Original sci-fi audio drama “Relativity,” by Theatre UAB professor, wins AVA Digital Award

Lee Shackleford’s “Relativity” is a serialized adventure about a man on a damaged spaceship hurtling toward another planet and a woman at mission control who fights to keep him alive.

realtive.2A sci-fi audio drama serial created by and starring Theatre UAB’s Lee Shackleford was named a Platinum Winner in the 15th annual AVA Digital Awards.

The serial, “Relativity,” won in the Podcast category. “Relativity” is a serialized adventure about a man who finds himself alone on a gigantic and badly damaged spaceship hurtling toward another planet and a woman at mission control who fights valiantly to keep him alive. The story unfolds over 60 episodes, usually between 10 and 15 minutes each. “Relativity” can be heard on all major podcast platforms and on the web at relativitypodcast.com.

AVA Digital Awards is an international competition that recognizes excellence by creative professionals responsible for the planning, concept, direction, design and production of digital communication. Work ranges from digital campaigns and audio and video production to website development, social media engagement and mobile marketing.

Shackleford is a University of Alabama at Birmingham associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Theatre. A writer for stage, screen and radio, Shackleford teaches a variety of creative writing courses. The creator and writer of “Relativity,” he also plays a lead role.

“I started with the idea that it would be essentially one long telephone conversation, just one person talking this lone astronaut through procedures for fixing life-and-death problems that would arise — sort of ‘Apollo 13’ as a radio play,” Shackleford said. “I cast myself as the guy because I’m available and I really wanted to do it. And I knew from day one that the best chance this concept had of working would be if UAB alumna Alana Jordan played the smart, tough woman on the other end of the line.”

Jordan, the show’s co-star, lives in North Hollywood, California, so she and Shackleford worked on the program from opposite sides of the country. As the story continued, he added more voices and points of view with new characters, including a comic-relief guy “played with marvelous commitment by another Department of Theatre alumnus, Scottye Moore, who quickly became a fan favorite,” he said.

The climactic 60th episode was released in September 2020.

“Apparently a lot of people are now bingeing the whole thing and loving it,” Shackleford said. “I didn’t write the scripts with that in mind, so I am delighted that the show still works that way.”

“The show’s been nominated for a lot of awards; but the AVA is a big deal, and I never dreamed we would have a chance.”

The AVA Digital Awards are administered and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, one of the most respected evaluators of creative work in the marketing and communication industry. The AMCP announced the winners of the AVA Digital Awards on Jan. 13.

All of the AVA Digital Awards winners are listed on the website at www.avaawards.com.

relative.3Lee Shackleford Co-star Alana Jordan

In a happy coincidence, Jordan was also named a winner in the AVA Digital Awards, but for a different project entirely. Her award, the Golden “Creator with a Conscience,” was for an on-air interview she conducted on the topic of body positivity.

Jordan was not a Department of Theatre major but performed with the department during her time at UAB. An actor, singer and dancer, Jordan worked on films where “she was priceless in front of the camera and behind it,” Shackleford said. She was “Columbia” in Theatre UAB’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show.” In 2015, a script by Shackleford was shot in California as the pilot for a web series, and he pushed hard for Jordan to play the lead role.

“She got the part and was, in the opinion of everyone who saw it, brilliant,” Shackleford said. “That’s ‘Herlock,’ my all-female modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes, in which she played an intriguing version of Watson.