Thursday, July 17, 2014

"Where the hell did that idea come from?"

Casey Wolfe here - just contributed the bloody and screaming podplay, "Bea Little" to the fine folks at Earbud Theater.  It went live last Saturday and got a decent reception in large part due to the elevating performances of Sean Keller and Melissa Graver (who play John and Beatrice respectively).  Also because it features a rather disgusting use of a power drill which brings me to the point of this missive.

There was a moment during the editing of the podplay where I was suddenly taken aback, "Hey, this is some sick shit.  What the hell, dude?  Where did that idea come from?"  It took me about two seconds to reach back in my brain and figure it out as the source was a typical entry in the childhood-trauma department and therefore has never completely gone away.

I was about eight or nine years old and when my Mom would go shopping at the Base Exchange (grew up an Air Force brat and this was where the military would go for their department store-esque purchases), I'd have to tag along.  Once inside, she'd go off and do her thing and I'd go over to the magazine rack and wait it out reading whatever I could find until she was done.  Usually this would be a comic from the Marvel universe or, if I was particularly lucky, MAD Magazine - perfect for sporadic reading.  But this time, there was something there that usually wasn't (and, tellingly, was never present afterward).

It looked like a comic book, but there was no superhero on the cover.  Instead there was a desiccated, face - a grinning, rotting corpse staring straight at me.  Naturally, I had to pick it up.  Flipping through the pages, I'd never seen anything like it.  Violent imagery that landed with great impact probably due to the fantastic artists rendering the nightmares.  I don't know who drew the particular issue, but here's a pretty good example from artist Jack Kamen:

Jack Kamen

There were three stories, blood, knives, axes, corpses.  This wasn't supposed to be on display for some kid to come and look at, I was in illegal territory and freaked out.  So, naturally, I had to explore further.

The story I read was something called (to the best of my recollection, I have been unable to find this since) "The Organ Grinder."  It centered on a husband and wife who clearly hated each other.  Maybe one found out the other was cheating, I forget the reason for the conflict, just that it was there.  Anyway, in a fit of rage the wife ends up killing the husband and then - to dispose of the body - SHE CHOPS HIM UP AND PUTS PIECE AFTER PIECE OF HIM IN A MEAT GRINDER UNTIL HE'S NOTHING BUT A GORY SOUP!  Holy shit!  Totally repulsive and nauseating.  Naturally, I had to explore further.  The wife rinses the 'husband soup' down the drain and mops up the mess until everything's spotless.  Problem solved, right?  Wrong.

When she's finished taking care of the corpse she fixes herself a nice warm bath, strips down (what's up titillation!?) and slips in.  And then it happens... bloop.... BLOOP... Bubbles start coming up from the drain and then suddenly THE REANIMATED GRUE THAT WAS HER HUSBAND COMES BACK UP THROUGH THE DRAIN, WRAPS HIMSELF (ITSELF?) AROUND HER LIKE THE BLOB OR VENOM OR SOMETHING AND PROCEEDS TO SQUEEZE, CHOKE AND DROWN HER UNTIL SHE'S DEAD.  That's it.  Over.  Done.  Shellshock.  Magazine back on rack.  Leave the store and ride shotgun in the family station wagon contemplating the transgression I'd just experienced.

It really freaked me out, but you know what?  When we were back there the next week, I was looking for that magazine.  This, I've noticed is a common trait among horror fans - especially as kids - that we can experience something that completely terrifies us and yet return to that well again.  And again.  There's a great podcast about exactly this over at The Daily Grindhouse (one of the first ten episodes when they were hosted by G and The Man Called Perry.  It's possibly the Monster Squad episode where they interview Fred Dekker).  And there's a website called Kindertrauma completely devoted to this exact phenomenon.  You should check it out.  (In fact, I'm going to see if anyone there can figure out what magazine it was I was reading - Tales From the Crypt seems likely but could be something different entirely.  If you know, leave a comment below, I'd love to revisit it.)

