Pro-deux-er of the Months: Cat Blackard

Welcome back to Pro-deux-er of the Months! This month, we’re joined by the multi-talented Cat Blackard, creator of The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program and co-host of MOTHER,” She Wrote with Jessica Mudd. Blackard’s award-winning works blend actual play, audio drama, and engaging discussions to create audio experiences like nothing else. She shared with us her audio drama journey, what they love about the medium, and the secret to supporting your work while retaining core values.

When did you join Fable and Folly?

I joined Fable and Folly in 2021. Prior to that, I’d co-founded and run two podcast networks simultaneously – The Nerdy Show Network and Consequence Podcast Network. I’d seen the difficulties of network management firsthand and the tolls that creating this infrastructure can take on creators. As I shifted away from talk podcasts into exclusively narrative-driven work, and stepped down from management to be a full-time creator, Fable and Folly rose up to champion audio fiction in ways I’d been hoping for. Bringing my existing series, The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program to Fable and Folly was a no-brainer.

What part of making your show gets you the most excited?

With audio fiction so much is possible. I can challenge myself as a producer and director, and end up collaborating in amazing ways I never would have expected. For example – recently, in “MOTHER,” She Wrote, I wrote an episode involving a town where all the adults had been abducted, leaving all the children behind. I had no idea how I was going to pull it off, but I threw caution to the wind and scripted parts for crowds of children and some emotionally complex performances for young people. Within a month’s time, I was recording amazing performances with young actors at Nashville Children’s Theatre as a part of their fall break program. It was an incredible experience and brought these scenes to life beyond my expectations.

What is your favorite thing about audio fiction as a medium?

Audio fiction is one of the most freeing storytelling mediums there is. Because we get to work within the listeners’ theatre of the mind, there’s no limit to what we can do or where we can go. I love telling stories that blend genres and take risks in ways that would be nearly impossible in more expensive and controlled mediums like TV and film – while still being able to pull on heartstrings in ways that only acting, music, and sound design can allow. I’ve never had this kind of narrative freedom before – audio fiction allows me to tell cinematic stories on my terms.

What’s a big, pipe-dream goal you have for your show?

My show, The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program, is created via an unconventional combination of storytelling methods. Our writing process begins with tabletop roleplaying, where our cast of writer/actors embody their characters, like an unconventional spin on a writer’s room for a television series. These improvised narratives and performances become the basis for our show, but that’s not the end – it’s just a launching point for additional writing and expansion of the story. As a horror comedy, Mystery Program thrives on the actual lived fear and tension-breaking of our cast, making for twists and turns that wouldn’t be possible were it not for the unique environment that roleplay provides. In combining this work with intensive revision, scripting, and post-production, we’ve made an experience that’s not like anything else out there and are continuing to develop new methods for collaborative storytelling which I sincerely hope can offer creators new ways to think about how to write and create character-driven stories in any medium.

What do you hope listeners take away from your show?

With all of my work, I place an emphasis on compassion and broadening perspectives. This might sound weird coming from someone who’s best known for a horror podcast – but that’s the point. Very few things in life are black and white and the only true evil that we know of in this world is made by human hands. And those human hands? They’re not monstrous at the start of their life and after doing something monstrous they may change – for better or worse. In mainstream storytelling we typically only see one side of a person, but in my stories I strive to showcase the characters and their world with greater dimensionality. I hope that by interfacing with stories like these, with characters from many walks of life and backgrounds, we can better see ourselves, better explore human nature, and live in a more compassionate world.

In your opinion, what’s the most important part of a good in-universe ad?

Capitalism sucks. It would be great if we didn’t have to participate in it. But, for as long as artists require money to live and to make their art, I’m glad that outlets like Fable and Folly and companies (who’ve taken the leap to throw money at our burgeoning medium) champion our ability to have fun with our audience. Good in-universe ads have fun with the preposterous nature of advertising and product placement. They don’t treat their audience like tools, they bring them in on the joke. They may even inspire and expand storylines in unexpected ways or take on the life of their own. Whether the product is useful to the listener or not, at the very least, as long as we’ve got to hustle to survive, we might as well have a good time while doing it.