Audio Drama: “Pattern Language: An Iris for Emily”

We recently released the third part of our four-part Season 2 finale, “Pattern Language.” This is the fifth of six new episodes that we are releasing biweekly this summer, representing “Phase III” of the second season. This story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

Here’s the synopsis:

Emily McCorkle has landed the media appearance of a lifetime: a guest spot on the most respected talk show in America. But why is the host so concerned with her private details? And why are so many skeletons from her past making guest appearances? And who is the strange man with the hot dogs? (Running time: 38 minutes, 1 second.)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion.

CAST:

Emily McCorkle: Belgys Felix
Ophelia Kakanakis: Carol Jacobanis
June: Monica Ammerman
The Fajita Demon: Pete Lutz
The Cunning Demon: Leanne Troutman
Morris Pressman: David Tao
Jimmy Markson: Heath Martin
Johnson: Hilah Hadaway
Emily’s Mom: Melissa Medina
Emily’s Dad: David Sirkus
Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Maya: Tanja Milojevic
Ed Champion: Edward Champion
Reporter #1: Glenn Bulthius
Reporter #2: Alice Fox
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Creature Voices by Samantha Cooper and Rachel Baird

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.
Additional music composed by Edward Champion.

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who has become a TikTok junkie seemingly against his will.

Thank you for listening

If you’d like to support this independent audio production and learn more about how we made it, for only $20, you can become a Season 2 Subscriber! You’ll get instant access to all episodes as we finish them — months before release. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive interviews and more than 400 minutes of behind-the-scenes commentary! Here are some behind-the-scenes photos and videos pertaining to this episode that we made during the more than two years of production we put into the second season.

Behind the Scenes:

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Part of my writing process involves performing all the dialogue out loud to make sure that it works. Rhythm, zest, and real emotion are all very important and this is really the only way to get it right! My bedroom is the venue for these strange one man shows (although I have sometimes taken these on the road to friends' houses to get feedback — one of my S2 stories caused a roomful of people who nudged me to read it to mist up, which was a huge surprise). I'm getting closer to finishing the season finale and here's a bit from it — oddly enough, this part was inspired by the idea of a two woman version of MY DINNER WITH ANDRE with a huge moral question at the center! I'm taking quite a few risks with this story and I hope I pull it off! (Incidentally, I watched MY DINNER WITH ANDRE three times before writing this section.) #writing #performing #dialogue #rhythm #zest #passion #art #mydinnerwithandre

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This morning, I recorded with the mighty @monica.ammerman. who is also working on a new web series called @someonenew.theseries. I met Monica in an improv class a few years back, knew that she had comedic chops, and cast her in Seaaon 1 as Henrietta, Queen of the Knights, in "Loopholes " But I also had the sense that she could do drama very well. Comedic actors are often underestimated and frequently untapped on this front and I'm the type of guy who likes to cast actors based on what others DON'T see. But Monica, who is super great to work with, brought a lot of wonderful understatement to this character that had me seeing how quietly courageous she was. Nuance that the two of us tweaked together. Monica inspired me to get us asking questions about this character's religious upbringing. And this turned out to be a fun and marvelous recording session! Thank you so much, Monica, for going along for the ride! This is a very bold and experimental story and I'm grateful to have such keen collaborators unpacking the emotional ambiguities, which are essential to creating something that packs a punch! Here's a clip of us layering a short monologue about forgiving people. The take we ended up using (not this one) is incredible! #audiodrama #acting #character #background #nuance #ambiguity #subtlety #dimension #comedy #drama #improv #forgiveness #monologue

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It's a wrap! Pardon my bad angle. But the Six Week Push is now at an end! Aside from some remote files I'm waiting on and a July weekend session, I have all of Season 2 in the can! Some 550 GB were recorded in the last year and a half. 120 speaking roles. 1,000 pages of script. Now I have to edit this thing. Many thanks to my stupendously talented cast, who brought so many surprising interpretations to these colorful characters and helped me to become a more daring and instinctive director. Pictured here are @belgys_felix and @caroljacobanis, who both did a terrific job recording today. Now I'm going to lie down for a bit! #wrap #production #audiodrama #recording #voiceover #actors #acting

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Audio Drama: “Pattern Language: Not a Frown Further”

We recently released the second part of our four-part Season 2 finale, “Pattern Language.” This is the fourth of six new episodes that we are releasing biweekly this summer, representing “Phase III” of the second season. This story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

Here’s the synopsis:

Months after the events of “Paths Not Taken,” Chelsea is working hard to turn a corner and improve her life. But when Emily McCorkle, the smear merchant journalist who severely damaged her reputation, returns to write a followup piece, Chelsea is thrown into a jarring maelstrom that involves demons, people from her past, and the possibility of redemption. (Running time: 32 minutes, 22 seconds.)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion.

CAST:

Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Emily McCorkle: Belgys Felix
Maya: Tanja Milojevic
Morris Pressman: David Tao
Ed Champion: Edward Champion
Alicia: Elizabeth Rimar
Johnson: Hilah Hillaway
The Fajita Demon: Pete Lutz
The Cunning Demon: Leanne Troutman
Lucinda: Emily Carding
Mrs. Gelding: Westlake Stark
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Creature Voices by Samantha Cooper and Rachel Baird

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.
Additional music composed by Edward Champion.

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who does his best to resist mayonnaise but can’t entirely fight the allure for a good tuna sandwich.

Thank you for listening!

If you’d like to support this independent audio production and learn more about how we made it, for only $20, you can become a Season 2 Subscriber! You’ll get instant access to all episodes as we finish them — months before release. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive interviews and more than 400 minutes of behind-the-scenes commentary! Here are some behind-the-scenes photos and videos pertaining to this episode that we made during the more than two years of production we put into the second season.

Behind the Scenes:

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This morning, we had our first recording session of Week 2 on this six week push to get the rest of Season 2 recorded — with @hilahbelle! Hilah is in real estate. And I had a brief role as a corporate tyrant that I knew she'd be great for. My instincts were on the money! The funny thing about this session was that she was so intense and committed to the role that she didn't laugh at my jokes! But then she started busting up late in the session and told me later that she was a bit nervous because she hadn't done anything like this before. So all good! I brought out her quirks and she did great! Thank you Hilah! #audiodrama #acting #character #recording #session #audio #voiceover #corporate #tyranny #realestate

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A SUPER fun recording session today with the magnificent @belgys_felix. So here's the story of how Belgys landed this role. I saw Belgys in a play written and directed by @katrinaclairvoyant (who appears as a regular in Season 2). During the performance, Belgys singled me out in the audience, playing a demon, and walked right up to me! I began making funny faces at her to see if I could throw her off, but Belgys not ONCE broke character. And I was so impressed with this — and her performance — that I asked if she was interested in playing what was then a small role for a story I was in the process of writing. The plan was to kill off the character. But as the story evolved, I just couldn't bring myself to do this and the character grew — in some rather wild and bold and experimental ways. And I kept thinking about what Belgys could do as an actor and I said, "Oh yeah. She can do it." And Belgys, to her great credit, went along with this as I filled her in on this unexpected development and told her that the role was STILL hers. This morning, when I asked her about the character, she had clearly worked out a backstory and knew the psychology as well as I did! When we table read, she had worked out a funny Rosalind Russell journalist voice, for which we developed a further backstory. And amazingly, despite having only three hours, we managed to knock out 41 pages today! I'm so glad I took a chance on Belgys. She was so much fun in this role. We have two more days with her and this was such a great start! Lots of fun. Very much an homage to Howard Hawks. Thank you, Belgys! #audiodrama #recording #drama #theatre #recording #character #journalist #actor #acting #character #voice #voiceover #demon #howardhawks #reporter

