said, she invited musical guest Eliza Rickman to the stage.
Eliza walked out in a stunning, light pink dress and took a seat in front of her toy piano on which she began her set with “Devil’s Flesh and Bone.” There were a variety of instruments used during Eliza’s set such as a metronome, a miniature xylophone, an autoharp, and a wind up music player. Her sound is haunting and reminiscent of the Victorian Era as well as the modern Steampunk genre. Eliza was absolutely wonderful to watch and listen to. She was sweet, funny, and whimsical as she performed and talked to us. Eliza invited us to take video of her performance only, as she wanted more videos of her performing on the internet. Other songs played included previous weather song “Pretty Little Head”, “Start With Goodbye, End With Hello” and “Foot Soldiers” featuring Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor, Meg Bashwiner, and Marisa Blankier on noisemakers. She later returned to the stage during The Weather and played “Fools Rush In.” I bought her album afterwards and have since been listening to it nonstop.
She also promoted her Kickstarter for her new double album release, which you can find and donate to here. If fully funded, she will be releasing not only her second album, but a much requested cover song album. As of July 22nd, she is 74% funded with $16,325 of her $22,000 goal. Her Kickstarter ends on July 30th and there are a lot of great perks to those who donate. I myself donated $20, which will get me access to a live streaming event, a digital download of both the second album and covers album, and exclusive backer tracks including the insanely popular B-side “Foot Soldiers”. Unfortunately, Eliza will only get money to make her album if she reaches her goal in time, so donate today! After Eliza’s set, Meg Bashwiner returned to the stage to introduce Cecil Baldwin. The screams that followed were deafening. For a brief moment, I could not tell whether I was at a theatrical performance or a rock concert. Cecil opened the show in the same way he does the podcast with a quirky statement followed by “Welcome to Night Vale,” at which point more screams filled the air.
Without spoiling too much, I can tell you that the live show took place before Episode 46 Parade Day and included Cecil Baldwin as Cecil Palmer, Meg Bashwiner as Deb and herself i.e. The Proverb Lady, Hal Lubin as Steve Carlsberg, Dylan Marron as Carlos, and Symphony Sanders as Tamika Flynn. While the performance included scripts, the actors were far from just standing there and reading. They seemed to be leap from the stage, larger somehow and thrilling to watch. More was revealed about the Night Vale library and it’s librarians which are vicious and not to be approached.* The show also had a great deal of audience participation such as screaming when directed and sharing eye contact for several uninterrupted seconds with those who did not accompany us. The writers definitely wrote this particular show with the fans in mind. Anyone who ships Cecilos (Cecil Palmer and Carlos) will be very happy with this performance.
Dylan Marron and Cecil Baldwin had great chemistry on stage together and made me laugh harder than I have in a long time. Hal Lubin was hysterical as Steve and played extremely well off of Cecil Palmer’s distaste for him. Symphony Sanders was inspiring as the avid-reader and revolutionary leading Tamika Flynn, who made the point that books are powerful and also heavy.* Each cast member brought their own key parts to the performance that had me completely transfixed. There was no set or even a backdrop, but watching them I was plopped right down in Night Vale, the radio station’s tower blinking on and off in the distance.
Listening to a typical Welcome to Night Vale episode is a very solitary activity. When I listen, I lay in bed and stare at the stationary WTNV poster on my wall. The only one laughing or trembling with fear, is myself. “The Librarian” was a very different experience. Sharing it with others made every reaction I had to the story that much bigger and I felt at home with my fellow “Night Vale Citizens.” I knew Cecil Baldwin was an amazing actor, but I was not fully prepared to see him play my favorite character in real life. He is extremely expressive while he performs. Where once there was just a voice, suddenly there were emphatic expressions and movements. The switch from stoic radio host, to giddy boyfriend, to terrified citizen is so much more drastic on stage than over my iPhone speakers, and it was pretty drastic to begin with. It was frankly bizarre (in the best possible, Night Valean way) that I knew the voice I was hearing so well but had never actually seen the actor behind it perform. It was like reuniting with an old friend who I’d never actually met.
Those who stuck around after the show had the opportunity to meet and take pictures with the cast and writers. Everyone was extremely courteous, talking with fans and staying until the last audience members left the venue. Being able to meet them was very special for me, personally. About a year ago, I nearly gave up on my writing. I was too afraid of failing to continue studying it. A friend of mine introduced me to “Welcome to Night Vale” and the weird, little desert town inspired me. Here were people who dealt with the terrifying on a day to day basis, yet they lived their lives as if these things were mundane. They pushed on. If Night Vale could face death and carnage as periodically as they did on the show, I could take on the frightening things in my own life. I told both writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor that if it weren’t for Welcome to Night Vale, I probably would have given into my fear and abandoned my writing; that Welcome to Night Vale inspired me to embrace what scares me. In response Joseph told me, “I had a lot of artists do that for me, so I’m glad we could do that for you.”
Welcome to Night Vale’s last stop on their tour is San Diego Comic Con July 24th-27th. For those of you who will be attending the convention, Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor and Cecil Baldwin will be signing autographs Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 2:30pm to 5:30pm and Sunday from 1:30pm to 3:00 at autograph area booth 12. On Thursday, July 24th at 12pm they will have a panel at The Geek and Sundry Lounge (located at Jolt’n Joes, 379 4th Avenue, Gaslamp District). This is a no badge required event so if you’re in the area that weekend, this is a panel you definitely want to check out. It will be moderated by Meg Bashwiner and will include Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor, Cecil Baldwin, Dylan Marron, Jasika Nicole (Dana), and Hal Lubin. Welcome to Night Vale will also be performing a crossover show with The Thrilling Adventure Hour on Saturday, July 26th at 8pm at he Spreckels Theatre in San Diego. This also does not require a convention badge and promises to be an amazing performance. Tickets are on sale now.
Welcome to Night Vale also just announced that they will be going on a European Tour starting October 17th in Dublin and ending November 6th in Berlin. Tickets for those shows are on sale now.
*Today’s proverb: Ask not what your country can do for you, but where you will hide when your country eventually decides what it’s going to do to you.
Above: Fans chant as Kevin cosplayer tries to promote Strexcorp in the background.
Photos and videos courtesy of Charlotte Renken.