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Home » Arts & Entertainment, Modern Audio Theater, Technology

And now for something completely different…

By: 28 May 2010 One Comment

Looking for modern audio theater that falls squarely into avant-garde and is written with adult audiences in mind?

The folks over at Portland’s Ollin Productions invite you to give Afterhell a try.

What is Afterhell? Joe Medina and Jamie Lawson – the husband-wife team that run Ollin Productions – describe the horror series as being set on earth (although, perhaps one in a parallel universe) where the forces of darkness have broken through to the surface and are remodeling the planet to be the new, improved hell.

Scary stuff? Yes, indeed. And the show is full of violence, rough language and other elements that make it a no-no for young audiences. Lawson and Medina, however, said that boundary-pushing and unbridled creativity provide the foundation upon which Afterhell is built.

Lawson said Afterhell has played during “safe harbor” times late at night on radio stations or on community stations that weren’t adverse to violence and profanity. However, connecting with a mainstream audience has proven difficult.

“We just gave up and quit trying to conform to any standards,” Medina said.

Still, Afterhell has found an audience and Ollin Productions has found ways to reach it. Afterhell is sold on on both compact discs and through MP3 downloads and people can always listen to the series at the Afterhell Website.

Of course, the couple markets some shows on Apple’s iTunes service, too. The Internet, indeed, has assisted Lawson and Medina in their quest to put together the series and get it out to the public.

“I don’t think we would have succeeded nearly as much without the Internet. I don’t think production would have started to begin with,” Medina said, adding that podcasting, the popularity of the MP3 digital audio format and the affordability of the hardware and software necessary for producing quality broadcasts makes it possible for people to record projects and distribute them around the world.

“It’s amazing how Democratic all this high tech stuff has become,” he said. “Better ideas thrive.”

Furthermore, there’s plenty of vocal talent in the Portland area willing to help out with the Afterhell series. And those voice actors volunteer to help out with productions.

“If we could pay our actors, we definitely would,” Lawson said. “Unfortunately, the number of discs we sell hasn’t quite gotten to the level where we can afford to do that.”

Lawson and Medina said a good number of the people pitching in to help with Afterhell are professionals – people who work regularly as writers as well as live-action and voice-over actors who are intrigued by the series and other Ollin Productions projects.

“I’d like to think they’re intrigued by the stories we’re telling,” Medina said. “Some are very educated, erudite people you’d think would be turned off by horror stories.

“One consistent thing we’ve heard from actors is that they’d like to do more (Afterhell scripts).”

As for Lawson and Medina, they said they work on productions because “they mostly can’t not do it” – their hobby has become a bit of an obsession. Both of them, of course, hope that modern audio theater becomes more popular as the genre gains fans throughout the world.

Actually, the genre is “alive and thriving” in Europe, the couple said, but is often considered a lost or dead art in the United States. It might be more accurate, then, to say the couple hopes they – and others like them – help ignite more enthusiasm for modern audio theater in the U.S.

Lawson and Medina said they’ve got some challenges, of course, due to the violent, turbulent nature of their series. Still, Medina said his scripts aren’t that far out in left field – they’ve come about as a reaction to the violence and ugliness that is part of living in a city.

“Artists exorcise their own demons,” he said. “That is my real inspiration for Afterhell.

“When you live in a big city, you see a lot of terrible things and meet a lot of people who become terrible people. (Afterhell) is a constructive outlet for some of those thoughts and feelings I have – otherwise, they’ll just show up in my dreams at night.”

The couple is working on a more mainstream project than AfterhellDicebag Theater. Lawson said that project involves showing people participating in role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and then transitioning into an audio program portraying what the players are imagining.

Meanwhile, the Lawson and Medina hold on to their day jobs but are still involved in modern audio theater – a genre they believe allows for high production values and creativity. They might not make much money at it, but they have a following and that’s good enough.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email =

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