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Just finished recording the last of @glassmanegerie's lines for the season! We were sure to send the Receptionist off with a big Tony Danza moment (he is, after all, a big fan!). My huge gratitude to Zack for owning this role beyond my wildest dreams and imbuing this eccentric character with such joy and life! Zack has been a tremendous pleasure to work with! I've watched him become more subtle and inventive over the year and a half we've recorded this. He truly is a treasure. Thank you Zack for all that you do! I'm so glad you happened to be in my improv class a few years ago. (Damn. Now I'm misting up a bit. But I have breakfast to make for the next session!) #acting #audiodrama #character #receptionist #actors #tonydanza #exuberant #joy #fun #recording #voiceover #performance #theatre

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I finished Day 1 recording the last big piece of Season 2 with the incredibly committed and stupendously talented Tanja Milojevic. After this, it really comes down to a few dozen remote lines that I'm waIting on from two actors remotely. But we're now 99.99% there! It was 98 degrees outside. Plus I actually had to act opposite as the Ed Champion character with some serious emotions (related to the season finale) AND direct! (Somehow I forgot about the first part!) But we knocked out nearly 40 pages and we are somehow ahead of schedule — largely because Tanja and I got on a roll and I wanted to make Day 2 easier, especially given the heat! I'm thrilled that Tanja is the last major part I needed to record for this. She is truly a voiceover treasure and, as always, had so many fascinating takes. In one case, I completely altered the tone of a scene due to Tanja's performance and we created a very funny and subtly comic backstory beneath the dialogue. Which is when you know it's going very well! #audiodrama #voiceover #acting #character #postproduction #production #almostfinished

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Audio Drama: “Pattern Language: The Tainted Grimace”

We just released the first part of our four-part Season 2 finale, “Pattern Language.” This is the third of six new episodes that we are releasing biweekly this summer, representing “Phase III” of the second season. This story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

(In addition, we also received an NYFA grant to put on a live show, which will be staged sometime in the early fall. The show will take place somewhere between Seasons 2 and 3, will be free to the public, and will feature numerous members of our remarkably talented cast.)

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

Here’s the synopsis:

Pat Goras and Lucy Didas are a happy couple living in a fantastical suburban realm preparing for a delightful dragon brisket barbeque with their neighbors. But when a strange portal opens in their backyard, their lives and roles become permanently altered within the very Gray Area itself! (Running time: 20 minutes, 54 seconds)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion.

CAST:

Pat Goras/The Fajita Demon: Pete Lutz
Lucy Didas/The Cunning Demon: Leanne Troutman
The Neurotic Demon: Melissa Medina
The Counting Demon: Vlasto Pejic
The Angsty Demon: Nick Boesel
Miss Gaskell: Chris Smith
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Creature Voices by Samantha Cooper and Rachel Baird

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.
Additional music composed by Edward Champion

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who once considered reciting Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham in Latin.

Thank you for listening!

Behind the Scenes:

Audio Drama: “Marching Orders”

We just released “Marching Orders.” This is the second of six new episodes that we are releasing biweekly this summer, representing “Phase III” of the second season. This story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

Here’s the synopsis:

In 1911, a young British gentleman dukes it out against the austere whims of his Edwardian-minded father. But two travelers reveal that his role in the universe is much bigger than he could have ever imagined. (Running time: 15 minutes, 16 seconds.)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion.

CAST:

Thomas: Philip O’Gorman
Ramirez: Charly Saccocio
Harris: Michael Saldate
Malone: Robert Garson
The Guard: Graham Rowat
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who lost a drinking bet and spent an entire day singing “Where Are the Lads of the Village Tonight?”

Thank you for listening!

Behind the Scenes:

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A super fun recording session this afternoon. with the amazing @passthehotsauceplease. We gallantly fought construction noises, Mack trucks, a flimsy AC adapter on my main unit that decided to go kerblooey (and that I now have to replace! Thank goodness I have two backup units!), sirens, and more crazed noises than you can imagine. But Charly is super fun to work with and she's really owning this role, which started off with the proposition "What if Han Solo were a woman?" and became something else entirely! It also turns out that, aside from me divulging the embarrassing details of bad dates to help with emotional context (I will reveal ANYTHING to get a performance!), directors named John (in this case, Hughes and Carpenter) are also very useful shorthand when you're recording a darkly comic story about a pair of roguish bounty hunters from the future! I truly can't wait for you to hear this. This story is very fun! And there have been a lot of laughs. Also, Charly has, much to my supreme honor, become a formidable scholar of the Gray Area mythos. I told her about the finale twist and she said Ooh!" and she said her head had exploded. I'm truly blessed to work with such wonderful and talented actors! Thank you so much Charly! #audiodrama #acting #character #hansolo #fun #recording #voiceover #bountyhunter #spaceopera #johncarpenter #johnhughes

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Audio Drama: “West with the Light”

We just released “West with the Light.” This is the first of six new episodes that we will be releasing biweekly this summer, representing “Phase III” of the second season. This story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

Here’s the synopsis:

Genius writer Virginia Gaskell fends off boredom (and the Receptionist’s peppy interventions) while trapped in the waiting room, but a number of unexpected new visitors provide vital new clues to her purpose and journey. (Running time: 21 minutes, 43 seconds.)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion.

CAST:

Miss Gaskell: Chris Smith
Audrey: Amanda Rios
Romero: David Ault
The Fajita Demon: Pete Lutz
The Cunning Demon: Leanne Troutman
The Traveler: Jared Raman
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Incidental music licensed through NeoSounds

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who sometimes chats with the soft-spoken frozen peas that are parked in his freezer.

Thank you for listening!

Behind the Scenes:

Listen to our Inside the Gray Area commentary.

Zack and Ed practicing the Small Wonder theme (fair use and oprhaned, according to our legal adviser!)

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Last recording session of the week! (Number six!) @therealcsmith was one of the first people I worked with on the first season as Virginia Gaskell, a character very dear to me and based on my late grandmother. And it's always so much fun to work with Chris, who I hadn't seen in a while. Her warmth, subtle humor, and limitless kindness are such vital qualities for Miss Gaskell, who represents the underlying morality I'm ultimately exploring with this project. I am so grateful to have her on board! Chris had me innovating on a monosyllabic form of direction which cracked the two of us up. This episode is a sequel to "Waiting Room" and sets up the very big epic story twist that has thrilled the cast and that I can't tell you about! 🙂 #audiodrama #casting #actor #morality #genius #writer #acting #recording #tape #typewriter #story #twist

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How Podbean is Gouging Listeners and Hurting Independent Audio Producers

If you are a podcaster, do not use Podbean. This rapacious company of dishonorable thieves is now arbitrarily altering the terms of their business arrangements with producers without even bothering to notify them. Podbean is now gouging podcast listeners, asking them to pay for content with a custom currency called “beans” even when the arrangement between producer and listener never called for this. This is not only predatory and unethical, but it also hurts the ability of independent audio producers to maintain good will with their audience and recoup production costs. For producers who have taken great care to conduct their business with unimpeachable honor, this unannounced shift makes them appear like penny-ante predators. At a time in which Apple has introduced a special Podcast Subscriptions so that creators and producers can get paid for their labor, it’s pretty clear that Podbean would prefer to decimate any good will established with producers in a desperate effort to survive as a company.

