Second Shift, ten years later... and what's next

Ten years ago today, an audio drama podcast I co-wrote released its first episode

It was called "Everything to Everyone, Part 1," and the title was as much a reflection of the external pressures that the main character, Shauna, struggled with as it was about the script itself, which went through something like twenty-five substantial revisions. 

From the start, Second Shift was much more than just a podcast (or "podplay" as we were calling it mid-2006, at the early dawn of podcasting)—it was a unit of measurement that defined a certain period of my life. It grew to occupy every spare moment of my time for more than three years, and encroached too upon time I hadn't given it. I just could not say "no." Second Shift moved into my home, recording its episodes in my basement for the majority of its first season. It was my other girlfriend, my second and third job, my passion, the albatross around my neck... I don't know about "everyone," but for a long long time, it was everything to me.

I wasn't a "writer" before Second Shift

Not really. I mean, I had a degree in creative writing. (I had two, actually, and a resulting pile of student loan debt as tall or taller than my ambitions.) I read a lot of books about writing: Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, Stephen King's On Writing, Annie Dillard's The Writing Life... if I couldn't bring myself to actually write, then surely reading these fine instruction manuals was almost as good?

...Even if I'd read them several times before?

Once Second Shift really got going, I discovered an inspiration that remains, to this day, my greatest strength and greater vice—an overreliance on impossible deadlines. Sometimes we'd release an episode and I hadn't even started writing the next one yet. Let me tell you—the best possible cure for writer's block is a cast, crew, and growing audience waiting, sometimes impatiently, for your next script. 

I stopped thinking, finally, about whether or not I was a Writer. I just wrote.

Thirty episodes later, I learned some things

I learned how to work with a writing partner. I learned to stop being precious about my words. I learned that a bit of comedy helps the drama go down. I learned how weird and wonderful (weirdly wonderful?) it is for people to quote things that I wrote. I learned that my very favorite thing to write is characters over time—how they change, how they don't. I learned that I have surprisingly strong opinions about what makes a good episode title. I learned that having your characters bicker for an entire episode is fun for everyone except the audience. 

I learned to listen to the characters (sometimes, for kicks, I also listened to the actors). I learned how to work with directors who were not me. I learned how to fight when something was important. I learned to choose just a few important things, lest I always be fighting. I learned how to write a series finale that, deep down, I wanted to be just a season finale.

It's been ten years, and I still haven't learned how to let go of Second Shift.

These days, the secret is definitely out about podcasts

You've almost certainly heard of them, and you may even have some favorites: Serial, Radiolab, This American Life, TED Radio Hour... 

This wasn't the case in 2006–09, when we were actively releasing episodes of this "podcast" thing. Do you listen to it on a computer? (You could, but...) Do you need an iPod? (Nope.) Does it cost money? (No, but you could donate?) Why don't you charge for it? (Should we?) I didn't get it. (That's cool...)

So we had an uphill battle to fight: not only were people not used to listening to stories told in an audio-only format, but the new technology presented some obstacles for the technology adverse. I've found myself wondering these days if Second Shift wouldn't find a much bigger audience if it were being released today. Megahit audio drama podcasts like Welcome to Night Vale and We're Alive give me hope that maybe we were really on to something, but we were just a little too early.

Season three of Second Shift will almost certainly never happen, so I won't get to find out. But what if I worked with old friends and new to develop an entirely new series?

What if we released the first episode by the end of this year, 2016? 

Well, let's find out.

I am developing a new audio drama series called The Ordinary Epic

Fans of Second Shift will find a lot to love in The Ordinary Epic. I wanted to tell earnest yet funny stories about characters over time—how they change, how they don't—that use fantastic, epic elements to explore how we deal with the "ordinary" stuff of life: work, love, growing up, growing old, keeping friends, finding meaning.  

It's the sort of thing I've always wanted to write but didn't quite know how. And had I never been a part of Second Shift, I don't think it ever would have occurred to me that this story needed to be a podcast (and it absolutely does).

Moreover, had I not learned what I did through Second Shift, I'm not sure I'd be writing anything at all.

Cha grendillo fai

Thank you Shauna, Katherine, Mike. Jareth, Arkahn, Fesmer. Zana. Thank you to the cast and crew, especially Nathan Davis for creating the show and Brad Smith for not letting it die. Thank you to my cowriters, John Tanzer and Myssi Cerebi. Thank you to everyone who listened, who discussed the show in our forums, who created magnificent fan art, who penned moving tributes that made me cry fat, manly tears

Second Shift is still available on iTunes (4.5 stars!). We also have a new website that will, soon, feature new cast and crew commentary that we've been putting together this past year.

I've also made the recording scripts for every single episode available here, on my website.

As for my new show, stay tuned for updates about The Ordinary Epic's development process. If I can capture some of the magic that made Second Shift a time and place I never wanted to leave, then it'll be something pretty special.

Here's to the next ten years.

Alt Reading reviews HOW WE LIVE NOW (an evening of comedy on a nebulous theme)

Camilla Churchill of Alt Reading had this (and more!) to say about the world premiere of my evening of shorts:

The line-up includes ‘Going Viral’, a scarily realistic glimpse into what will happen when this generation’s avidly documented babies grow up. It was awarded “best play” at the 2014 Long Island City One Act Festival, and it’s easy to see why. The performer’s use of over the top comedy is the perfect vehicle for delivering the sinister undertones in this play.

