Look Under Your Feet, the Past is There

As part of a 2017 Artist-in-Residency at Badlands National Park, Leslie McMurtry created an audio drama.

As I began researching the history of the Badlands, I realized there were so many stories to be told that I would have to make some choices about what aspects of this area to highlight. Furthermore, as the first audio dramatist (dramaturg?) at the Badlands National Park, I felt I had a duty to the art form, which is constantly being singled out as “dying” or “dead.” The audio drama I wrote and produced might be the first audio drama many visitors to the Badlands have ever heard, so it needed to showcase the form. In the resulting audio drama, I wanted to give as broad a picture of the Badlands as possible (chronologically and thematically) including human history (Native American and white culture) and geologic/paleontological record; in a relatively short audio drama format (for practical production purposes). I was determined that it needed to be radiogenic--making use of interesting, rich soundscapes, personifying non-human characters in a way that would be less successful in other media, and making use of what Dermot Rattigan calls radio’s “macro and micro scale” (the way radio and audio media address a large audience but also speak directly and intimately to each listener). I decided that the audio drama conversely must not be too complex so that listeners new to audio drama could follow along.

From this, I wondered: How many stories is it possible to tell in such parameters? Given the historical and ongoing contentions and conflicts in the Badlands area, was it more important to accurately depict these or to create a more positive, hopeful attitude to the piece that listeners would take away with them as their impression of the Badlands? Did I, I wondered, have a duty as an artist to tell certain stories or make certain statements?

Every place is connected to the past, and Look Under Your Feet, The Past Is There attempts to illustrate this by invoking the cyclical nature of time and the interconnectedness of its characters and settings (contemporary, 1806, 70 million years ago, 1946, 1886). The timeless, Greek chorus-like commentators, Wind and Grass, are able to unite these disparate threads and bring harmony to a cacophony. The past literally speaks to Mitchell, a bored urban visitor, as it does to his predecessor, the trapper Joseph Morgan. The past has a more ambiguous, haunting quality for Julia Walker as she abandons Conata, and Look Under Your Feet, The Past Is There is aware of echoes of adverse reactions to life in the Badlands.

Some say that radio “has the best pictures.” Visitors to the Badlands National Park are at an advantage when hearing this audio drama in situ, as they have stunning visual referents all around them. However, anyone can use his or her imagination and follow Mitchell and the Pteranodon to the balmy Cretaceous sea or huddle in a homestead with Leah Pickler and her family, listening to the coyotes. “It’s easy to find a link to the past. Anyone can do it.”
Wind .........................................Fiona Thraille
Grass........................................Ted Wenskus
Kim ...........................................Natalie Heng
Mitchell ....................................Adam Dunham
The Pteranodon ......................Nick Armstrong
Morgan Tall Hat .......................Amaris Feland Ketcham
Joseph Morgan .......................Terry Cooper
Wanaghi ...................................Jasmine Isaksson
Jean-François Hunoult ...........Sebastian Touray
Julia Jessie Walker .................C. Eleiece Krawiec
Leah Wayne Pickler ................Rebecca Thomas
Park Ranger ............................James C. Ferguson
Tony .........................................Jesse Young
BBC Reporter ..........................Jamie Beckwith
NPR Reporter ..........................Leslie McMurtry
Nick Armstrong (Pteranodon) is the Geek-in-Chief behind WTF Marketing and Fort Collins Comic Con, a dad, author, Ignite, PechaKucha, and TEDx speaker, audio drama enthusiast, and award-winning entrepreneur. Nick's foray into audio drama started around the campfire with his grandfather and old tapes of The Shadow. In high school, he made audio skits with his friends by (badly) imitating celebrities of the day and progressed through college joining the Parsec Award-celebrated Giant Gnome Productions. Meet Nick at:

Jamie Beckwith (BBC Reporter) By day, Jamie works for a charity that provides affordable housing for women in London; by night, he is an aspiring screenwriter. He makes noises like a prairie dog when he sleeps.

Gemma Cartmell (Composer) is studying Music Composition at the University of Chichester and will be doing an MA in Composition for Film, TV and Games. Her influences are Chopin, Prokofiev, video game composer Jessica Curry and Tim Burton film composer Danny Elfman. She plays the piano and also writes novels and short stories.