I run an audio drama called The Gray Area. For the second season, I put three years of my life and thousands of dollars (to ensure that all of my actors were promptly paid; I literally paid them cash the very minute that a recording session ended) to make this independent production happen. My strategy to recoup some of my investment (while also keeping the show free) was to include a premium channel at a reasonable and affordable price point — something akin to a DVD loaded with special features — whereby a supporter of my show could get early access to episodes, copies of the scripts, and special behind-the-scenes interviews and commentaries for each episode.

In 2020, I did serious research on the companies that could make the premium channel happen. And Podbean shot to the top of the list. As a fan of supporting small businesses, I liked that they seemed a little scrappy. Podbean felt like the mom-and-pop shop that would be a perfectly aligned ally to an independent producer. I had amicable and detailed telephone conversations and email exchanges. And the people at Podbean ensured me that I could carry on a business arrangement whereby a supporter of my show would pay a flat fee of $20 and have indefinite access to the premium feed. I was perfectly happy with this arrangement and appreciated the way that Podbean swiftly answered all of my questions.

My original marketing plan was to build up listenership (and thus paid subscribers) through in-person relationships and events — largely because I recognized that I was better at turning people into regular listeners in real life. This strategy, of course, was completely uprooted by the pandemic. Since none of us had any idea how long the pandemic would last, I decided to take the financial hit, finish editing, and release the nineteen Season 2 episodes in three tranches: Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III. I released the first two phases last year and did not experience any problems with Podbean. I heard from many fans of the show who were struggling during the pandemic and who apologized that they didn’t have the $20, but who pledged that they would support my show when I reached Phase III. “No problem,” I replied. “I’m a working stiff who’s barely getting by myself.”

Then, after many painstaking months of lapidary labor, I reached a point in the last week where I finally had a release date for Phase III. (June 22nd, to be precise.)


I released the first two sets (episode, behind-the-scenes, and script) to Podbean and alerted my audience. Much to my shock, my subscribers wrote back to me, informing me that they were being asked to pay “beans” for the new content — despite the fact that my premium channel points out that it’s a one-time $20 fee.

I was stunned and angered by this betrayal. Three years of work on a well-received audio drama that had won awards and this was what I got? I contacted Podbean, but they refused to remedy this. I didn’t even have access to a list of my subscribers through the Podbean dashboard. (Presumably, Podbean keeps this list secret so that it can clandestinely ask for more money so that you’ll never know about it.)

I had already done some promotion alerting people to my Podbean feed. But now my Podbean feed is useless. Podbean won’t fix it. Because if Podbean is going to shift the payment structure secretly like this, what’s to stop them from doing this again? CEO David Xu may have all the coding skills in the world, but, when it comes to customer service and sustaining relationships with producers, he’s as much of a shady swindler and a vulpine grifter as any dimebag capitalist.

Unless you enjoy being on the receiving end of zooerastic treachery, I strongly urge you to not use Podbean as a premium channel host. It’s not only clear that these duplicitous bozos are not ready for prime time. It’s clear that they’re very keen on fleecing and dishonoring you by any means necessary.

Audio Drama: “The Yellow Wallpaper”

We just released “The Yellow Wallpaper.” This is a standalone story that is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the audio drama series through this episode guide.

This is the first audio drama that I’ve adapted from another source — in this case, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” one of my favorite short stories of all time. This adaptation is set in the modern day and is dedicated to the #metoo movement. This radio play honors the text, but is somewhat experimental.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who want to support our show, we have a great deal of behind-the-scenes material available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion
Adapted from the Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story

CAST:

The Woman: Katrina Clairvoyant and Nicole Papadopoulos
John: Zack Glassman
Jenie: Devony DiMattia
The Child: Devony DiMattia
The Wallpaper: Pete Lutz
The Guests: Michael Saldate, Charly Saccocio, and Edward Champion
The Voice: Carol Jacobanis
Mary: Belgys Felix
The Nurse: Argyria Kehagias

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who reads too many books.

Music licensed through Musicfox.

Image licensed through Getty.

Thank you for listening!

If you’d like to support this independent audio production and learn more about how we made it, for only $20, you can become a Season 2 Subscriber! You’ll get instant access to all episodes as we finish them — months before release. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive interviews and more than 400 minutes of behind-the-scenes commentary! Here are some behind-the-scenes photos and videos pertaining to this episode that we made during the more than two years of production we put into the second season.

Behind the Scenes:

Audio Drama: “Shadows Have Offended”

We just released “Shadows Have Offended.” This is the seventh and final chapter of our massive epic, “Paths Not Taken,” which takes place from 1994 through 2023 in two parallel universes. This seven part story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

This is the most ambitious story we have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “Shadows Have Offended” is the seventh chapter of an exciting seven part epic that involves parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, strange interdimensional creatures named Chester, a wildly exuberant alien fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, and life choices.

You can listen to the first chapter here, the second chapter here, the third chapter here, the fourth chapter here, the fifth chapter here, and the sixth chapter here.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who want to support our show, we have a great deal of behind-the-scenes material available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter Seven:

In the final part of the “Paths” saga, Chelsea and Maya struggle in their forties to keep their relationship alive as they initiate a fateful but necessary Thanksgiving meeting with Maya’s grandfather — a stubborn and “old-fashioned” World War I historian. Meanwhile, the disastrous political trajectory of the parallel universe encroaches upon deeply personal and deeply fatal territory. (Running time: 84 minutes, 55 seconds)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion

CAST:

Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Maya: Tanja Milojevic
Grandpa: J.K. McCauley
Grandma: Julie Chapin
The DJ: Peter Coleman
Emma: Colette Thomas
Alicia: Elizabeth Rimar
Scarlett: Jessica Cuesta
GPS: Carol Jacobanis
Thomas: Phillip O’Gorman
The Guard: Graham Rowat
Rick: Michael Hisry
The Detective: Phillip Merritt
News Leeches: Pete Lutz, David Nagel, Morgan Corcoran, and Edward Champion
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Additional Voices: Dylan Reed and Christian Caminiti

German Consultant: Vincent Fallow

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who will instantly sing numerous Paul Williams songs if you mention The Phantom of the Paradise to him in person.

The “Paths Not Taken” songs were written and performed by Edward Chmpion

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.

Thank you for listening!

Behind the Scenes:

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Today I recorded one of the most emotionally intense scenes of the second season with J.K. McCauley, a subtly savvy talent who instantly understood that this character was both very real and hyper real. The man had loads of dialogue — dialogue that is among some of the most hardcore I've ever written. And he soldiered on to my great gratitude. (I didn't want to exhaust him!) But his instincts allowed me to see that what I was really doing with this character is renouncing some part of me I don't live with anymore. The hell of it is that J.K. recently returned to acting after a long absence and offered the most eccentric read out of all who auditioned. He was excellent and different and I am so glad I took a chance here. However, I was a bit alarmed by the recognition and, as grueling as it was to unknowingly hold up a mirror to some dark part of me I didn't know I had to contend with, we still had a lot of laughs. Thank you! #acting #audiodrama #darkhalf #character #truth #art

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This afternoon, the marvelous Peter Coleman, a really good guy who I had the great pleasure of meeting in an improv class, returned to record new material for The Gray Area. You may recall him as the DJ in "Brand Awareness." I will not divulge how he factors into Season 2. But I will say this: when we recorded last time, I got the sense that Peter, who largely plays comedic roles, had A LOT more range as an actor and that there was a serious part of him that I hoped to gently draw out. So I wrote a scene specifically with this in mind, knowing that Peter could pull it off, in part because he is highly specific about context and line meaning. (And in fact, knowing this, I urged him during our session today to push back against my own view of the story, because I also knew that he would have some interesting interpretation ideas. Sure enough, he did!) The result was an instinctively smart and a very moving performance. I did my best to inject more empathy into Peter's performance and Peter, in turn, graciously called me out on my own motivations. These are the types of collaborations I really, really dig. Because being surprised is how we get closer to making something new and different. I'm thrilled and very honored that Peter has been a part of The Gray Area. Thank you so much, Peter, for fitting me into your busy schedule! #audiodrama #acting #motivation #character #recording #instinct #collaboration

