Your upcoming podcast The Malone Family in the Enchanted Forest
- in a few words, what is it about?
Clinton Festa: The
Malone Family in the Enchanted Forest is a seven-episode action-comedy
audio series. It follows the Malone Family (dad, daughters, killer cat,
and wall-busting horse) as they escape their hometown of Salem,
Massachusetts in the year 1700. They go through a portal to an enchanted
forest where they meet all sorts of creatures who live under druid
protection, though an evil force threatens to destroy it all.
How did the project
come into being in the first place, how did both of you get involved, and
what are your respective jobs on the show?
the playwright and voice director. I had been writing stage plays, but
sometimes you come up with an idea that just won’t work because of
costumes, effects, scenery, etc. For example, you’d have a hard time
staging Rebecca and Nicole Malone teleporting from a snow-covered
Yeti-infested mountain to the cave of a sleeping dragon with toadstools
and big piles of treasure. But with an audio series, that’s no problem.
The disadvantages are the same as the advantages: You can’t see it,
which is great for the imagination. I had heard that the Cary
Playwrights’ Forum was open to proposals for five-to-ten episode audio
series, and that opportunity sounded great, so I pitched the idea to
Christian O’Neal, who does fantastic work with sound effects and
editing. He was on board, and here we are.
What were your sources of inspiration for The Malone Family in
the Enchanted Forest?
used a bit of Celtic myth to create the world of the Enchanted Forest,
specifically the legend of Dagda, his magic harp, and the battle against
the Fomorians. I also used what we know about ancient druid culture, with
a few comedic embellishments like them numbering their spells to save
time. But believe it or not, the idea started with a dream (an actual one)
that I developed into the second scene of episode 1. That’s when Paul
Malone has to fetch a turkey for the Governor of Salem’s party. In the
dream, it was a keg of ale for the obnoxious king’s party (seriously).
He started insulting everyone to the point that each of his knights knew
he was going to get himself killed, and they’d all end up being
suspects. I woke up thinking that might be a good idea for a short play,
but it ended up being a little different setting, and turned into a full
audio series instead of a play. It’s still crazy to think back that the
whole show started with an embarrassing little dream I had about two years
ago. It’s definitely not how I usually write, but it’s fun that it
happened this way this time.
Do talk about the series'
approach to both horror and comedy for a bit!
core of the comedy comes from a nice, normal, reasonable guy (Paul Malone,
played by Chauncey Miller) being put in absurd situations that everybody
around him seems to accept… even his kids, who adapt to the Enchanted
Forest a lot faster than he does. If you were to encounter a troll, or if
your cat were to go hunting and kill a pixie queen, do you think you could
handle that reasonably? Probably not. But I think the comedy also comes
from the world-building, and this was the fun part because I was able to
navigate new comedy ground, like giants scrounging for bones in dumpsters
behind Enchanted Forest fast food restaurants. The horror element is still
comedic, but it comes from our main villain, Tethra,
played by Sarianna Gregg. She’s the Queen of
the Fomorians, which in our story also makes her the Queen of the
Banshees. The danger
for the Malone family is definitely real with her around. Episode 4 is our
monster-filled horror episode, called Full Moon Date Night, and it
features the hilarious Carl J. Grasso as the New Jersey Devil.
can you tell us about your character(s) on the show, and what do you draw
upon to bring him/them to life?
Carl J Grasso: My character is the New Jersey Devil who is aptly called in the piece NJD.
He’s a fantasy demon that loves to eat kids and he’s trying to get his
old gang together. The script is hilarious and with Clinton’s writing
it’s not hard for me to find my motivation. We both agreed that we
wanted NJD to kind of have an edge, so I mixed Andrew Dice Clay and Robert
DeNiro and came up with this abrasive accent that going to be really
funny. When I do any character, I look at the script and if I can
immediately get the guy and what the guy wants then I know I’m reading a
good script. If I have to do some work I invent back stories, read books,
articles on the internet, YouTube videos, movies for inspiration, I create
a whole hodge-podge of stuff, then I annotate my script... and finally when
all the prep work is done, after the seventh take (usually) I’m
comfortable enough with my character to just do many free takes as me
being that guy. I just like putting the work in.
Carl J. Grasso
What was the
collaboration between the both of you actually like?
know Carl from the Greensboro Playwright’s Forum (GPF), and we’ve
worked together on a few projects before. He directed another audio play I
wrote called Picky Zombies. We also had a short film called For the Record
that placed in a contest earlier in 2021 that was open nationally. I know
how much energy he brings, and how great he is with voices. But I still
had one character in mind that I had to hear him in, and thankfully he
agreed. He plays ‘NJD’, the fast-talking New Jersey Devil. Just
don’t touch his hair.
talk about the rest of The Malone Family in the Enchanted Forest's
cast, and why exactly these people?
cast is fantastic! We unofficially call ourselves the ‘dodos’, which
will make more sense once you get to the hilarious second half of episode
2. As for the cast, you just got me started, so now I’ll never stop
talking about how much I love this group. I was able to get so much talent
on board (more on that below), and still can’t get over how good they
are. The casting process went well, but it was nuts. I first contacted a
few of my local actor friends like Carl that I thought would be perfect
for certain roles. A lot of them I had already heard read scenes from the
series that I brought in to workshop at GPF meetings. It got to the point
where I would write later episodes and hear the actor’s voice in my head
for certain characters. If I remember right, everybody that I asked agreed
to do the show, which was very fortunate. So that covered a few of the key
roles, but I still needed to cast most of the characters, which had me a
little panicked until I put out the casting call. The response was crazy.
