Night Vale is a pleasant town in the southwestern U.S. It's normal, except for the occasional giant holes in the sky emitting ripping sounds and five-headed dragons. Aside from the angels wandering the streets, hooded figures in the parks, double secret police, The Lady from Italy and assorted conspiracy fodder, life goes on for residents, who can hear about the latest chaos via news and weather updates broadcast on the local radio station — available as the five-year-old serialized podcast, Welcome to Night Vale (www.welcometonightvale.com).
The Glow Cloud is a popular recurring mysterious phenomenon/character on the show and has at times taken over parts of the town. In All Hail, the latest edition of the live stage version of Welcome to Night Vale, the Glow Cloud takes the airwaves.
"The Glow Cloud takes over the radio station and (radio announcer) Cecil (Palmer) needs to figure out why," says Night Vale co-creator and writer Joseph Fink. "Eventually the Glow Cloud speaks to us directly."
The live touring version of Welcome to Night Vale comes to the Civic Theatre July 12. The stage versions are not released as podcasts, but like the more than 110 editions available for free online, the standalone story of All Hail is accessible both to newcomers and longtime fans. The New Orleans performance will include Cecil Baldwin as radio announcer Cecil Palmer, Meg Bashwiner (who voices Deb and Proverb Lady and stage manages the show), Symphony Sanders (Tamika Flynn), musical guest Jason Webley and special guests.
Night Vale isn't the kind of place where just anything could happen. It's the place where every manner of oddity and looming apocalypse converges, and the town's people go about their daily lives as if that's normal. There are no explanations, just more updates.
"We have no interest in ever explaining why Night Vale is weird," Fink says. "Night Vale is just weird."
Fink and co-writer Jeffrey Cranor launched Welcome to Night Vale in 2012. Its popularity soon went viral, and its episodes have accrued more than 170 million downloads. The show has drawn interest from makers of video games, board games and other media, but the team has resisted giving up control of their story. Fink and Cranor released a best-selling novel, Welcome to Night Vale, in 2015, and a second novel, It Devours!, will be released in October.
"It's about science and religion and romance — and giant sand monsters that devour," Fink says.
While Night Vale remains their flagship, Night Vale Presents has launched three fictional serialized podcasts. Fink writes Alice Isn't Dead, about a truck driver searching for his wife. Cranor co-writes Within the Wires, a set of odd instructional audio tapes. Orbiting Human Circus (of the Air) is written by Julian Koster of the band Neutral Milk Hotel and stars John Cameron Mitchell, creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Night Vale Presents also is launching two nonfiction podcasts this summer. Conversations with People Who Hate Me features Dylan Marron, who makes videos about social justice topics, interviewing people who have sent him hateful messages on the internet. Fink is working with Mountain Goats singer John Darnielle on I Only Listen to The Mountain Goats, about music and songwriting with guests including Andrew Bird, Sylvan Esso and Amanda Palmer. Night Vale Presents also is considering other podcast projects.
"We know a ton of people in theater and the writing world," Fink says. "We know people in the music world because of Night Vale. The goal of our network is to reach out to these people doing incredible work in other areas and find a way to find a to do something cool in podcasting."