Anyway - there you go.  A little insight into the seed from which would eventually grow "Bea Little."  I can only hope that some unsuspecting youngster happens across the podplay and freaks him or herself out so much that years later they create something equally twisted.  Because apparently, terrifying is fun. 

- CW

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Episode 10 Bea Little

Well, we managed to overcome some laptop issues, connection issues, childhood trauma issues and a fight with management - but here it is, the latest podplay, Bea Little.  And only a day late.  Will have more to say about this later in an upcoming blog post, so for now, let's just give credit where credit is due:

Melissa Graver - Bea Little
Sean Keller - John Little
Branon Coluccio - Lewison


"Headache" by Frank Black

Aaron Drown and Casey Wolfe

Written and Directed by Casey Wolfe

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lament for the death of a laptop...

So, last night we hit the booth, courtesy of Mr. Aaron Drown, and Nicholas Thurkettle directed his piece, Escape! (The End of Humanity Song) with a truly killer cast of actors.  Suffice it to say, we've never had a story like it and it truly shines. Can't wait for you to hear it, but I'm not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about disaster...

You may remember us touting the recording this months episode a few weeks back.  Well, it's nearly done (and it's a killer, oh BOY is it a killer.).  Barring a few tweaks it's finished, and ready to make the mentioned July 11th release date.  Except maybe not.  Because at the moment it's locked inside a dull silver square to which access has been denied.  A dead laptop.  Are there backup files?  Sure. Is there another means of putting the final touches on it!  Maybe.  But see in the deep, dark caves here at Earbud there's not a ton of access to tech, not like you surface dwellers have anyway.

Anyway, there may be something new for you tomorrow or maybe not.  What we CAN offer you is a little sneak peek. So without further ado, here is the spot art for our maybe July release, Bea Little.

Drawn by the amazing Phil Jimenez

Is that freaking cool or what!?   Stay tuned Earbuds...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

For your convenience... iTunes.

That little button up there - small but powerful.  We know you're used to the ol' right-click-save drag'n'drop model of saving our podplays to your podplayer, but those days are over for you, friends!  Journey over to the iTunes store courtesy this teleportation device:

And subscribe.  Write a review, heck, if you do that - gosh - that'd be swell.  And of course, share, spread the word, the weirdness, the wordness.  And if you haven't listened to Habitat - our latest and greatest - do it!

We now return you to your dimension.  We think it's your dimension, anyway.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Episode 9 - Habitat

Habitat is our 9th podplay exclusively constructed for Earbud Theater.  We hope you like it - Nicholas Thurkettle is the (super) brainchild behind this one and has a bit to say about it.  Take it away Nick!

Written/Edited by Nicholas Thurkettle
Performed by
Danna – Christine Weatherup 
Interface – Nicholas Thurkettle
Produced by Casey Wolfe, Aaron Drown & Branon Coluccio
Voice Direction by Matt Enlow 
Music by Chris Zabriskie 
Spot Art by Kevin Necessary 

Habitat arose out of an epiphany about myself and science fiction. I have been a hardcore, no regrets sci-fi fan ever since my parental units gifted me Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. As a pre-adolescent with more math skills than social skills, Asimov’s psychohistory gave me faith that the world could make sense – not that it did, but that it could. Later, as an oddball adolescent, Vonnegut gave me company and solace and the beginnings of a courage to embrace my oddities.

I have grown into a shameless nerd culture slut. But for many years as a grown-up writer, I avoided writing sci-fi. I psyched myself out of it because, frankly, I was terrible at science. As a worshipper of Asimov, whose tremendous scientific mind informed both his projections of the future and his perfectly-distilled prose, I feared my own science weakness would leave me writing knockoffs, or get me secretly laughed-at in science get-togethers like the ones at NASA where they screen Armageddon (I have read that this happens and I reject any suggestion that it isn’t completely true.)

