Into the Forest

Group of young creators construct a thrilling new world full of witchcraft and secrets


Alicia Selkirk

The Averno universe is set in a small Virginian town settled in the early 1700s by a highly religious family hoping to turn the town away from its supernatural past. The universe was created by Morgan Smith and has since expanded to include the works of many other young artists.

“Have you ever felt homesick for places unknown? Or forgotten the friends only you can see, now that you’re grown? What if I told you that they never left?” are the opening lines to the song “Welcome to Camp Averno”  composed by August Greenwood and Sushi Soucy and performed by August Greenwood. The song beckons listeners to come and explore a world where your fantasies are realities, where you’re able to uncover secrets of the universe, and most important of all, where you’re able to finally feel at home.  It served as an introduction to an event called “Camp Averno” which the Averno team hosted during the summer featuring various daily challenges on social media platforms while the team worked on developing several musicals.

You may be wondering, what is Averno exactly? 

Averno is essentially the brainchild of creator Morgan Smith: a transmedia universe with a focus on nature, witches, cryptids, and a tiny corner of the world where everyone feels like they belong. The universe finds its basis around the perceptions of the human mind and how they work together. Smith often mentions on social media how Averno has no end, but is constantly expanding. At the time of this article, there are currently 13 musicals, a podcast, a TV show, a concept album, four novels, a webcomic musical, and more in the works. All of these center on a small town in Virginia with a deep and ancient past, full of secrets waiting to be explored.

Morgan Smith, the creator of Averno, is pictured during the events of Camp Averno. Camp Averno was an online event which ran from Jul. 27 to Aug. 9 2020 while the Averno creative got together to develop several of the musicals in the Averno universe. (Courtesy of the Averno Instagram)

The creative team for the franchise also continues to expand as more and more artists contribute their talents with artwork, writing, and creating new stories on the Averno Discord page. All of these new additions have created a very supportive community surrounding Averno, making the town feel almost as if it were real. There’s shops and stores, a mysterious forest that takes in those who dare to answer its call, an intricate history, and even a school that is a more realistic and less controversial version of Hogwarts called A New School. All of this and more is mentioned in an elaborate document known as “The Averno Bible”.

Because of this Averno has earned itself a dedicated fanbase. For many, their journey to Averno began through social media. In the early months of summer Smith posted a clip of an animatic (“Twinkling Lights” Bittersummer Animatic) of a song from the musical “Bittersummer” (formerly known as “Sweetbitter”) on their TikTok account. The musical was going to be the first installment of the Averno universe and performed in the summer of 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19. Viewers were directed from that TikTok to the official YouTube and Instagram page for Averno. Contrastingly, other people became acquainted with Averno through posts on Instagram and some of the guest stars on the cast recordings they have released so far including “Carrie: the Musical” and “Anastasia” star Christy Altomare and Mariah Rose Faith who stars as Regina George on the First National Tour of “Mean Girls”.

As of currently, one graphic novel, a podcast (“Live From Averno”), a concept album, and four musicals have been released as part of the Averno Universe. The first of the four musicals is “Willow: A New Musical” which features a book by Morgan Smith and music by August Greenwood. There are three different storylines followed in the musical: Grace and Cassia, a young gay couple that has to deal with the issue of learning how to let go; Adelaide and Beatrice, an older gay couple consisting of a woman learning how to step-out from her picture-perfect life and the other learning how to reel it in; and Meg, a young girl face-to-face with the realities of growing up. What ties all of their stories together is the willow tree that they all meet under, which ends up becoming a sort of sanctuary. The concept recording for this musical debuted at #7 on the Billboard Cast Album Chart. The cast of this album highlighted Janeen Garcia as Cassia, Emma Freeman as Grace, Abigail Greenwood as Adelaide, Rachael Chau as Beatrice, and Madelyn Paterna as Meg.

In early 2021, the team released their second musical (a complete surprise to fans) called “Dazed: A New Musical”. The musical was part of a game called Find Averno ARG where members of the Averno fanbase were given clues including websites, articles, fake social media pages, and more in order to solve the disappearance of a student at A New School named Kennedy. The musical was dropped about a week after the game began and was labeled as “the biggest clue” in solving the mystery. In addition to the cast recording, a YouTube film directed by Cayden Larrosa was released showing two characters from the “Live From Averno” podcast trying to figure out what happened to Hugo Selva, who has disappearred under mysterious circumstances. Unbeknownst to them, Kennedy has found Hugo’s journal and is now ready to follow the journal as they try to find their way into Unverno. The music for the musical is composed by Alicia Selkirk with lyrics by Alicia Selkirk and Morgan Smith and the script written by Morgan Smith. The cast of this musical included Emma Freeman as Clover, James Frazier as Quinn and the voice of Hugo in the film, Morgan Smith as Will, Cayden Larrosa as the actor for Hugo, and Alicia Selkirk as Kennedy.

The most recent work in the Averno Universe (as of writing this article) is their third musical “Over and Out: A New Musical”. It was released on Jan.14 at midnight. After just one day of being released, the album was ranked at #15 in Soundtracks on iTunes. The story follows another student at A New School named Solar, a freshman who feels out of place in this world. One night when they climb up onto the rooftop of one of the school buildings with their radio and walkie talkie, they accidentally make contact with another student named Nova. Without seeing each other’s faces, they began to form a bond which has the potential to lead to something much more. The lyrics and music for this musical were written by Sushi Soucy with the additional violin part composed by Nalah Palmer. The story and script were both created and written by Morgan Smith. The two person cast features Sushi Soucy as Solar and Janeen Garcia as Nova (with a cameo of August Greenwood in one song). In the week that followed it’s release, the cast album topped Billboard’s Cast Album Chart at #14.

“Over and Out” was the third of the Averno musicals to be released and the second to be released as part of a partnership with Broadway Records. The musical follows two students from A New School trying to find where they fit inside a universe that feels obscure, who end up finding each other instead. (Design by parodybill)

Seeing young artists achieve success like this is an empowering experience. Time-and-time again adolescent performers, artists, composers, writers, and everything in-between are discouraged from sharing their passion in these areas, resulting in many of these talented individuals becoming discouraged and giving up on their work. The success of Averno shows exactly what happens when creatives like these are allowed the chance to shine. And that’s something that is really, really beautiful.

The amount of detail put into this world rivals the fantasy worlds built by adults twice their age, which is probably one of the most impressive things about this group. All of dedication and effort they’ve put into their craft is evident through the beautiful and mystifying lyrics and music, the immersive storytelling, and evocative history behind the town. 

The addition of the community that has been created surrounding Averno, providing a space for fans that celebrates the unique and the unknown, and that feels like home to so many, is just another aspect of the Averno Universe that is very remarkable. With so many twists and turns and crevices yet to be explored, there is truly a place for everybody. In a time where there is so much exclusion seen in online fanbases, it’s so refreshing to find a place that feels like everyone one is included and no one fan is better than another. When someone joins the Averno fandom, they aren’t just becoming part of a fanbase, but a family. In the words of one of the tag lines for the universe, they’ve finally “Come Home”.

To learn more about the town of Averno, please visit the Official Averno Township Website  or check out the town’s Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, tumblr, or TikTok accounts.