As a child, Adam Hoffman had a poster mapping Bigfoot sightings around the U.S. Two years ago, he and his young son visited the International Cryptic Museum on a family vacation to Maine. And last year, the Magical Theatre Company actor wrote a play called Larger than Life: American Tall Tales, exploring the lives of folk legends like Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed.
Now, Adam and audio producer Jeremiah Isley are producing an audio drama, Cryptic, about the same kind of local lore.
Cryptic tells the story of adult siblings Cole and Julie Kurtz, who host a podcast-within-a-podcast exploring cryptids — Bigfoot, Mothman, et cetera.
But as they investigate, the audience starts to realize that these monsters might be real.
“What the listeners will find out as they follow them on these adventures is that everything is actually true. They are encountering these creatures, these myths, these legends,” Jeremiah says. “But you’ll also find out that Cole and Julie kind of have… not such a great grip on reality. They’re noticing that they’re losing parts of their memory and stuff is happening to them that’s driving them to further investigate these things.”
Cryptic is an audio drama. The format has its roots in the pre-television era, when families would gather around radios for entertainment. Today, they’re released as podcasts.
“One of the main themes in it is that Ohio is this very, very strange place. You pick up a rock and there’s all kinds of weird things wiggling underneath,” Adam says. “There’s all these undercurrents of oddness here that are delightful and strange, but you have to kind of look for them.”
Through their podcast-within-a-podcast, Cole and Julie investigate include traditional cryptozoological mysteries, like Bigfoot, as well as local mysteries — what might be living in the sewer tunnels under Akron? Why was the tower at Ernest Angley Ministries never completed?
“The cool thing about this is… I’ve listened to a ton of audio dramas over the last few years, and a lot of them take the same angle. The people that are writing and producing it are from Seattle, so the characters live in Seattle and they talk about local places and things,” Jeremiah says. “It’s kind of exciting to do that for Ohio… the people from here will know, ‘hey, that’s great, I know that place,’ but for a worldwide [audience], it gives it authenticity.”
Jeremiah has worked in sound for about two decades. He started as a music producer, then moved into live sound for theatre companies and bands, and in recent years has produced podcasts as a freelancer.
Adam is a theatre artist who has performed with Magical Theatre Company for about 15 years. He has also appeared in Ohio Shakespeare Company works.
The creators met through the Magical Theatre Company, and their friends in the local theater community have gotten involved in the project too. Benjamin Payne, who plays in Canton-based Americana band Yankee Bravo, will compose original music. The roles of Cole, Julie and three recurring characters have been cast, and they have a long list of names for cameos or one-episode appearances.
Actors will record the show in a sound studio, where they will move in relation to the microphone and each other to create the illusion of depth. The producers are recording ambient sounds, like slamming car doors and footsteps in the woods, themselves.
The creators are now seeking $2,000 on Kickstarter. If they raise $2,500, Cryptic will grow from 10 to 12 episodes. Supporters who donate $100 can name a character after themselves or a loved one.
When I ask Jeremiah if the production team was already planning season two, he laughs. “We’re planning season four,” he says. “We’re trying to take the story arcs that we have and see where those break points are that keep people wanting a new season.”
The producers hope to begin releasing episodes in October 2019.