Marcus DiPaola is Not a Journalist

If you’re on TikTok, there’s a good chance that you’ve stumbled across Marcus DiPaola on your For You Page. He has 2.5 million followers and he doesn’t follow anybody back. With thick-framed glasses, poorly groomed stubble, and hair parted in the middle in a manner that suggests that he could be the love child of Alfalfa and a Williamsburg hipster, DiPaola reads the news in an intense and fearmongering style against an Olan Mills backdrop that is grossly at odds with his “I spend most of my time in a basement” aesthetic. Think of DiPaola as Awkward Family Photos enhanced with white male rage. Like many grifters who have made a name for themselves in an age in which facts, fairness, and the appearance of objectivity are increasingly devalued, DiPaola cloaks his inadequacies behind his mission statement: that he is, according to his own bio, using a writing style “designed to make it possible for middle schoolers with learning disabilities to understand the news.” But if this were truly the case, why then does DiPaola enunciate innocent words like “trains” with all the sinister timbre of Richard III chewing up the scenery just before hiring assassins to kill his older brother? If he is truly speaking to children, why then does his content have the feel of Walter Winchell with severe anger management issues? DiPaola reminds me of that Simpsons bit in which Christopher Walken read Goodnight Moon, only for the kids to scurry away in fear.

Up until recently, DiPaola’s bizarrely aggressive “reporting” style was largely tolerated as something you had to endure before scrolling onto a shirtless Russian man loving his bear in subzero temperatures. But on March 29th, DiPaola offered a preposterously inaccurate report that “LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia are getting attacked by criminals so often that, today, the person in charge of dealing with crime in Philadelphia created an advisory board to figure out how to deal with the problem.” It is certainly true that a transgender woman was attacked in Philadelphia on March 20th and that there was an uptick in transgender attacks last year. But DiPaola’s hysterical rhetoric suggested that Philly was something out of Frank Miller’s apocalyptic portrayals of Gotham. Last year, USA Today reported that Philadelphia was among the friendliest cities to LGBTQ people. The city was one of the first places in America to initiate a yearly Pride parade in 1972.

@marcus.dipaola

If you don’t recognize the real world is a scary place, it’s time to grow up.

♬ original sound – Marcus DiPaola

DiPaola faced rightful pushback for his histrionics, which felt more like the bilious white supremacy spewed by Tucker Carlson than a man who professes to “anchor the news” on his Twitter bio. He never once corrected his inaccuracies — the basic responsibility of even a soi-disant journalist. Instead, he doubled down on his demagogic fury with a video that was swiftly parodied and widely condemned:

Journalism exists to point out things going wrong so people can change them. It is never my job to cheerlead or to make people happy. It is my job to point out the scary and bad stuff happening in the world, to build up pressure on the people in power so they fix things. If you want to make a change in the world, this is the channel for you. If you’re scared of real life and want to pretend things are perfect, follow someone else.

As the user @jewishanarchist observed, this represented a case in which DiPaola refused to countenance the LGBTQ-friendly truth of living in Philadelphia. “You might not have the job to cheerlead,” said @jewishanarchist, who grew up in Philly and who noted the vibrant drag scene in the City of Brotherly Love, “but you have the job to represent the accurate facts. Because what you did? You made the people of Philly look bad. You didn’t make the government of Philly look bad. You made the people look bad. That’s bad reporting.”

Moreover, there’s something incredibly dodgy in DiPaola’s partisan approach here. It is a journalist’s job to present the facts fairly and accurately. If the reader (or, in this case, the viewer) decides that she wants to change things, then that’s on the audience, not the journalist. But these basic responsibilities are clearly beyond DiPaola’s wildly limited faculties. He often fails to cite his sources. And a cursory exhumation of his feed instantly reveals numerous inaccuracies or willful misreadings of other reports. Irrespective of who your audience is, this is a deeply irresponsible approach for anyone who claims to report the news.

DiPaola could be easily ignored if he didn’t have such a large platform to deliver his venomous spittle-flecked tirades. The fact of the matter is that, for some people who are hopelessly hooked on TikTok (it is incredibly addictive!), DiPaola could very well be the first place that they hear about a news story. And if they hear it from a man who is so careless and capricious with the facts, then DiPaola’s outsize influence is incredibly dangerous. Not unlike Father Coughlin in the 1930s, who used his vast radio audience to whip up widespread anti-Semitism and support for fascism. Even comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver have employed fact-checkers. Because they have known very well that millions of people are watching their shows and that they have a responsibility to convey the basic truth.

But DiPaola shows no such care or commitment. He cannot, by any standard, be called a journalist.

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: “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)