Read the rest here!

Should you find yourself in Reading tonight or tomorrow, there are still tickets left for the final two shows. Get 'em or wish you had!

An entire evening of theatre with my name on it! And other braggy things.

This upcoming Monday, November 16th, a mere four days from now, will bear witness to several momentous events:

  1. Rockin' Fitness, previously Planet Fitness, will yet again bill me for $15 because to cancel one's membership involves a notarized letter and the blood of a middleborn child and I just haven't done it yet, okay?;
  2. Roman Emperor Tiberius will be celebrating his two-thousand and fifty-sixth birthday (Felix natalis, Imperator!); and
  3. Colour of Fruit Productions will debut the world premiere of my full-length evening of shorts: HOW WE LIVE NOW.

I don't want to give Rockin' Fitness or T-bone short shrift, but it's really the third item I want to tell you about. (I hope that's okay.)

So! HOW WE LIVE NOW (an evening of comedy on a nebulous theme) contains several of my more popular short plays, including The Interview, The Formative Years, and Going Viral, as well as a number of short works (some of them very short) heretofore unknown to theatre-going audiences! In all, the evening comprises eleven plays that sometimes bravely and always strangely tackle the struggle of being alive today: life, love, and Facebook "likes."

As plane tickets to Reading, England, are unfortunately not in the budget (I have this gym membership I no longer use but still pay for, remember), I'm sending my best wishes and ardent hopes for broken appendages (legs are traditional, but please follow your instincts) to the cast and crew of HOW WE LIVE NOW: director Lauren Donoghue and her zany team of talented actor types Alexander Britt, Flora Thomson, David Gurney, and Arianna Beadie. You're going to be great, despite the questionable material. :-)

Other news, which I will keep brief because you've read quite enough already, haven't you?

Lastly... the new Star Wars is out soon, and I think I'm optimistic? I am. Obi-Wan help me, I am.

Brandon M. Crose, Esq.

I published an article on!

It's called "How to Honor Your Absent Father," and I wrote it three years ago as a Father's Day piece for those who have a difficult, strained, or sometimes nonexistent relationship with their father. Esquire published it this past Father's Day, and with the exception of one very vocal (yet unfocused in his complaint) Internet troll, people seemed to respond well to it.

That's a real mark of success, right? The point at which Internet trolls take the time to troll you? I've really made it, you guys!

In podcast land, where I used to plant my flag (and may still, someday...!), Everything Theatre Podcast's latest "Scripts Spotlight" episode features my ten-minute play Going Viral

This is the original cast and director of Going Viral's international premiere, as part of London's Bare Essentials, which is produced by Encompass Productions. I wasn't able to get to the U.K. to see it in person, so being able to listen to their performance on my iPod while walking to work was a real treat! They brought the funny, and I applaud everyone involved. 

And lastly: Gay marriage! That's not something I did, but now other people can, and that's pretty cool.

Missives from a sun-drenched state

...It's summer! Summer in May! Confusing but sunny! 

We got extra winter, like two days that could be legally considered "spring," and today it was hot, man. Still early May, and summer-hot. 

I predict fall in July, and then back to winter again by August. 

So, yes, fine, people from New England talk about the weather endlessly. But if you live here, I know that you too see it as a source of constant wonder. What will it do today? Huh, I guess it rained rabbits. That's weird, right? Why on earth did it do that?! Oh, tomorrow it's going to be chrysalis shells. Not baby butterfliesthey're already gone. No one knows where, but yeah. Just the shells.

The weather, man. The weather.

In other news! I finished all six of my books for Hallmark: they range from Now You're 30! to Now You're 80!, and they'll hopefully be at your local Gold Crown store sometime this fall-ish. Don't hold me to this. That's a completely baseless estimate based on things I think, not things I know. But I'm looking forward to seeing how they came out! My editor and I put a lot of work and love and also work into these.

On the playwrighterly front, my one-minute plays are going like hotcakes! (Terrible metaphor. There is not a finite number of times they can be performed. And what the willy is a hotcake, even? An olden-time pancake?) I just learned that five of them (two of them world premieres!) will appear as part of Youth Education On Stage's One-Minute Play Festival this July (7th, 8th, and 9th). That's in Williston, North Dakota, and if you live nearby you should go and support kids doing theater. (And afterwards spoil me with praise, false or no.) (And also the kids, I guess.)

This Sunday I'll be seeing the Boston Theater Marathon, and the day before ("Saturday," in the vernacular) I'll be seeing at least part of the Warm-Up Laps, which will also feature another one-minute play world premiere of mine! I'm particularly excited to see this one performed. It's a musical. A one-minute musical. Oh yes.

Lastly, I'm a little late in bragging about this, but because I waited there's now a video, the world premiere of yet another of my one-minute plays: The Successful Author's Morning Ritual.

I had imagined it performed by just one person, but they got all creative and used a bunch of people! I selfishly started the embedded video right where mine starts, but if you're a one-minute play aficionado you should definitely watch the whole show. 

Lastly, in light of all the very-short-play heat I'm experiencing right now, I've updated the "One-Minute Plays" section of my website with new production information and (and!) the plays themselves. You need merely click their titles, and hilarity awaits you in one-minute chunks.

"Chunks." Mmmm...

Enough about me. What's going on with you? What's news? How about that weather, huh?!