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We did it! The incredible @katrinaclairvoyant and I wrapped months of recording this afternoon, finishing up her final scenes in this incredibly epic tale in which she stars. It was, of course, quite necessary to pop open the champagne. There was great joy, a bit of sadness, and, above all, the sense that we had gone through an incredible journey together. I wrote this character with every emotion I had in my heart and Katrina always surprised me every day she came in, finding new angles on this character and always using her instincts to flesh her out further. I cannot conceive of any other actor for this role. My considerable gratitude to Katrina for knocking this out of the park and for her great commitment to this role. This was one of the most incredible and fortuitous artistic collaborations I have had the honor and the pleasure to experience. And I can't wait to see how this comes together. Thank you so much, Katrina! #audiodrama #acting #champagne #character #fun #commitment #real #drama

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I just finished a very quick evening session with @mikey_hizy, who squares off against @ogorman.pp in the final scene of the epic Season 2 story! I met Michael through @lit_karaoke (who ALSO said he wanted to be in this, but DIDN'T return my message when I offered him a role — what's the deal, sir? Are you all talk? 🙂 ) and I was immediately impressed with his fine speaking and singing voice. You can learn a lot about an actor by singing karaoke and improvising with him! I had one quick role that I forgot to cast, but then I thought, "Michael! Of course!" Well, Michael was great. He was the first actor to memorize the lines (totally unnecessary for audio drama!). But I steered him towards his instincts and this was very fun. Thanks again, Michael! #audiodrama #acting #audiodrama #character #barbeque #karaoke #voiceover #recording #session #audio

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Audio Drama: “Too Hard a Knot”

We just released “Too Hard a Knot.” This is the sixth chapter of our massive epic, “Paths Not Taken,” which takes place from 1994 through 2023 in two parallel universes. This seven part story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

This is the most ambitious story we have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “Unfound Door” is the fourth chapter of an exciting seven part epic that involves parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, strange interdimensional creatures named Chester, a wildly exuberant alien fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, and life choices.

You can listen to the first chapter here, the second chapter here, the third chapter here, the fourth chapter here, and the fifth chapter here.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who don’t want to wait two weeks for the next chapter, we also have all seven parts (as well as a great deal of behind-the-scenes material) available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter Six:

Back in the original universe, Scarlett and Alicia contend with another version of Chelsea and conjure up a plan to get the two Chelseas back in their respective universes as they face the danger of a seemingly innocent benefactor gone rogue. (Running time: 24 minutes.)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion

CAST:

Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Alicia: Elizabeth Rimar
Scarlett: Jessenia Cuesta
Jan Swillson: Ingeborg Reidmeier
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who holds open doors for people just before he enters a happening establishment.

The “Paths Not Taken” songs were written and performed by Edward Chmpion

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.

Image licensed through Getty.

Thank you for listening!

If you’d like to support this independent audio production and learn more about how we made it, for only $20, you can become a Season 2 Subscriber! You’ll get instant access to all episodes as we finish them — months before release. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive interviews and more than 400 minutes of behind-the-scenes commentary! Here are some behind-the-scenes photos and videos pertaining to this episode that we made during the more than two years of production we put into the second season.

Behind the Scenes:

Audio Drama: “Canny Valley”

Last week, we released “Canny Valley” This is the fifth chapter of our massive epic, “Paths Not Taken,” which takes place from 1994 through 2023 in two parallel universes. This seven part story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

This is the most ambitious story we have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “Camny Valley” is the fifth chapter of an exciting seven part epic that involves parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, strange interdimensional creatures named Chester, a wildly exuberant alien fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, and life choices.

You can listen to the first chapter here, the second chapter here, the third chapter here, and the fourth chapter here.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who don’t want to wait two weeks for the next chapter, we also have all seven parts (as well as a great deal of behind-the-scenes material) available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter Four:

In this “screwball cyberpunk” episode, it’s 2023. Labor camps, a sinister government, and significant civil unrest rollick the world outside. But within the secret chambers of the multibillion tech company Apotheosis, an optimistic entrepreneur named Jill Swanson, who names her engineers after 1930s comedy film directors, sits on a secret that may just save the world. (Running time: 72 minutes)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion

CAST:

Jan Swillson: Ingeborg Reidmeier
Lane Veldt: Adriano La Rocca
Brianna: Samantha Cooper
Jenna: Devony DiMattia
Rochford: Rachel Baird
The Executive: Rachel Matusewicz
Mutt: David McCall
Jeff: Matthew Rini
Preston: Richard Rose
Sturges: Len Nash
La Cava: Luvelle Pierre
Hawks: David Perez-Ribada
News Anchor: Carol Jacobanis:
Amelia: Monica Ammerman
Protester #1: Nicholas Boesel
Protester #2: Khaz Benyahmeen
The Preacher: Peter Andrews
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Creature Voices: Samantha Cooper and Rachel Baird

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who has a ridiculously enormous crush on D’Arcy Carden for her magnificent smarts and great talent.

The “Paths Not Taken” songs were written and performed by Edward Champion

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.

Image licensed through Getty.

Thank you for listening!

If you’d like to support this independent audio production and learn more about how we made it, for only $20, you can become a Season 2 Subscriber! You’ll get instant access to all episodes as we finish them — months before release. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive interviews and more than 400 minutes of behind-the-scenes commentary! Here are some behind-the-scenes photos and videos pertaining to this episode that we made during the more than two years of production we put into the second season.

Behind-the-Scenes:

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Today, I recorded 27 pages with the delightful and wonderfully talented @ingeborgie. I also recorded with her on Tuesday and will be recording with her again next week! Our challenge is to get all her lines recorded before she is unavailable next month! And we're definitely going to do it, thanks to some nimble logistics from both of us. You may remember Ingeborg from "Buddies for Hire," which won a Parsec Award. Well, her character is coming back in a very prominent way. And that's all I'm going to say. But I need to reiterate why Ingeborg is so awesome and why I love working with her (and why I will do so again once I get around to Season 3!). I can give her a note and she will always find some incredibly subtle way of not only implementing it into the framework we've established, but nailing it without me having to layer it further with another note. Indeed I got so caught up in paying close attention and nurturing Ingeborg's performance today that, when I was performing the other lines, I became a little exuberant and knocked over a music stand. I really can't wait to finish this story. Ingeborg revealed aspects of this character that I did not see and inspired me to do some very modest rewrites of a few lines on the spot! Thank you Ingeborg! You are wonderful, a pure joy to work with, and I am blessed to have you on this production! #acting #audiodrama #directing #performance #notes #voiceover #recording

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Rough demo of Season 2 song.

