Jesse Schuschu and Ayla Taylor dreamt of aliens. Jesse by night, Ayla by day. In his dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania, Schuschu took the mollusk-like creatures from his dreams and transcribed them onto paper. He built them a home on a distant world wracked with tidal waves, a moon called Fons. Meanwhile, Taylor spent her free hours daydreaming of distant worlds and time machines listening to audio dramas like ars PARADIXICA and Limetown.
Schuschu and Taylor, now engaged, dated throughout college. The two are avid audio drama listeners, storytellers, sci-fi enthusiasts, and creators. So Ayla had an idea. Why not take their beloved hobby and turn it into an audio drama. Three years later, they dug out Jesse’s original Fons story and got to work: Tides was born.
While browsing different online casting sites, voice actor Julia Schifini came across the couple’s ad which read something like: “Male scientist, open to changing pronouns for a binary or a female actor if they decide to audition.” Thinking why not, Julia sent in her audition from New York. Jesse and Ayla listened to the tape. They cast Schifini two weeks after her audition.
Schifini took the originally male character and molded him into a fierce, sardonic female scientist. With her narration—and the crisp sounds of puddles, crashing tidal waves, and sea spray—you truly feel as if you’ve been abandoned on this isolated moon alongside her.
While the medium itself isn’t new—radio drama was hugely popular before TV—it lends itself nicely to the modern listener’s consumption habits: on the go, through earbuds. And podcasting is relatively simple and inexpensive to produce. Schuschu and Taylor started armed with only a college manuscript. Some of the Tides cast members record in a Google Hangout so that they can riff off of each other.
“We’re creating something because people want it," Schifini said, "and no one can tell us not to.”
For whatever reason, Seattle’s audio drama community is small, despite the fact that the city hosts the annual PodCon in January. Apart from a few local shows like the surrealist, sci-fi podcast The Infinite Now created by local Richard Penner, Seattle’s community is less a scene than a handful of creators.
But Taylor is looking to change that by turning listeners and enthusiasts, like herself, into content creators. This past October, Taylor hosted a workshop at Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe talking about audio dramas, as well as giving people a foundation to create their own podcasts. On Wednesday, she’ll host her second workshop, Learn How to Podcast, where she’ll talk narration, dialogue for the ear, sound design, as well as how to promote your own show.
Recently, Tides: Season One was nominated for the Discover Pods Awards in the Best Audio Drama category as well as in a few different categories for the Audio Verse Awards, the major accolade in the podcasting world. With this kind of traction, Taylor’s workshops, and a growing local following, she hopes Seattle’s scene can grow too.
Learn How to Podcast
Dec 19, Ada's Technical Books and Cafe, $5