But when I read sci-fi greats writing about their genre, I noticed a common thread of them railing against their genre label as a misnomer. Sci-Fi wasn’t about science, they reached out to assure me, but about the imagination, about possibilities, about using the fantastical to explore humanity. I started to notice that in some of the best sci-fi I knew, the science and the setting were barely-relevant, or simply served as a Trojan Horse for the good stuff. The episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called The Inner Light – where Captain Picard lives an entire alternate life through family and infirmity and beautiful little hobbies and finally doom on an alien planet – gets him there via more gobbledy-gook than science: a probe thing zaps his brain with a ray thing and the crew can’t wake him up because we’re not done with the plot yet, thank you very much.

And what a plot; raising the awesome questions: what matters in a life? Is a culture known in its relics and its records or in its values, the daily way its people were with each other? Do we understand one another with reason or with feelings; or do we need both to do it right? Sci-fi, as well as horror and fantasy and other realms where Earbud Theater dwells, allows us to look at these questions in a way realism cannot.

Stories about humanity?, I thought. I can take a crack at that.

I remembered the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Dr. Bowman appears to be growing old in a handsome, sterile room somewhere beyond infinity. I thought about the interpretation that the aliens could be biding their time while he lived out his normal span so that he could be reborn on the brink of death. Given how often Kubrick depicted spiritually-deadened people in cold environments, it struck me that of course he thought all a person would need would be sufficient food and some nice furniture. A real person in that situation, I thought, would go nutzo.

This felt interesting, and I liked it all the more because it didn’t call for me to create sinister aliens or an end-of-the-world scenario (actually, wait for my next Earbud episode on that one.) These aliens could be entirely benign, and want badly to help, but would be hapless in a way that anyone who had ever blown a relationship by failing to understand their partner’s needs could understand.

Speaking of Asimov and Star Trek, the character of Data, who introduced himself as a realization of Asimov’s concept of androids as devoted servants and attempted students of humanity, had a major impact on me in life and in this piece. Data was my high school nickname, and not because I asked for it; and Brent Spiner has enough DNA in Interface that there ought to be a paternity test.

I have known Christine Weatherup and her husband Matt Enlow for many years, since she showed up to audition for a play I wrote and won the part thoroughly. We have collaborated frequently since then, always with great pleasure. She is an actress of tremendous range and courage and willingness to play; that, and Matt’s vision and directorial confidence, his ability to coax out both the laughs and the heart inside seriously quirky material, were both part of the plan for Habitat from the beginning.

I wrote the first draft in a week, intending it to be a short film, but as Tolkein once wrote: “This tale grew in the telling.” I realized we needed time to really take Danna on something resembling the human journey, and even with this version of Habitat realized, I never get tired of writing about Danna and Interface, and their attempts to get through this thing called Life.

It was my longtime friend Branon Coluccio, one of the smartest men I have ever met in Hollywood when it comes to wrangling this unropeable beast called “story”, who suggested Habitat’s possibilities for the audioverse, and introduced me to Earbud Theater, a fantastical sandbox Casey Wolfe has lovingly built which I have reveled in and now plan on refusing to vacate.

Now that we have all reached this moment of shepherding Habitat into the world, I can’t be more proud and thrilled than to have had these partners on the journey, not to mention grateful that I had parents cool enough to give their kid Asimov books. Hopefully I get to be that cool someday.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Audioverse Awards 2013

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Here's two thousand words:

Thanks to EVERYONE who helped pitch in to make these.  It was a ton of fun and we're looking forward to the next batch of audio-goodness.