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It's 90 degrees and today is a two session day! But I got off to an incredible start with @caroljacobanis, a veteran actor with a TRULY impressive list of voiceover credits (including POKEMON!) and a voice that I feel obliged to compare to a cheerful deity. I was truly honored that Carol strongly connected to the material and, like so many of the cast members, seemed to come out of nowhere. Her character is modeled partially on Fenella Fielding, the brassy Village announcer in Patrick Mcgoohan's THE PRISONER. And she was tons of fun to work with. I was so stunned by how great she was that I had to remember to keep my director's hat on and do fine tweaks to make sure we retained little satirical subtleties and callbacks to other stories. But honestly I didn't have to do much, other than to remind Carol that not one of my characters is one note and make suggestions to go wild and big at times. Thank you so much, Carol. You are a serious powerhouse! #audiodrama #acting #recording #voiceover #character #theprisoner #fenellafielding #village

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Today, the magnificent @ingeborgie (joined by the always terrific @glassmanegerie) returned to the studio as a version of Jill Swanson, the villain from "Buddies for Hire." Of this new character iteration, I can say nothing other than note the truly strange emotional poignancy of today's scenes. I learned much about the interplay between these two characters that I did not know and I have Zack and Ingeborg, both incredibly kind and committed collaborators who I am grateful to have as part of this project, to thank for this. Especially since this is such an enormous script I'm recording! They are true troupers! Thank you, Zack and Ingeborg! #acting #audiodrama #emotions #recording #fun #unexpected

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This morning, I was incredibly honored and delighted to work with @dramamatt, who beat out many dozen actors to land a character in a story set in the near future. I was struck immediately by how funny and distinct Matt was in conveying this character's very subtle and layered neurosis. And it was very difficult to stifle my laughter while recording. At one point, I gave Matt his big moment by saying, "Okay, on this line, you are the most confident coward in the world." Sure enough, Matt rose to the challenge quite well! This was yet another one of those fun sessions in which I so enjoyed it that I was a bit sad when we ran out of lines. But I was very happy to include Matt on this epic story and his invaluable contributions have really added to a vivacious and hilarious dynamic that is unlike anything else I have recorded! Thank you Matt! #audiodrama #recording #acting #character #neurosis #magic #dynamic #fun

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Today, the glorious @larocca_cola returned to The Gray Area to record new dialogue. You may remember him as Venall from "Brand Awareness." But is he the same character? Well, you'll have to wait until the show gets released. But let's just say that there are big payoffs for anyone keeping close tabs and that interconnectedness is a prominent part of this entire series! I will say that Adrian was once again a joy to work with. He actually inspired me to articulate minute details of this character's philosophy that came entirely from his own subtle and instinctive interpretation of the script. Qualities I didn't know were there! The more we recorded, the better Adrian got. And so I gently pushed him (but not, most importantly, at the expense of his energy!) to be more real and, in one case, unexpectedly poignant about the mercenary self-delusion his character possesses. This role is a bit of a departure from what we established in the first season, but Adrian was very much up to the challenge and I knew he had it in him. And for this, I am tremendously grateful to Adrian for fitting me into his crazy schedule. Thank you Adrian! #acting #recording #audiodrama #character #real #subtle #fun

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This morning, I had the great pleasure of recording with the incredibly kind and very talented @maviddccall, who was tremendously funny in this role. I met David in my Improv 401 class and he was one of the shining stars, a true inspiration to me with his zest and performance and also the way that he looked out for everybody. Thankfully, he was nice enough to sign on for my madness and he more than delivered, cracking me up so much that I really had to confine my convulsions within my chest so that none of my laughter would escape onto tape! I really wanted to make sure that his great gusto came through. So at one point, I said, "Okay, this is your TMZ moment!" And he offered numerous variations on this broad note that were all incredibly funny. David is truly one of the most generous actors I've ever worked with. And I am deeply grateful to him for taking the time out to record material for this epic tale! Thank you David! You are awesome! #acting #audiodrama #recording #character #fun #improv #comedy

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Today I got to record with the very tall and very funny Len Nash. He was an immense pleasure to work with! Strangely enough, he's the second actor from Tennessee in these scenes. But the talented thespians from Tennessee really seem to GET this story for some reason. Len is one of those actors who has what I like to call a 75% instinct, meaning that he's pretty much there with his inventive interpretation and it's your job as a director to coax out the remaining 25%, suggesting ideas and fine tuning a line with a light note. He absolutely got the subtle surrogate family nuance I sneaked into this scene. And he truly cracked me up as we injected more layers with this character. I definitely want to work with him again! Thank you so much Len for being so fun and easygoing! This is the last week (Week 21!) of recording Phase I of Season 2 and a wonderful way to start the week! #acting #audiodrama #character #Tennessee #recording #instinct

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WE JUST COMPLETED PHASE I OF RECORDING! HOLY FRIJOLE! This morning, I recorded with veteran character actor Richard Rose, a very talented and super nice guy! And get this. He is ALSO from Tennessee. That makes three of the six key actors in this tale from Tennessee. Anyway, Richard was excellent. Great fun to work with. He has a beautifully sonorous old time radio voice (and some background in old school radio). And we played this up by imbuing this comic character with a misplaced dignity that had the two of us laughing and that works beautifully with the ensemble nature of the piece. Honestly, returning to formalist roots while experimenting with new forms was the perfect way to close these sessions. And I am deeply grateful to Richard for being a good sport and riffing hilariously from some of my goofy notes. Thank you Richard! And now I'm going on vacation, thoroughly confused that my weird life of recording with dozens of incredibly cool actors is (for now anyway — until Phase II begins later in the year!) over. Let the editing begin! But first, vacation! Supreme gratitude to the brilliant and incredibly accomplished cast. This year has been a blast, one of the best creative periods I have ever had in my life, and I can't wait to finish and release these stories! #audiodrama #acting #character #comedy #performance #gratitude #Tennessee #recording #vacation

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This morning, two incredibly talented "Loopholes" cast members — @samanthafcooper and @rachelbaird18 — returned to record an action-packed scene in another Season 2 story! I have been introducing more multiple actor recording sessions this season — in large part because, aside from being a lot of fun, having actors in the same room really brings out unpredictable chemistry, which also makes ad libbing quite fun. Sam and Rachel are both a great joy to work with and I knew that they would both connect with each other very well! Sure enough, they did, which was important for their two characters. And because these two have such gloriously distinctive voices, I had them do some creature work for a beast that you will come to know in the second season. I would give each of them a situation, point to one of them, then point to the other and have the other mimic the first sound, and then reset the idea, doing the same thing in reverse. I am immensely grateful to these two incredible women for their energy and commitment on a very zany tale that I also happen to be editing right now! Thank you, Sam and Rachel! #acting #audiodrama #character #creature #improv #fun #chemistry #recording

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It was one of the noisiest days ever! Recalcitrant neighbors blasting music, endless cars, men on the street who pretended it was the weekend and chattered long and loud. But persistence pays off! We kept moving the mic around the apartment and @ingeborgie and I recorded all the lines! Ingeborg totally crushed it. And we worked to give her character some subtle quirks (one involving John Hughes!). Ingeborg cracks me up. This was so much fun that I wish I had more dialogue just to find a way to keep working with her this season. But all good things must come to an end. Thank you so much, Ingeborg, for bringing this character to life! More dimension than I even imagined! I have great plans in place for Season 3! And I can't wait to finish this wild and thrilling story!#audiodrama #acting #character #recording #noise #persistence #creative #fun #happt

