‘Night Vale’ live show haunts Variety Playhouse

‘Welcome to Night Vale’ visited the Variety Playhouse on March 30 as a part of their world tour, ‘The Haunting of Night Vale.’ The tour commemorates the ten-year anniversary of the podcast’s creation. // Photo by Isa Cardona Student Publications

This year marks the ten year anniversary of Welcome to Night Vale, the popular serial fiction and surrealist podcast created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor in 2012. 

It is one of the longest-running podcasts and focuses on the strange happenings and interesting characters in the fictional town of Night Vale.

Welcome to Night Vale is hosted by Cecil Palmer who is voiced by Cecil Baldwin, and his deep and captivating voice guides the listener through the show. 

The production is unique in its format of a radio show which features various segments like community announcements, weather, fun facts and more. While all this may seem mundane, there is absolutely nothing boring about Night Vale. 

In Night Vale, there is The Glow Cloud, which is an eternal deity predating reality and currently serving as the president of the town’s school board; a faceless old woman who lives in the listener’s home; and everyday humans like Frank Chen, who is definitely not a dragon with three or more heads. 

There is no better way to celebrate the ten year anniversary of the podcast than to have a live reading of the show for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

The world tour, titled “The Haunting of Night Vale,” is meant to welcome fans back to the town and deal with some unfinished business that haunts Night Vale and the audience themselves. 

Fans of the podcast gathered at the Variety Playhouse, and once inside, the theater was filled with a sea of patrons with multicolored hair — many wearing the show’s merchandise or cosplay of beloved characters. As everyone made their way to their seats, excitement and anticipation lingered in the air. 

The show opened with a welcome and a stand-up routine by the host, Kate Jones, who voices Michelle Nguyen, the owner of Dark Owl Records and Night Vale’s most fashionable resident. Jones’s act was fresh and hilarious as she shared anecdotes of her Vietnamese-American heritage, family and relationships. 

The night took a more intimate tone with the introduction of the musical guest Mal Blum. Blum’s lyrics are relatable and at times dark, but the humor and accompanying guitar strumming balanced the mood. At the time of the Atlanta show, Blum had only joined the tour three days prior following some last-minute changes. 

“Fortunately, I had a lot of songs about ghosts handy,” Blum said, referencing the title of the tour. 

As a part of their set Blum decided to, in their words, “resurrect” an old poem they made a long time ago based on their experience binge-watching the TV show Ghost Adventures. 

There was a quick transition into the main performance with the composer and musician of most of Welcome to Night Vale’s music, Disparition, entering the stage. 

After Disparition played a welcoming theme, Cecil Baldwin made his way to the center as the audience cheered with his entrance. Baldwin greeted the crowd in character as Cecil Palmer with a chilling “you can run, you can hide, I would suggest both, Welcome to Night Vale.”

Without giving too many spoilers, “The Haunting of Night Vale,” focuses on the characters Cecil and his husband Carlos as they set out to build a house, but during construction, they learn that it is already haunted.

The show takes many turns with the general format of the show like the community calendar and horoscope segment, but there is also interpretive dancing, audience participation and the chance to see the voice actors thriving in their element. 

By the end of the night, it is safe to say that most of the audience probably thought of their own ghosts that haunt them and how they can come to embrace their own haunted houses. 

With a final look at the script, Baldwin ended the show by saying “From one haunted house to another, goodnight. Goodnight.”

One of the creators of “Welcome to Night Vale,” Jeffrey Cranor said that the show first started as a fun thing to do with friends. 

He told the Technique that back in 2012 it felt like podcasting was hitting its peak, so he was unsure of how the show was going to make its way in the crowded world of podcasting. 

“It’s really weird to keep going this long. We said when we started, we could just kind of do this forever,” Cranor said. “We’re ten years into forever. We’ll see how that keeps going.” 

Cranor attributes the  maintained relevancy and admiration for “Welcome to Night Vale” to the gravitational strangeness of the town and it being the first serial fiction podcast of its kind. 

Cranor grew up in the 80s watching and reading stories from Weird Town, USA, like Twin Peaks in Gary, Indiana, which serves as inspiration for the podcast. 

“There’s just something about Weird Town, USA that I think is really comforting to go to, because it takes all the horrible things in the world and kind of distills them down to like a nice little community that no matter how weird it is, it feels inclusive and welcoming,” Cranor said. 

That is what Cranor and Fink try to do with Night Vale. No matter how scary Night Vale is, the town serves as a safe space for many and will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.