112: Writing a Scripted Audio Fiction Series with Jessica Wright Buha and Bilal Dardai of Unwell

Tamara talks with Jessica Wright Buha, and Bilal Dardai, staff writers with Unwell, a fiction podcast about conspiracies, ghosts, and unusual families of blood and choice.

Jessica and Bilal lay out the difference between writing for stage and writing for audio, the writers’ room of Unwell, the timeline, and what it’s like to write for an ongoing series. Near the end of our conversation you’ll hear their thoughts about how writing for audio might fit more seamlessly into the life of a parent-writer.

Bilal Dardai is an award-winning playwright, performance artist, and essayist with over two decades of experience working on stages throughout the Chicago area. He is an ensemble alumnus and former artistic director of The Neo-Futurists, a current ensemble member of Lifeline Theatre, and a member of the writing staff for HartLife’s acclaimed audio drama Unwell. Bilal lives in Evanston with his wife, son, and a vast array of eclectic media.

As a writer of audio dramas, Jessica Wright Buha is a three-time finalist of Deathscribe, an international horror radio play competition, and is currently a staff writer on the audio drama Unwell: A Midwestern Gothic Mystery, which recently hit half a million downloads and is regularly in the top fifty on Apple’s fiction podcasts chart. She also has extensive experience as a theatrical playwright, and her plays have been produced by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (a co-production with Filament Theatre), South Africa’s National Children’s Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, the Plagiarists, the Whiskey Rebellion, and others.

Unwell is produced by HartLife NFP, based in Chicago and comprised of a diverse team of professional writers, directors, actors, and sound designers. HartLife NFP is the company behind eight seasons of the acclaimed science fiction epic Our Fair CityOur Fair City launched in 2011 and was a pioneer in fiction podcasting. HartLife NFP has won awards and critical acclaim for its dynamic acting, incisive writing, and high level of production.

This piece, How to Write a Scripted Audio Fiction Series with Jessica Wright Buha and Bilal Dardai of Unwell was originally published on HowlRound Theatre Commons on March 18, 2020 (see that page for transcript). This interview series for Howlround is part of Tamara’s quest to learn more about audio drama by speaking with the people who are working in the medium.

Music: Spring Idyll by Pennee Miles.

HartLife NFP
Deathscribe/Wildclaw Theatre
Lifeline Theatre


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Artist Soapbox

Artist Soapbox is a platform for original scripted audio fiction and an opportunity for artists to discuss their creative work in their own voices. We do this through our interview podcast, our blog, live events, and original audio dramas.

Artist Soapbox is an anti-racist organization. We believe Black Lives Matter. In addition, as a podcast production company, ASBX has signed the Equality in Audio Pact on Broccoli Content.

Artist Soapbox is more than just a podcast.

We lead writers groups, accountability support, workshops, and events. We produce and create audio dramas too! Listen to the Master BuilderThe New Colossus Audio Drama, Jesus Pancake, Declaration of Love, Food for Thought, and ASBX Shorts. Stay tuned to hear about more projects written by the Soapbox Audio Collective Writers’ Group.

Audio Dramas

Jesus (1400 × 1400 px)-2

Jesus Pancake

Jesus Pancake is the newest scripted audio fiction series from Artist Soapbox. Nine episodes of zany dark comedy.


The New Colossus

The New Colossus Audio Drama is a totally unhinged dark comedy reboot of Anton Chekhov’s classic play, THE SEAGULL.


Master Builder

This audio drama was adapted from Tamara’s 2018 stage play produced by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern and inspired by Henrick Ibsen’s classic, The Master Builder published in 1892.


Declaration of Love

Co-producers Aurelia Belfield and Tamara Kissane of Artist Soapbox commissioned eleven NC playwrights to craft short audio scenes based on the prompt “Declaration of Love.”


Food for Thought

Three pilot episodes of new scripted audio fiction series inspired by the prompt Food for Thought.


ASBX Shorts

ASBX Shorts are six short audio fiction pieces created and produced by North Carolina artists. Artist Soapbox Shorts were specifically contributed by the artists to aid in fundraising and to get everyone excited about Jesus Pancake, our new audio fiction series in development.

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