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Today I recorded again with the magnificent @larocca_cola. He previously appeared in "Buddies for Hire" and, much like @ingeborgie, his role may or may not be related to the previous character! That is all I will say at this time. Adrian is such a fun and easygoing fellow that, once we got into the groove of the character, he killed it. Lots of great energy, spontaneous tics he brought that I weaved into the whole! He absolutely detected one very careful nuance to the scene that I deliberately planted. And he knew just what questions to ask, which inspired me to invent a paradoxical ideology for the character on the spot that was also there, but that I somehow missed in the script until we started recording. (This is why actors are so amazing. You often don't realize how layered your story is until you record!) I liked working with Adrian so much last season that I deliberately wrote the character playing to Adrian's untapped strengths. His instincts are incredibly savvy when it comes to what is sincere and insincere. And he inspired me so much that, at one point, I sang "If I Only Had a Heart" in Jack Haley style after a tic. This is going to be a very exciting story! Thank you again, Adrian! I am so honored and delighted to work with you! #acting #audiodrama #character #thewizardofoz #tics #human #behavior #recording #fun #performance

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A super fun evening recording session with the marvelous @lehcarraquel! Rachel is super committed and wonderfully energetic, a thrill to work with! A crazy storm started kicking in as Rachel got more into it! And I think the elements may have understood the drama we were layering! I cannot say anything about her role, but this clip should give you a nice taste. Let's just say that Shakespeare and James Bond were key guides to fleshing out this juicy character. And I think I may have unwittingly introduced her to the amazing and awesome Caroline Munro! Thank you Rachel! #acting #character #audiodrama #actor #theatre #shakespeare #jamesbond #carolinemunro #kubelik #theapartment #recording #voiceover #sound #storm #drama

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The last role I cast for Season 2 (indeed, the only one I still had open!) went to the main man behind @lit_karaoke, whose energy and enthusiasm I had to get into this epic production. He told me that he was an actor as well and I said, "Well, okay. If you're serious…" I then had to track K down in person after my text and email to him fell upon deaf ears! But once he knew I was serious, man, was he REALLY into this part! K was not only cool enough to make time for me, but found a rational hook for this small character that surprised even me! And I think the scene in question is going to be more surprising than I intended, which is always a good thing! Thanks so much, K, for being a part of this production! Honored to have you! #acting #audiodrama #karaoke #character #recording #voiceover

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Well, @julchapin and I did it! Our previous session was kiboshed due to construction, but we finished recording her character and had a blast! Part of the fun here was making sure that Julie — who, like me, is a very funny overthinker sometimes — to go with her emotional instinct. That matters the most when you're conjuring up a character! And sure enough, Julie pulled a terrific performance, especially when I asked her to go softer and quiet. The full scene — and @katrinaclairvoyant, you KNOW the one we're talking about (this is the one with your favorite line!) — is now a fascinating blend of conflicted human emotion, a real attempt, to the best of my ability, to excavate much of what we hide from each other. And Julie's subtle presence here really helped nail the tone. I can't wait to edit this! Thank you so much, Julie! You were marvelous! #audiodrama #acting #performance #real #emotions #voiceover #yay

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I wrote and recorded a scene, but the episode was running long!

Audio Drama: “Unfound Door”

Today, we released “Unfound Door.” This is the fourth chapter of our massive epic, “Paths Not Taken,” which takes place from 1994 through 2023 in two parallel universes. This seven part story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

This is the most ambitious story we have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “Unfound Door” is the fourth chapter of an exciting seven part epic that involves parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, strange interdimensional creatures named Chester, a wildly exuberant alien fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, and life choices.

You can listen to the first chapter here, the second chapter here, and the third chapter here.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who don’t want to wait two weeks for the next chapter, we also have all seven parts (as well as a great deal of behind-the-scenes material) available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter Four:

Confronted with surprise revelations and the need to reconcile two parallel universes, Chelsea faces the hard truths about what sustaining a relationship really means while cleaning up a cosmic disturbance that no human being could have ever predicted. Meanwhile, a Melissa Etheridge T-shirt proves to be an invaluable remedy as our heroes contend with a giant heart that beats to the rhythm of time. (Running time: 31 minutes)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion

CAST:

Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Maya: Tanja Milojevic
Alicia: Elizabeth Rimar
Scarlett: Jessica Cuesta
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Creature Voices by Samantha Cooper and Rachel Baird

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who once sang “Piano Man” in a karaoke bar with a harmonica and got the entire crowd to sing along.

The “Paths Not Taken” songs were written and performed by Edward Champion

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.

Image licensed through Getty.

Thank you for listening!

If you’d like to support this independent audio production and learn more about how we made it, for only $20, you can become a Season 2 Subscriber! You’ll get instant access to all episodes as we finish them — months before release. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive interviews and more than 400 minutes of behind-the-scenes commentary! Here are some behind-the-scenes photos and videos pertaining to this episode that we made during the more than two years of production we put into the second season.

Behind the Scenes:

Audio Drama: “Same Age Inside”

On August 25, 2020, we released “Same Age Inside.” This is the third chapter of our massive epic, “Paths Not Taken,” which takes place from 1994 through 2023 in two parallel universes. This seven part story is part of the second season of The Gray Area. You can follow the overarching story through this episode guide.

This is the most ambitious story we have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “The First Illusion” is the second chapter of an exciting seven part epic that involves parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, strange interdimensional creatures named Chester, a wildly exuberant alien fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, and life choices.

You can listen to the first chapter here and the second chapter here.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who don’t want to wait two weeks for the next chapter, we also have all seven parts (as well as a great deal of behind-the-scenes material) available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter Three:

While on the run from a wild interdimensional beast named Chester, Chelsea learns of electromatter, the surprising ubiquity of Tony Danza, and the multiverse. But the alarming differences she discovers about the universe she’s become part of threaten to topple her efforts to reconnect with Maya and Alicia. (Running time: 26 minutes, 25 seconds)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion

CAST:

Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Alicia: Elizabeth Rimar
Maya: Tanja Milojevic
Jill Swanson: Ingeborg Reidmeier
and Zack Glassman appeared as The Receptionist

Background Voices by Alexander Bill, Brandon P. Jenkins, and Tal Minear
Creature Voices by Samantha Cooper and Rachel Baird

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who once grew a mustache and shaved it off two weeks later because he looked preposterous.

The “Paths Not Taken” songs were written and performed by Edward Chmpion

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.

Image licensed by Getty.

Thank you for listening!

If you’d like to support this independent audio production and learn more about how we made it, for only $20, you can become a Season 2 Subscriber! You’ll get instant access to all episodes as we finish them — months before release. Plus, you’ll get access to exclusive interviews and more than 400 minutes of behind-the-scenes commentary! Here are some behind-the-scenes photos and videos pertaining to this episode that we made during the more than two years of production we put into the second season.

Behind the Scenes:

An earlier version of the Part 3 song (with slide):

Audio Drama: “The First Illusion”

Yesterday morning, we released the latest episode of The Gray Area.

This is the most ambitious story we have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “The First Illusion” is the second chapter of an exciting seven part epic that involves parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, strange interdimensional creatures named Chester, a wildly exuberant alien fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, and life choices.

You can listen to the first chapter here.

Here are a number of useful links: (The Gray Area website) (the iTunes feed) (the Libsyn RSS feed) (the Podchaser feed)

For listeners who don’t want to wait two weeks for the next chapter, we also have all seven parts (as well as a great deal of behind-the-scenes material) available for Season 2 subscribers at grayareapod.podbean.com.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter Two:

It’s January 11, 2011. The world is similar, but it is also quite different. Chelsea reconnects with her best friend Alicia and takes the opportunity to correct her past mistakes, including rebuilding her relationship with Maya. But the shadow of her abusive mother and the presence of an eccentric man who is quite keen on hot dogs and the benefits of being obsequious may uproot this hard-won battle to claim a better life. (Running time: 52 minutes, 6 seconds)

Written, produced, and directed by Edward Champion

CAST:

Chelsea: Katrina Clairvoyant
Maya: Tanja Milojevic
Alicia: Elizabeth Rimar
Young Chelsea: Nathalie Kane
Carolyn: Emma Smuyla
The Waiter: Jack Ward
Jill Swanson: Ingeborg Reidmeier
Thomas: Philip O’Gorman
Chelsea’s Mother: M.J. Cogburn
Hysterical Diners: Alexander Bill, Brandon P. Jenkins, and Tal Minear
and Zack Glassman as The Receptionist

Sound design, editing, engineering, and mastering by a bald man in Brooklyn who lost every apple bobbing contest he ever participated in during the last five summers.

