WEST BATH — In her West Bath living room, Marsha Hinton stabs pins into a world map hanging on the wall. Each tiny pin represents somewhere someone downloaded her soap opera podcast, “Restless Shores,” which released its 100th episode on Thursday. Some pins are as near as Brunswick while others dot countries including China, Israel and Brazil.

“When we reached 1,000 downloads I was so excited because I didn’t expect to hit that,” said Hinton. “Now, 46,000 people in over 70 countries have listened to this podcast and it freaks me out to think of all the people I’ve reached with this soap opera.”

Hinton’s podcast, created with her husband, Thom, began as a joke, but it quickly swelled into a passion project.

“It started out as a joke after some friends of mine at work were asking me what I’m going to do next,” said Hinton. “The idea of a soap opera never left my head, it just stuck there. Televised soap operas are declining, and it’s not because people aren’t interested in them, it’s just because they aren’t home to watch them.”

Denise Shannon, who plays Rhonda Weppler, at a recording session of “Restless Shores” in West Bath. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

She described the plot as: “a bunch of really awful people who run around doing really awful things to one another.”

The 15-minute weekly episodes follow the escapades of people vying to control a billion-dollar pharmaceutical company in an unnamed coastal city. Although podcasts don’t allow for “15-second pensive stares into the camera,” Hinton said, “Restless Shores” is full of soap opera essentials including marital affairs, blackmail, clones and the occasional coma.

“Restless Shores” doesn’t attract millions of listeners like other popular fictional podcasts including “Serial” and “Welcome to Night Vale.” However, Matt Frassica, a Portland-based podcast producer and consultant, said the “Restless Shores’” episode library and listener base is impressive.

“Any podcast making it to 100 episodes is a huge deal,” said Frassica. “Anyone doing it on their own for the love of storytelling is an accomplishment. The pressure of making something on a regular schedule, especially when you’re starting out and feeling like nobody’s listening.”

Frassica said true crime podcasts are among the most popular podcasts available now, alongside talk shows featuring celebrities, which have built-in audiences.

He said “Restless Shores’” soap opera storyline is “unusual,” but he maintains “If you make something good as a podcaster, you can get the attention you deserve.”

“Once you make a podcast and upload it, it appears right there next to podcasts made by the New York Times and NBC,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it from West Bath, Maine. I can’t think of any other media where that’s true.”

COVID-19 nearly causes curtain call

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, actors and producers would crowd into Hinton’s living room on Tuesday nights to record the 15-minute episodes, but that had stop when the pandemic arrived in Maine in March 2020.

“When COVID-19 hit, it terrified me that I might bring something home to my mom who lives with us, so I quit my job at L.L. Bean,” she said. “I told my actors I had to kill to show because I couldn’t afford to pay them anymore. It broke my heart to have to kill the show because it’s my baby.”

Emily Grotz, who plays Elise Geltz, records an episode of “Restless Shores” in West Bath. Photo courtesy of Marsha Hinton

Zach Hoogkamp, who plays Milton Roupp, the story’s main antagonist, said the actors and producers agreed to continue making “Restless Shores” without pay.

“We all love this project so much, and the pay was just a pleasant bonus,” said Hoogkamp. “This is a way that we can express ourselves in this form not many other people get to do. By day I’m a Wayfair employee, but on Tuesday nights I become a 72-year-old pharmaceutical CEO. Who else gets to do that?”

Hinton said she hopes to attract some ad revenue from marketing soon so she can pay her actors and producers.

“For $15, you can get a 30-second ad on ‘Restless Shores’ and no one will do it so far,” she said. “Nobody is getting paid. They’re still working for free and that bothers me.”

Now, actors either record their lines at home and send them to the producers, or they come individually to Hinton’s home to record their lines. While the room doesn’t buzz with energy like it did when everyone was together in one room, head writer Greg Tulonen said the podcast hasn’t skimped on quality or the passion actors put into their roles.

“The fact that we’re still here in a pandemic, two years later with 100 episodes said and done, is a testament to the love and commitment we’ve all put into it,” said Hoogkamp. “I think we’re going to keep riding this wagon until the wheels fall off.”

“Restless Shores” can be listened to at restless-shores.com.


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