Monday, September 9, 2013


Well, hi.  We're back after a ridiculous break (explained on the main website, I can't bear to repeat the reason here) and we deliver unto you our latest podplay, CARL.  Written by the amazing Elizabeth Bartucci, Carl is epic, cosmic and will take your mind to the very edge of the universe (and maybe your heart too).  We liked the writing so much we went into the computer Tron style (1982 Tron) and conducted a little interview with Ms. Bartucci.  You can read that below, but first enjoy CARL, then read the interview, then listen to CARL again.  ("Carl," by the way, is very fun to say repeatedly)

Written by 

Performed by
Aaron - Jeff Cannata
Carl - Conrad Allan
Mike - Seamus O'Toole

Produced by Aaron Drown & Casey Wolfe
Directed by Casey Wolfe

Spot art:  Michael J. Canales

Music by:  Oh, a bunch of people.  Jimmy Hendrix, Bobby Darin, Van Morrison, The Beatles, Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan... all of them rock stars.  

EBT:  Hi Liz!  (Is it Liz or Elizabeth?)

LIZ:  Liz.

EBT: Before we get started - what song do you have in your head right now?

LIZ:  The Roots' "How I Got Over" plays on a loop on my CD player and in my head to the dismay of my neighbors.

EBT: You're much hipper than me.  For some reason I have that Human League song about the guy and the former cocktail waitress.  Real power struggle song and I imagine that relationship is just ripe with drama.  Wouldn't want to hang out with those two.

LIZ:  Don't You Want Me OOOOOoooo.

EBT:   Yes, that's the song!  Oooo is right...  Anyway.  HI!  So, we first met in a certain city on the west coast where good things used to happen, sometimes still do, but mostly don't.  You and your writing were one of those good things.  I believe I'd read a script of yours called EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT (or am I getting that wrong?)

LIZ:  Yes, and you left a message on my machine about how much you loved it.  I saved it for a very long time - and it must have meant something to me, because I had to save the entire phone to keep the message.

EBT:  Ha!  That's awesome!  It was a very moving piece, sort of about post 9/11 but not overtly.  I'm not doing it justice in the description but your voice is very unique and has a style of writing that sets the bar for other scripts I read.  How long have you been at this?

LIZ:  Thank you!  Now I have to save this Mac Book Pro.  I've been writing since a young girl, but I started writing screenplays after I graduated from the Actors Studio Masters Program and when I started working for Big Sky Edit.  I like to tell people I was raised by Editors - which helped me write efficiently and with more pictures than words.  "Everything Is Going To Be Alright" still opens doors for me.

EBT:  Actually, I can see how that would make one a better writer.  The piece you wrote for us is called Carl.  It's clever, funny and way out there - how did you come up with this idea?

LIZ:  I'm a big fan of RadioLab.  And I was listening to the podcast on a long train ride.  I heard the one about Voyager and Ann Druyan and it moved me so much.  Mainly, the love story about Carl and Ann.  I guess people (on the train) thought I was listening to sad songs.

EBT:  Tears?

LIZ:  Oh yes.  The train ride and the disembodied voices physically helped me as well - got my body into the idea of traveling and movement.  Longing.  I'm easily 'moved.'

EBT:  Is this the first audio drama you've written?

LIZ:  It is!  Though, when I use to write plays, I'd stay in the back or the lobby of the theatre, and just 'listen.'  So the experience is kind of the same - except I can't make changes.  That's tough.

EBT:  It's kinda fun isn't it?  A bit more intimate.  Different set of writing muscles.

LIZ:  I want to cut.  Which is a good sign - that means everyone else is doing their job.  I think being a playwright for so long, makes you realize that language is sometimes the only vehicle you need.  I listen to podcasts quite a bit.  The Memory Palace, is beautiful, a guy with just the right words, a few musical interludes and some SFX.   Is that what you wanted Earbud to be?

EBT:  I wanted Earbud to be as creatively free as the film business wasn't.  Where a story could be as far out and esoteric as you wanted it to be.  And by the way, you nailed this one.  The dialogue is killer.  I think I told you that when we were recording it one of  the actors finished a line and then just let loose with, "This is fucking great - this is great writing."  Talking to himself.  In fact it merits a couple of listens just to see how tight you made everything.  It's very layered.

LIZ:  I very much miss writing for and with actors.  Writing in repertory is a very satisfying.

