‘Welcome to Night Vale’ creeping back to Iowa City

The popular and mysterious podcast is returning to the Englert Thursday night.

Jack Howard, Arts Reporter

You can turn on your radio, but this time, you can’t hide. Today, “Welcome to Night Vale” surrealist comedy podcast will come alive at the Englert for its “The Spy in the Desert” world tour. The podcast, renowned for its comedic and deadpan reporting on the bizarre events of the fictional town of Night Vale, is once again adapting to the stage for a unique theatrical performance.

“Night Vale” was created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, who also wrote the screenplay for “The Spy in the Desert.” The twice-monthly podcast relays local supernatural and surreal events to residents in the fictional desert town of Night Vale in the form of a radio show, featuring community updates and local weather reports among other conventions.

Since it began, the podcast has exploded in popularity and transcended its original platform. “Night Vale” has embarked on several live tours, performing unique narrative plays based on the podcast. Additionally, the show’s creators have written two New York Times bestselling novels based on the podcast, Welcome to Night Vale and It Devours. The show is also set for a television show adaptation developed by FX, with “Better Call Saul” producer Gennifer Hutchison serving as executive producer.

“The Spy in the Desert” tour features Cecil Baldwin as Cecil, the radio announcer for Night Vale, Symphony Sanders as Tamika Flynn, and Meg Bashwiner as Deb and the MC, as well as surprise guests performing fan-favorite characters featured on the podcast. House musicians of the podcast “Disparition” and musical guest Mal Blum as “The Weather” are part of the performances as well.

Bashwiner, the tour manager for the current tour in addition to her acting roles, spoke about “Welcome to Night Vale,” “The Spy in the Desert,” and the influences behind the latter.

“Audience interaction and the Cold War,” she said. “[The creators] wanted to do something with an audience member. They wanted to give a gift to one specific audience member that the rest of the audience would not get to know about. [The show] became very much about secrets, and they (the creators) were drawing influences from Cold War spies.”

Bashwiner also described her experience performing in the live adaptation of the podcast, noting that adapting to performing the podcast live has not been as much of a challenge as adapting to life on the road.

“We all come from the theater, so it felt very much home for us to begin a touring live show,” Bashwiner said. “The challenges for us are really just adjusting to life on the road.”

RELATED: Englert welcomes “Welcome to Night Vale”

The group has done more than 300 shows in the past five years, she said.

Bashwiner additionally discussed the personal nature of podcast listening, and how that aspect changes when translated live.

“You’re in a room with a hundred-plus people listening to the show, which is something very different from listening by yourself in your bedroom before you go to bed at night,” she said. “So there’s this sense of community that gets built around the live event.”

She believes “The Spy in the Desert” live show will please the Midwestern audience.

“It’s a real fun show, and we’re really excited to come back to Iowa,” Bashwiner said. “The sense of offline community is something that the live shows are able to bring. It’s great to hear [about] people who have met at a ‘Night Vale’ show and got engaged, married, and had kids, and people who have made friends.”

Welcome to the “Night Vale” live production of “The Spy in The Desert” will arrive at Englert stage at 8 p.m. today.

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