They Co-Created Epic Musical Theater During Pandemic. The Real Story Is Their Friendship

Mar 15, 2021

Collaborators Nye (left) and Terran first met at a goth picnic in Asheville's Riverside Cemetery.

The people who call themselves Nye and Terran met two years ago at a goth picnic in Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery.

“We decided we should have a meeting to see whether or not we were psychopaths,” Terran said. “So we picked a neutral location that now lives forever as the Waffle House of Friendship, so that we could get to know each other and decide whether we wanted to be friends, and it was like a fire started.”

That fire, as Terran put it, has resulted in an artistic achievement astonishing in its breadth and ambition. “Vacant Arcadia” is a musical theater opus airing online, in sound only, over 10 episodes spanning about 5½ hours. The show premieres March 18 through an online company called Holophonic Theatre.

Terran, age 41, wrote most of the dialog. Nye, who is 19 years younger than Terran, composed the music. Both use they/them pronouns and prefer using names they’re known by within the goth community rather than their birth names.

The pair cast seven performers from more than 100 who auditioned from around the world, most of them drawn by a TikTok video call for performers that attracted more than 15,000 views.

Up to that point, Terran’s writing experience was confined to poetry, short stories and a one-act play. Nye earns a living as an audio engineer for a YouTuber and had never formally composed music before. The notion for the show foretold the writing of it—all from middle-of-the-night sessions, sometimes all-nighters, during the pandemic. 

“It was probably on some level of sleep deprivation and it was definitely at, like, 3am,” Terran said about the seed of their idea.

“Oh yeah, it was definitely at 3am,” Nye added. “But at the same time, I like to think that both Terran and myself are kind of terrifying creative forces that will commit to very intense ideas and actually follow through with them. It just seemed ‘why not, you know?’ We both have the capacity to create crazy, crazy things.”

While the show features queer characters and queer culture at its foundation, Terran and Nye built the show around characters they found interesting and figured out the overarching story only deep into the writing process. The show explores Identity, addiction and personal transformation amid critical illness.

“Being someone on the LGBT spectrum, we don’t always get representation in media or get to have that sense of community in a normal way,” Nye said. “So we wanted to present something where it was normal.”

“The point of the play is not to have a platform for queerness,” Terran said. “The point is to tell a really good story in a queer space.”

The real story is the friendship Terran and Nye found in each other despite nearly two decades difference in age, cemented over sunset-to-sunrise marathons of smoking, talking and writing.

“I don’t want to say Nye wasn’t my best friend before we got into this, but they were definitely my best friend afterwards,” Terran said.

“We’re just both really crazy, artistic people and we get absolutely electric around each other,” Nye said. “So when we’re in the same space together, nothing but crazy and amazing things could happen, right?”