The “Paths Not Taken” songs were written and performed by Edward Champion

Incidental music licensed through Neosounds and MusicFox.

Image licensed through Getty.

Behind the Scenes:

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I spent my birthday initiating the first of many recording sessions with the remarkable @katrinaclairvoyant and I honestly can't think of a better way to celebrate one's yearly climb to natural obsolescence than making a ridiculously ambitious audio drama — especially with the lead role in a very epic Season 2 story. Katrina and I, who have had many preproduction conversations to get her wildly dimensional character right, bonded instantly over our mutual love of cornball puns and dressing up like zombies for Halloween and various theatrical endeavors. One funny aspect of our collaboration is that we had such a fun time recording together that I actually had to dial down my joke cracking and cheery demeanor to make sure she landed some of her intense moments. "Stop, Ed," said Katrina frequently. "You're making me happy!" Katrina is not only a great talent with marvelous instincts who seemed to come out of nowhere and absolutely GET what I was trying to do incredibly fast, but she is also a bold playwright. She's recording these sessions even as she's directing her own chance-taking play, "Our Father." Which really tells you how committed she is! But Katrina is also an incredibly kind and easygoing type, which you sort of have to be when you're working on something sui generis. As Flaubert once said, "Be calm and orderly in your life and violent and original in your work." And we were definitely hitting those points today! And honestly I couldn't be more thrilled! This is going to be an incredible story. #audiodrama #acting #happy #character #flaubert #recording #theatre

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Today I began my recording sessions with the marvelous @earimar, who was loads of fun. Liz's character is modeled somewhat on @alisonbechdel — particularly a conversation I had with Bechdel years ago in which the very smart and intuitive Bechdel sized me up and asked (rightly) if I was okay. I never forgot that conversation, which meant a great deal to me and revealed how many of us are looking out for each other in ways we don't often know. From these roots of common empathy many years ago came this slightly punkish autodidact principal role in an epic tale about how we love and understand others and must carry on embracing the humanity we have in common. I loved working with Liz. Really, I lucked out big time with her. Like me, she's a fast-talking ruminative type who is extremely subtle about the many expressive streaks she has inside her. And whenever I saw her instincts veering in that direction, I brought them up in the performance. At one point, I saw that she really wanted to deliver a line in a funny voice but was holding back. And I said, "Okay, try this in a prim, proper British voice." And she did and it was hilarious and soon we made speaking occasionally in a funny voice a subtle part of the character. And it worked! And it didn't get in the way of the character's edge or heart. When you're lucky enough to work with an actor who knows how to riff on AND respect your material, you are a very fortunate director indeed! And I found myself giving Liz a lot of "iceberg theory" notes just to see what she'd come up with. #acting #audiodrama #directing #improv #character #tone #alisonbechdel #empathy #humanity

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I'm now on the road. So pardon me if my thanks to the many cool people I met are delayed. But today I had the honor of recording with the extraordinary Tanja Milojevic — the first lines of a very large role in Season 2. I cannot convey how incredibly nice and amazing she is. (Her dog is a sweetheart too!) Tanja and I worked very closely to get the cadences of a scene just right — and I'm telling you, I got a bit misty-eyed recording it. When two people are committed to very high standards, as Tanja and I both are, they often bring out the best in each other. And this session was so much fun and so layered with vital emotional depth that I really cannot wait to hear how this turns out. Many thanks to Steve Schneider, a wonderful man who generously let us stick around and record in his basement. Also a thank you to all the audio drama producers who accommodated me yesterday for the recording of a dystopian anthem! Now on my way to my next not-in-NYC actor! #recording #acting #audiodrama #character

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This morning, I had the great honor of recording with @emmasymula, a remarkable young actor who was so good that she beat out dozens of people for what turned out to be (much to my surprise) a very popular role and had me travelling all the way to Vermont to get these vital lines in the can. Emma is the first teen actor I've worked with on The Gray Area. And she certainly won't be the last. Apparently I have a decent ear for teen dialogue. I so enjoyed working with Emma that I'm definitely going to try my hand at a YA audio drama story down the line. One of the funniest parts of this session was filling in Emma on a cultural event that happened before her existence! But we watched YouTube videos and I offered modern day parallels (Emma was surprised when I was familiar with her favorite musician). And we were off to the races (in one point, literally running!), with Emma tapping into the character's subtleties (including an instinctive snappy quality she came up with that I weaved into the other lines). Emma is terrific and I urged her when we were done that she needed to take acting classes. Because Emma has wonderful instincts that years of training would transform into something truly formidable! #acting #recording #vermont #audiodrama #character #instinct #performance

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Reccording kids for the park scene.

Recording the cliffhanger (what it looked like for the actors)

Audio Drama: “Paths Not Taken”

Yesterday, I released the first of a seven part epic called “Paths Not Taken.” This epic, which has been a good two years in the making, is the centerpiece of the second season of The Gray Area, an ongoing audio drama that won the Parsec Award during the first season. The full tale involves time travel, parallel universes, lost love, identity, forgiveness, compassion, fate, fortune tellers, mysterious Englishmen, life choices, AI, revolutionaries who argue about breakfast, and a great deal more.

This is the most ambitious story I have ever told. It takes place in two parallel universes and follows numerous characters between 1994 and 2023. “Where Are the Lads of the Village Tonight?” — named after a pre-World War I novelty tune written and composed by R.P. Weston and Herman Datewski — is the first chapter. On one level, this is a very meticulous character study. The writing came after I spent a good six weeks doing field research and conducted numerous interviews with women to ensure accuracy, authenticity, love, and respect to the LGBTQ community. On another level, the entire epic is also a fun romp involving a winged intedimensional creature named Chester, a goofy alien obsessed with Tony Danza and hot dogs, and a lot of interdimensional travel.

You can listen to the first installment below:

We’re going to be releasing “Paths Not Taken” every two weeks between now through October. You can either wait for the next installment every two weeks or, for $20, you can purchase a Season 2 subscription pass to not only listen to all the episodes, but also access the scripts as well as a great deal of behind-the-scenes material.

There are many ways to keep tabs on The Gray Area. You can do so through the main website, subscribe through iTunes, Libsyn, Podchaser, Stitcher, or Spotify.

While all of the stories can be enjoyed on their own terms, there are numerous hidden connections between all the stories for the attentive listener. Feel free to consult this episode guide for the entire series to follow the entire narrative trajectory.

Here’s the synopsis for Chapter One:

Chelsea Needham was once among the foremost leaders in tech. But something happened involving a fire and a death. And it got in the papers. Rumor reared its ugly head and Chelsea lost everything she had, with only a few friends left. While recovering from alcoholism, self-destruction, and losing the love of her life, Chelsea meets an enigmatic gentleman from England and a strange fortune teller who may have the answers to how she can reclaim her identity.

(Image licensed through Getty)

Season 2 of The Gray Area Has Been Released!