James C. Ferguson (Park Ranger) is an award-winning writer whose plays have been produced throughout the United States,the UK and New Zealand. He has written two novels, numerous screenplays and a number of projects for television and the web. James is also the co-writer and director of the well-reviewed independent motion picture Happy Holidays, available through Amazon, Android Market, SNAG FILMS, Vudu and on DVD through TLA Video. For additional info. go to his web site – or on Twitter @scalepluspoints.

Natalie Heng (Kim) is an writer and audiobook narrator with a passion for amateur dramatics. She enjoys giving life to the spectrum of human voices that colour our lives - the dark and the deep, the bright and the colourful, the light and the beautiful. She spends her time between Malaysia and the UK, you can find her writing and audio work at or explore her audiobook titles on

Amaris Feland Ketcham (Morgan Tall Hat) occupies her time with open space, white space, CMYK, flash nonfiction, long trails, f-stops, line breaks, and several Adobe Programs running simultaneously. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, and the Utne Reader.
She lives in Albuquerque, NM.

Eleiece Krawiec (Julia Jessie Walker) lives in the New Orleans, Louisiana metropolitan area. She got into voice-acting ten plus years ago…”on a whim,” discovered how much she enjoyed it, and has never looked back. She’s
voiced a variety of characters in that time, including her current ongoing role as Dr. Rachel Winston in the Audio Drama Outpost – A Star Trek Fan Production.

Leslie McMurtry (Writer/Producer) was born in Albuquerque, NM, and has lived in Swansea, London, and Manchester in the UK. She has been writing audio dramas since 2007. The Mesmerist, produced by Camino Real, was broadcast on KUNM FM in 2010. She currently teaches radio theory at the University of Salford.

Rebecca Thomas (Leah Wayne Pickler) is a Texas-based narrator and voice actor drawn to science fiction and fantasy audiobooks, audio dramas, and interactive projects. A former math, science, and writing teacher, Rebecca has long woven together her performing arts and teaching skills to present material, develop educational programming, and manage a variety of projects. Outside the studio, Rebecca reads compulsively, writes short
stories and novellas, blogs about autodidactism and communities of practice, and shares behind-the-scene glimpses into her creative practices.

Fiona Thraille (Wind) is a British voice actor, narrator and audio producer who has worked in voiceover, podcasts, and who has narrated and produced over a dozen audiobooks through Audible. For a year she recently co-hosted and produced The Audio Drama Production Podcast, and is excited to be part of their UK troupe taking new audio dramas to the stage this spring. Her audio drama When We Were Two will be released later this year, and she is due to work on production on Hell Is For Other People by Leslie McMurtry, for the Audio Drama Network this Summer.

Sebastian Touray (Jean-Francois Hunoult) 36 year-old linguist and translator, loves travel and
books, and has an over-active imagination. h t t p : / / g m e . s e k i z e n d o . c o m

Ted Wenskus (Grass) is a stage and voice actor from Rochester, NY. He has performed in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Judgment at Nuremberg, Hedda Gabbler, and Twelve Angry Men on stage and been featured in The Cherry Orchard, Abraham Lincoln, and Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince & Other Tales on Ted is also a published playwright and has had works produced in England, Australia, the Philippines, and throughout New York, earning a Theatre Association of New York State award for playwriting in the process. He is currently working on numerous fiction, theater, and audio drama projects (as always).


Original compositions by Gemma Cartmell
“Silver Threads Among the Gold” (1873) – piano and performance by Fred Feild of Sheet Music Singer Used with
“Night of the Owl” Kevin MacLeod (, Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Licensed under Creative Commons 0 License: “Fiddlin' Around » Arkansas Traveler.wav” by ecfike
Licensed under Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0 License: “Acoustic guitar of Valentin Sosnitskiy » Acoustic guitar –country” by Valentin Sosnitskiy

Licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain / Sound Recording Common Law Protection License:
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” by the Haydn Quartet (Antique Phonograph Music)
“Good-Night” by the Knickerbocker Quartet (Antique Phonograph Music)