EBT:  You mention Memory Palace, what other podcasts do you listen to?

LIZ:  I like "Scriptnotes" which is "Car Talk" for screenwriters.  "Here's The Thing" w/Alec Baldwin [ed. note:  is it just me or is Alec Baldwin doing 'Blue Steel' on the homepage?] and "WTF" w/Marc Maron - the hosts are kind of overwhelming but they bring out the best in their guests.  The MOTH Radio Hour.   My grandfather listened to talk radio on his transistor radio all day and all night long  - I sort of understand why he did it.  I just can't get enough information!  I remember laying in bed and listening to their radio and it was something like a detective show.  I can remember the characters and the story - and I didn't even SEE IT.

EBT:  You know, as a kid my family would take these road trips and on occasion my Dad would find some radio show - I vividly remember catching a bit of THE NAKED JUNGLE which is about a plantation being attacked by killer ants.  I too have those images still in my head.  I'm glad the internet is kind of resurrecting this kind of thing.  You should also check out SFFaudio - great stuff there.

LIZ:  On my list!  There's another science one out there with Neil LaGrasse Tyson.

EBT:  Startalk!

LIZ:  Startalk!  We are letting our Geek Flags fly.  You told me you car pool with RadioLab?

EBT:  Yes, in the human world I have to carpool a couple of brothers who would just get into these awful fistfights.  One day I started playing RadioLab and they were mesmerized.  Played it every day - no more fights.  It was awesome.

LIZ:  You must link RADIOLAB in this Interview.  They have to know they are saving the world.  One carpool at a time.

EBT:  Will do!  So, you've written a novel yes?

LIZ:  I'd call it a novella.  It's been turned into a screenplay, that's making the rounds.  It's called "Secret Lives of the Unemployed."

EBT:  Delicious rounds.  What else is on your plate?  Anything you want to mention or spill the beans on?  We love beans here.

LIZ:  The beans are, is that after listening to Carl, I decided to write a short feature based on this radio play.  So, thank you!  I also have a short feature "Steve."  Which is based on my play .  I guess I will have to pick another man's name to finish out this Guy Named Trilogy I seem to be writing.

EBT:  RE: the third name, might I recommend "Balthazar?"  Is "Steve" online?

LIZ:  Steve is published in Smith & Kraus' The Best 10 Minute Plays (Contemporary Playwrights Series).  I think 2010 ed?  The short screenplay, "Steve" as well as the feature "Secret Lives of the Unemployed" are in contention for a few things.  We'll see where it goes.  I'm working with Lucy Stille at Paradigm, if anyone wants to take her or me out to lunch hahahahah.

EBT:  Lunch with Liz, dammit!

LIZ:  As a coincidence, Rumor has it that Voyager HAS in fact left the solar system.  

EBT:  Which you can read about right here.   So, you know how James Lipton winds up his Inside the Actors Studio interviews with those questions?  We don't do that here because we're not so skilled in the art of the interview.

LIZ:  I forget the last question he asks.

EBT:   Uh, like what's your favorite sound, what's your least favorite sound, do you think my beard makes me charming - yes, and the Pearly Gates one too….   Shit - now I gotta know what DO you want God to say?

LIZ:  Callous over guitar strings.  The word "Like."  All beards are handsome.  Mutton chops are killer. And I hope God says;  "Look who's here!"  In that order.


LIZ:  And then we have lunch.

EBT:  Hopefully lunch with beans.  Liz, thank you so much for writing Carl.  We love it - everyone else will too.

LIZ:  Thanks Casey.  On one last note.  I remember when I got the Disney Fellowship.   And it took forever for the Execs to make up their minds.  I had 2 weeks to pack up in NY and get to LA.  You were an Exec and a major part of that program.  And one of the first things you said to me which made me sad then, but happy now, was:  "I fought for you."

Thanks, Casey.

EBT:   No.  THANK YOU!  (I'll still fight for you, just point me in the right direction)