➤ THE WORLD TO COME, from p.24
ANDY PETERSON: People generally love
fantastical tellings of real-life events. That’s
why book sales of pandemic-themed literature
skyrocketed at the beginning of these Quarantimes.
We wanted to put our own spin on the
genre, so at a time when governments across
the world have neglected their arts sectors, we
wanted to create a world in which art is recognized
and worshiped as the very essence and
identity of a society.
KENNERLEY: What were some of the challenges
in creating this series in quarantine?
KLEIN: One was deciding how to structure
the entire process. Where to begin? As it turned
out, our large cast all had drastically different
setups at home, so there was certainly some
engineering magic that had to happen. Our recording
sessions consisted of the cast meeting
in a Zoom room, and reading the scenes with
each other while self-recording. It was important
that there was still an atmosphere of a
proper rehearsal room, so that the actors had
scene partners, rather than acting alone in a
void, as is often the way with voiceover work.
PETERSON: One of the biggest challenges
was the issue of bringing a song to life while
all of our musicians and singers record in their
separate apartments/ studios all over the country.
There’s certainly a lot more back and forth
but it also gives our performers the opportunity
and freedom to try out new choices that they
otherwise might not feel comfortable trying in
the room with other people.
KENNERLEY: The series celebrates the art of
storytelling. Was that your intention?
RANSOM: Very much so! The storyteller is
the most celebrated vocation in Fiveboro, and
for good reason. “The World to Come” allowed
us to explore how the kinds of stories we ingest
through our screens might survive through the
oral tradition. It’s a world where a raconteur
holds court in a crowded square recounting the
tale of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” as
if it was a Homeric epic. I don’t think we realize
how much our entire civilization is shaped
around stories. In the Information Age we constantly
consume stories whether we’re binging
30 hours of a series on Netfl ix or watching a
15-second skit on TikTok. Politicians, pundits,
journalists — they’re all storytellers — and the
stories they tell shape our laws, our foreign
policy, and the very fabric of our society. High
stakes stuff. Which is why we try to make our
story more fun than a lot of what we see in the
news these days.
KENNERLEY: Erik, you have revisited historical
periods in your work, such as “More Than
All the World,” the epic Edward II musical. How
does it feel to leap forward into the future?
RANSOM: Well, it takes a lot less time to
write, I’ll tell you that! Research is such a huge
part of depicting historical events. Personally,
I feel a huge responsibility to any ghost I stir
for a story. I work hard to understand them,
so I can do my best to paint their lives with as
much depth and as many dimensions as possible.
It took me years to complete the fi rst draft
of “More Than All the World,” which ran about
two-and-a-half hours. I was able to write the
fi rst draft of Season 1 of “The World to Come,”
which runs nearly seven hours, in a little over
a month. The process was not without its research
component — I had to pore over the geography
of the New York City subway map, for
instance — but I’ve never had the opportunity to
do this much worldbuilding before. A lot of this
process was getting tipsy and texting my team
in the middle of the night with punny names for
post-apocalyptic locales, such as Mudson Yards
and Squashington Scare Park.
SCOTT LILLY @DOODLESBYSCOTT/ THE WORLD TO COME
Fiveboro’s skyline in “The World to Come.”
KENNERLEY: Erik, you often include LGBTQ
themes in your work. Without giving away
any spoilers, are there any LGBTQ characters
in “The World to Come?”
RANSOM: I don’t think it’s safe to assume
anyone is straight in a world envisioned by
Erik Ransom. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it
again — my mission in life is to leave this world
a gayer place than I found it! So yes, in “The
World to Come” homophobia is largely a thing
of the past. The only major culture that holds
onto prejudices of today is the Hepburner faction.
They worship old black-and-white pictures
from the Hays Code era. But I read Vito Russo’s
“The Celluloid Closet” when I was a teen, so you
can trust that even the Hepburners have a lavender
underground hiding in plain sight. Also,
on the queer front, one of the main characters
in the piece is Teller Bastien, who is non-binary.
They hail from The Criterione Collective, which
reveres independent fi lms and art cinema. The
Collective is a post-gender culture where they/
them pronouns are assumed unless otherwise
specifi ed by the individual.
A lot of the work I’m known for is about queerness.
“The World to Come” is a bit of a departure
insofar as queerness is heavily featured
without being the main focus. I wanted to engender
a future where queerness in and of itself
feels less revolutionary and more incidental. It
is post-apocalyptic without being dystopian. It’s
a world where the fall of civilization crippled humanity,
but we kind of go back to basics. Everyone’s
unplugged, people connect sansscreens
and, when it comes down to it, hope and love
rule the day. It doesn’t always feel that way in
2020, so escaping to Fiveboro was a huge part
of my self-care routine during the pandemic.
KENNERLEY: Traditional musical theater
relies heavily on visuals — sets, costumes, and
lighting — to tell the story. Was it a challenge to
bring a musical to life in a podcast format?
KLEIN: If you saw our production of “More
Than All the World,” then you know how obsessive
I am about physical details, expressive
staging and lighting, and goth-centric,
era-fusing costume aesthetics. When I read a
new script, the fi rst thing that begins to appear
in my head is how the production will look. I
agree that musical theater as a genre is visually
charged, and visually charging it even further
has always been my candy.
With “The World to Come,” we’ve had to maneuver
that way of thinking into an aural-only
realm. I still stage every scene; I see it in my
head, I place the actors where they would be on
stage, design the set and costumes, and, heck,
sometimes even the lighting too, so that I have a
fully realized theatrical production/ fi lm hybrid
in mind’s eye. Then comes the tricky part —
bending those images into a tapestry of sound.
In collaboration with our absolutely outstanding
sound team Lunoe and Hagerty we translate
the visual to audio. If one of the characters
is wearing seven-inch stilettos and one is wearing
combat boots and they are walking together
over a concrete ground, what does that sound
like? Directional panning has helped us to
specify location, and each location has a subtle,
signature sound to it.
KENNERLEY: During the age of COVID,
new forms of theater are emerging, such as
“The World to Come.” Would you agree that this
might be a silver lining to the pandemic?
PETERSON: An artform is never exciting if
it stays stagnant for too long, and sometimes it
takes something like a pandemic to push artists
to reimagine what an artform is capable of.
The creation of shows on Broadway and in musical
theater on the whole has generally been
restricted by so many factors: theater size, cast
size, orchestra size, weekly running costs, the
unoffi cial rule of a two-ish-hour run time, the
laws of gravity, etc. This means that theater
creators are limited in the type of stories they
can tell. Once you take away these restrictions,
there is another whole world of stories that the
beautiful genre of the musical can explore.
THE WORLD TO COME | Podcast series available
for free on theworldtocomemusical.com or
platforms like Apple, Spotify, and Google
GayCityNews.com | November 05 - November 18, 2020 25