I put out the call locally, but the internet being what it is, I started
getting emails from adults all over, and kids’ casting agents all around
the country. So much talent out there… it’s unbelievable. I could have
cast the show many times over with the quality and amount of auditions I
received. This was January 2021, in the dead of winter and the height of
the pandemic, before any vaccines
had been approved, and theaters were still mostly shut down. So the
response was very high given the unfortunate circumstances, and my goal
was to get as many people involved as I could. Some sent me headshots and
resumes, which was fine and professional, but I needed to hear people read
the parts, so I had sides prepared. Your voice alone was your audition,
and that was all I cared about. I looked for acting, vocal distinction,
and comedic timing. If you auditioned for a satyr or a goblin and you did
something unique and entertaining with your voice, I knew the audience
would be able to instantly tell you apart from the other characters that
they couldn’t see, so that went a long way. What hurt a lot of auditions
was when someone sounded like they were reading a story to a group at a
library, and not coming across like an actual character inside the story.
I also needed to hear the sound quality of your recording equipment,
because we knew we wouldn’t meet in person in a recording studio due to
COVID. But doing independent and socially-distanced recordings turned out
well, because it opened the roles up to actors who were more spread out
geographically. In the end, we had over twenty main actors meeting on Zoom
regularly (depending on who is in which episode) plus another twelve
actors who helped by recording characters with a few lines. Plus musician
Louis Panzer, my wife on the harp, our fantastic sound effects editor
Christian O’Neal, and graphic artist Jerome Eyquem who did our
incredible promo art.
(Full cast and crew list below.)
What can you tell us
about the recording sessions for The Malone Family in the Enchanted
casting call ended on January 31, 2021, and we went right to work. We
rehearsed via Zoom starting in mid-February one episode a week through
early April. It was a lot of work for the cast, but a lot of fun. We dealt
with some ice storms and power outages (Texas) but we made it. Everyone
who started also finished, and for me it was the highlight of the week.
I’d give a little intro for each scene, explaining where we were and
what I was looking for, then the actors would play the scene. Then I’d
give any feedback I had, and we’d move on to the next scene. If we had
time, we’d run through the whole episode straight through. About two
hours total on Thursday nights. Some of the best moments though were when
we needed actors to fill in for each other in rehearsal, and people could
cut loose as various creatures and just enjoy it. Then over the weekend
the actors would record on their own, just their lines. But the rule was
if you get busy, don’t worry about it. The plan was not to add any
additional stress on anybody’s lives in the middle of a pandemic.
They’d send the recordings to me and Christian O’Neal. He’d check
for audio quality and I’d check for characterization. If we needed
anything re-recorded, we’d just ask. The actors were all very cool about
that, and they typically nailed it on the first recording anyway.
The $64 question of course, when and where
will The Malone Family in the Enchanted Forest be released?
30, 2021 at 8pm we’ll be doing a live premiere event of episode 1. Check
out the Facebook page for updates. To download, it’ll be released and
posted through the Cary Playwrights’ Forum Radio Hour podcast site, with
a new episode coming out weekly through December.
The episodes will make their way to other websites and places people
listen to podcasts, which will all be updated on the Facebook page, but
they’ll start here:
future projects you want to share?
have a fiction novel coming out on December 14, 2021 called Ancient
Canada: A Mythological Tale. It’s an epic fantasy told by a revolving
narrator and set in an alternate Arctic Circle. It’s available now for
pre-purchase online everywhere and through the publisher CamCat Books.
website, social media, whatever else?
are a few places, depending on the project:
The Malone Family in the
I also run
a small charity called Sentences Book Donations, if anyone has any books
they’re ready to donate to prisons or juvenile detention centers. The
Facebook page for that group is https://www.facebook.com/sentencesbookdonations, and the Goodreads page is
for fun, if you’re ever poking around the internet, you may catch a
recording of one of my short plays, like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZK4e9cgQsU
for example which
features Charlie Machalicky (Judah Bradstreet in The Malone Family in the Enchanted
Forest) showing his
range and stage skills as Henry VIII.
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
a huge thank you to anybody who checks out our podcast. If you’re
driving in the car, out on a hike through the woods, or however you listen
to podcasts, I hope you’ll tune in for some fun, laughs, action, and
for the interview!
and crew of The Malone Family in the Enchanted Forest
actor under thirteen years
Miller as Paul Malone
Palmer as Maggie McCloud
King as Rebecca Malone
Benjamin as Nicole Malone
Lemon as Lady Macbeth (the cat) and Baby Malone
Machalicky as Judah Bradstreet
Stanifer as Tabitha Brewer
Oakley as Malory Brewer
Gregg as Tethra
DiPaolo Stephens as Sarah Malone
Haynes as the Governor and Lenny the Satyr
Ralston-Asumendi as the Troll
Zlatniski as Edna the Grumpy Elf and Baba Yaga
Oakley as Ruben the Giant
Zadeh as Sniff the Goblin, Snort the Goblin, Dagda, Old Dagda, and Druid
Phelps as Terrence the Leprechaun
Festa as Felicity the Werewolf
McGinnis as the Boogeyman
J. Grasso as the New Jersey Devil
Hawkins as the Dragon
Kinka as Mrs. McCloud
additional cast members, mostly friends and family, provided voices for
brief characters throughout the series. Six of the twelve were under the
age of thirteen. Names available upon request.
Panzer arranged and performed the theme song and scene change music.
Festa performed harp sounds and harp effects.
O’Neal did the sound editing, sounds effects, and production for the
Festa wrote and directed, and provided lyrics and melody for the theme
art by Jerome Eyquem.
by the CPF Radio Hour (Cary, NC Playwrights’ Forum)