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License: “Coal Miners” by Art of Escapism

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License: “El Diablo” by Cletus Got Shot
Licensed under Creative Commons 0 License
· “Working with shovel.wav” by Ohrwurm
· “Parque da Cidade » goose.aiff” by helupema
· “oceanwaves-4.wav” by Rmutt
· “Horses.wav” by Ornery
· “Cicadas” by dethrok
· “Water » Trickling Water 5” by Yoyodaman234
· “baby » crying baby merged.wav” by Bonehead
· “Various FX » child crying in airport lobby.wav” by Chimerical
· “Cefn Mably Farm Sounds » chicken coop with cockerel.wav” by odilonmarcenaro
· “Ice > Ice Crack 4” by j_p_higgins
· “Bangs and Explosions » Explosion_001.mp3” by cydon
· “Housework > Pouring bucket” by 13F_Panska_Koprivikova_Klara
· “TheLightningFarmer_radioplay » tlfwater_splashes_01.wav” by islandan
· “A Walk with stop.wav” by straget
· “A squeaking goose” by antique98
· “Stream running water / Aviemore Scotland” by Burgh Records Licensed under Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0
· “RG Birds fly.wav” by cmusounddesign
· “Beating wings.wav” by juskiddink
· “wolfs.wav” by ondrosik
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· “Wind » rattling window.WAV” by inchadney
· “Wind Farms » Esperance Wind Farm II” by kangaroovindaloo
· “Toronto » Running On Boardwalk.WAV” by jakobthiesen
· “BaseballHitAndCrowdCheer.mp3” by AmishRob
· “Crickets_02.wav” by RSilveira_88
· “FIREPLACE” by leosalom
· “Museum Ambiance.wav” by Toybox
· "Door, Church, Close, E.wav" by InspectorJ
· "Thunder, Very Close, Rain, A.wav" by InspectorJ
· "Wind, Synthesized, A.wav" by InspectorJ
· “"Splash, Jumping, A.wav" by InspectorJ”
· “Bat Wings (Fast)” by Natty23
· “Owls » Tawny Owls 2.wav” by Benboncan
· “Fire » petit feu-little fire (2).wav” by Glaneur du sons
· “sh_Man_Running_Footsteps_On_Carpet.wav” by shall555
· “Cash Register” by kidd park
· “Room sound party.WAV” by paul messier
· “Ranch Sounds » Ranch_Ambiance_Wind_Field_Grass 01.wav” by n_audioman
· “RadioTune_2_bip.wav” by passAirmangrace
· “Household > cutlery - spoons” by emilyws
· “Stanford > clock tower.wav” by xserra
· “Lake Hughes Coyote, Dec 23, 5:30 AM » Coyote from the front door ampl.mp3” by sithjawa Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License
· “funeral silencium trumpet.wav” by Robinhood76
· “Field Recordings » wind and trees and snow.WAV” by Tim Kahn
· “In Car Ambiance.wav” by Blu_150058 From Sound Effects + /Finnolia Productions Inc. (Standard License)
· “Highway Traffic Ambiance 02”
· “Laptop typing keyboard 02”
· “Fireplace Poker Movement 01”
· “Cloth movement 02”
· “Steam Locomotive Train Arrive and Stop 01”
· “Clock tolling 01”
· “Page Turning Flipping through Three Pages 01”
· “Pencil Writing 01”
· “Antique Car Approaching Slow”
· “Antique Car Departing”

From Xeno-Canto
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
ShareAlike 3.0
· “Burrowing Owl CA, Salton Sea area, Imperial County,
March 13, 2012” by Paul Marvin
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
ShareAlike 4.0
· “Red Tailed Hawk Montana (near Valier), Pondera County,
Montana” by Thomas Magarian

From Sound
· Old Car Horn Sound Effect

NPS Sound Gallery
· Musket Fire

With thanks to the cast, SFX recordists and musicians for making generous use
of their talent, Alelinge Agonifer, Elizabeth Beckwith and Jordan Stirland, Mary
Lewis, Carol Renfro, Illene Renfro, Christine Czazasty, Ed Welsh and all the
staff and volunteers at the Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park

Last updated: July 23, 2020