A lot of people have been asking me about the second season of my audio drama, The Gray Area — namely, when in tarnation is it going to be released? Well, I’m pleased to report that after two and a half years of toiling on the second season — working seven days a week, often twelve hours at a time, recording more than 300 hours of audio, writing and coordinating 120 speaking roles on nearly 1,000 pages of scripts (yup, I wrote it all!) — the premiere, “Living Creatures,” has been released as of today. It’s a cheery tale set in a Wyoming chicken diner — one inspired by Patty Hearst and Pulp Fiction — that involves animal rights, truckers, and a lot of swagger. This is the first of nineteen new episodes.

I was forced to leave Brooklyn about two weeks ago because of the pandemic and a few extenuating circumstances. (No, I’m not on the lam. But I’ll tell you the story if I run into you after the bars open up again.) So I improvised a laptop editing rig, hastily copying the contents of my many drives onto a 10 TB external hard drive. In some cases, I had to recreate the wheel. My original plan of going out into a crowded New York City and recording numerous location tones for authenticity was kiboshed by Corona. And so, in each case where I didn’t have a location tone to work from, I painstakingly built fifty tracks from scratch, compartmentalizing every known human behavior and action that I could. I had thankfully recorded all the actors before the pandemic hit. And I, rather stubbornly and in open defiance of this evil virus, exhausted myself in the last two weeks by readjusting the release schedule so that I could deliver finished versions of the nineteen episodes. So as of today, the first one is released. And starting on April 21st, you’ll be getting a new episode for free every two weeks on Tuesdays.

It remains my firm belief that, during these rough times, new stories help everyone to stay sane and strong. There are many people out there who are struggling right now, and I really wanted to make sure that you could have a new episode every other Tuesday — at an uninterrupted schedule — for free.

Now while all of these stories can be enjoyed independently, there are many connections to Season 1. This is a program that rewards careful listening. And by the end of the second season, you will see how all of these many story strands are related to each other! But you can also experience these sonic tales as enjoyable yarns. We have a number of very fun and wildly ambitious tales lined up — including a space opera set a few decades from now and an epic seven-part love story set in two parallel universes that takes place from 1994 to 2023. We’re even going back in time to 1912 later in the season! This season has a bit of everything! Demons, demon hunters, eccentric engineers named after screwball comedy film directors, love stories, doubles and Doppelgängers, revolutionaries arguing about breakfast, dragons, a touch of film noir, time travel, absent-minded professors, fierce librarians, technological intrigue, AI, laser battles, a mysteriously exuberant figure known only as the Receptionist who is fond of hot dogs and Tony Danza, a wild interdimensional beast named Chester, and a great deal more! We’ve even composed and performed just under a dozen original songs.

I am also initiating an experiment. For Season 2, we’ve introduced a Season 2 pass that — for one flat fee of $20 — will give you instant access to all episodes ahead of release (as I finish them), as well as the scripts, and a special behind-the-scenes podcast called Inside the Gray Area featuring commentary and interviews with the actors. The first batch of five episodes (along with the supplemental material) is now available at the premium site. We’ll be releasing a second batch of eight Season 2 Pass episodes around June, followed by a third and final six episode batch sometime in August. But don’t worry! Your season pass will be good for the entire duration of these three release phases. And all nineteen episodes will still be released on the free feed from now through December 15, 2020. To give you a sample of what you get with the Season 2 pass, I’ve also released the first episode of Inside the Gray Area on the free feed with “Living Creatures.” A Season 2 pass not only gives you a lot of extra goodies (similar to DVD special features). But it will also help to support independent audio drama. We have a four season story plan in place. We pay all our actors. And we want to make sure that we can keep on producing this wildly unique and highly ambitious audio drama.

If you are a member of the media interested in advance review copies or anything else, please feel free to get in touch with me.

So that’s where we’re at. Art in the time of Corona. Let the record show that I didn’t let a pandemic stop me from seeing this highly complicated project through. I hope you enjoy it.

Tips and Tricks for Audio Drama Editing

For the past eight months, I have been editing the second season of my audio drama, The Gray Area. It’s quite a daunting endeavor: a slate of episodes that will encapsulate the length of two average seasons of audio drama. Alas, there was no other way to tell the story. I anticipate a release date of the spring of this year, although there is still much work I need to do.

During this latest postproduction round, I have learned a great deal about sound, rhythm, mixing, leveling, inventiveness, plugins, and some basic pragmatic moves that have allowed me to improve as an editor. However, like everyone, I am still learning. Since there isn’t a lot of online material out there on how to edit audio drama, I have been gradually assembling a series of quick Instagram videos to help out producers who may be new to making audio drama. I’m sure that, had such a resource existed before I figured much of this out on my own, it would have saved me an incredible amount of time. It seems only right to pay it forward. So without further ado, here are some tips and tricks that may help you out as you tell your sonic stories! Unless otherwise noted, the software I am using for these videos is Reaper, an inexpensive DAW that never crashes and contains incredible power and that I swear undying allegiance to, and iZotope RX, a costly but essential tool I use for cleaning up dialogue and removing unanticipated noise. (This article serves as a production-centered companion piece to my essay “How to Write Audio Drama.”)

1. How to Make a Homegrown Sound Effect:

For those who cannot afford expensive sound effects libraries or who cannot find the right sound within the vast depository of Free Sound, consider the enormous sonic riches you may find in the world around you. A sound in a high frequency might produce something new and unanticipated in a lower register, and vice versa. Some of the most original sounds that I have discovered and used in The Gray Area are surprisingly commonplace. Much of my homegrown sound design comes from being inspired by wildly creative people who have approached the process of searching for the new in a similar manner. My feeling is that, if something very weird sounds vaguely familiar, an exotic sound will likely land better with an audience. It’s worth remembering that the TARDIS dematerialization effect in Doctor Who, still used after more than fifty years, is essentially a slowed down version of scraping the insides of a piano and that the Smoke Monster in Lost is, in part, composed of the credit card machines that were ubiquitous in Manhattan taxis around 2010 (and that, on a separate note, proved very tricky to track down for an upcoming story set in 2011; alas, we do what we can for historical authenticity!). The above video shows how I used a percussive instrument given to me on my birthday for an ethereal effect that I layered in a scene set inside a cosmic realm. (I also recommend Jonathan Mitchell’s excellent article on sound design, in which he breaks down how he put together sounds for a particular scene. Mitchell’s audio drama, The Truth, continues to remain a great inspiration point for me. He’s really one of the best sound design practitioners out there.)

For my audio drama adaptation of The Yellow Wallpaper, I took a commonplace sound of a tray being dropped in front of a Shure KSM32 — a large diaphragm mic used by Ira Glass that offers a warm and bright sound similar to a Neumann U87, but that is not $3,000 — and double tracked it. For the second track, I adjusted the speed. And the result was an ethereal clang that represented The Woman’s psychological schism. Don’t be afraid to mess around with different microphones and double tracking. Some audio drama producers swear by flat sounds that they can manipulate through postproduction tools. But I’m more fond of using the best microphone I have in my arsenal to get a particular tone (cold, warm, high, low) that I can accentuate in postproduction.

2. You Can Deviate from Your Script a Bit

If you want to get an audience to buy into your stories, it’s essential that you have your characters speaking in the most natural rhythm possible — even when you have stylized characters. Some of the time — even when you record the stories — the rhythm won’t always announce itself. But you will find it in the editing. In the above video, I demonstrate how lightly rearranging a line in the middle of a big dialogue chunk not only improved the flow of the scene, but allowed the reactions of the characters to be more natural.

3. Take Advantage of Free Plugins