Providence-based Writer Robert Isenberg Sounds Off on a Paranormal Passion Project

Zenith audio-drama is the latest offering from award-winning creative


When I invite people to listen to Zenith, I first have to explain what it is. “It’s an audio drama,” I tell them. “Like a movie, but just with sound. Remember those old-timey radio shows? Like that, but less hokey. And it’s a podcast. But only two episodes.”

Then I dive into the plot: Two Rhode Island women, lifelong friends, hike into the woods together one night. One intends to photograph the stars; the other wants to catch up after a long time apart. As tensions rise between them, they suddenly see something – something unearthly, in the sky, unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. Now comes the question: Do they tell people what they’ve witnessed? Or do they keep their paranormal experience to themselves?

To me, Zenith is more than just a light science fiction story about two townies from Johnston. This is my attempt to try something new, to venture into uncharted waters, and to collaborate with local talent and set a story in Little Rhody. “I work in the Creative Capital,” I keep reminding myself. “It’s time to start acting like it.”

I moved to Rhode Island in 2018, and for the fifth time in my life, I was starting from scratch. I met my first friends as a journalist – writing for this magazine – or chatting up strangers at the Wild Colonial Tavern. I was eager to plug myself into the local cultural scene, but who was I? Just another newcomer from a distant city. Who knew I had worked as a theater artist in Pittsburgh, or spent two years as a correspondent in Central America, or helped produce interviews for public radio stations in Arizona? I had to learn the ropes in my new home. I didn’t even know how to spell “Saugy’s,” much less know my way around the local arts community.

The game-changer came in 2022: I received a scriptwriting fellowship from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, along with a generous stipend. Over the course of that year, I wrote all kinds of scripts –

including Zenith, a low-budget indie movie I fancied filming myself.

Feature-length films are a tall order, of course. A busy calendar didn’t help, either. But then I thought of all the audio dramas I had heard, the scripted stories with voice actors and elaborate sound effects that podcasting had helped resuscitate. Surely I could do that, and for a fraction of the price. Audio dramas require no sets, props, or costumes. The actors need not even record their dialogue in the same place at the same time. And unlike theater, an audio drama has longevity: you can enjoy it whenever you want, and not even a global pandemic can shut it down.

After a few years in Providence, I had met plenty of people I could collaborate with. I workshopped the story with my Super Secret Writers Group at area pubs. The production itself stars Maggie Papa, a prolific theater artist I met through the Wilbury Theatre, and podcaster Emma Newbery. I cast my oldest Rhode Island friend, character-actor Michael Kinnane, for supporting roles. Much of the recording took place at LitArtsRI (formerly What Cheer), the writer’s club with its own recording studio. I recorded foleys by tromping around Roger Williams Park. Everywhere I looked, resources popped up. Zenith was a chance to make something fresh and novel, and to bring talented colleagues together.

Zenith is also just a first foray. I expect future projects to get ever more polished and ambitious. The sky’s the limit – and I’m raring to go. Listen to Zenith for free on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Learn more at



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