The Theater Between Your Ears
by RSMF President Andy Polak
Photos by Kate Murray, Studio 271
I never imagined Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone would have the same impact minus the spectacularly moody and dramatic photography that is so closely associated with this classic television show. This past October I was proven wrong.
Southern Tier Actors Read (STAR), in association with the Rod Serling Video Festival, presented staged readings of two episodes: “A Stop at Willoughby” and “Eye of the Beholder.” The great cast included the creator of the Rod Serling Video Festival and the force behind last year’s TZ@50 celebration, Larry Kassan, as the narrator.
The event took place at the new intimate black box theatre at Binghamton High School. It was a perfect setting!
What I failed to imagine was how the simple spoken word of something so well written as these two episodes would translate. How these well written words would make you think. How these well written words would make you ponder. How these well written words would make you consider. How these well written words would make you understand.
Of course the words had this impact thanks to the talent of the directors, actors and everyone involved in the production. I wish Rod could know how his writing still holds up. Perhaps he had an idea when he wrote his opening lines “This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.” He knew the imagination was an important dimension and he wrote in a way that stimulated the imagination.
This is a dimension that I hope STAR revisits on an annual basis.
Both of Rod Serling’s daughters and their husbands were able to attend the readings. I asked for their comments:
The readings of “Eye of the Beholder” and “A Stop at Willoughby” were thoughtful and professionally presented. The readings clearly gave the audience a visual and audio demonstration of my father's work. I believe it takes a very gifted actor to carry out such a performance and these adaptations were staged accordingly to have the same effectiveness as the actual TV shows.
The works of my father remain pertinent and important today as they were when he first created them. It is my feeling that many of his works will teach people something, lessons that will help us examine social consciousness and morality. It is the high quality of his writing that prevents my father's work from aging or becoming stale . I thank everyone for this incredible performance and look forward to further readings in the future.
I suppose that a testament to excellent writing is when it can be performed with no special effects, no props, no mysterious lighting—just actors sitting in chairs, scripts in hand, on an empty stage… and the recent October live readings (presented in conjunction with the Rod Serling Video Festival and STAR Southern Tier Actors Read) of “Eye of The Beholder” and “A Stop at Willoughby” did not disappoint.
The fact that these scripts were performed in the newly renovated and beautiful black box theater of my father’s old high school made this production even more poignant.
Of course this level of performance cannot be achieved without the inordinate amount of time and work and preparation that goes on before opening night. Directors (Heidi Weeks and Judy McMahon), production crew and a roster of extraordinary actors (Claus Evans, Tom Kremer, Bill Gorman and Bernie Sheredy—to name a few) and Larry Kassin (narrator) did an exceptional job and were all terrific.
My dad once said “Good writing, like wine, has to age well, and my stuff is momentarily adequate." He could not have been more wrong and would have been so honored to see his words come to life some fifty years after their first airing.
I like to think that on those two October evenings last fall, my dad and Helen Foley were right there, in spirit, front row center.
Click here to view the press release for this event