Classic Rod Serling "Twilight Zone" episodes brought to the stage in his hometown
The Binghamton University theater department is bringing two of Rod Serling’s classic "Twilight Zone" episodes to the stage. Serling grew up in Binghamton, where he graduated from high school before enlisting in the Army in World War II.
"The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" and "Dust" aired on TV more than 50 years ago, but Doug Macur thinks the issues addressed in these "Twilight Zone" episodes still resonate in 2014 and will resonate another 50 years from now. "The issues that "The Twilight Zone" covers, in particular in these two episodes, are the kind of issues that will be ever-pervasive," said Macur, a Binghamton University alumnus and projection designer for the Theatre Department’s production of "Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone." "They’re never going to go away."
Audiences will get a chance to see just how relevant these stories are at 8 p.m. March 7-8, and March 14-15, and at 2 p.m. March 16, at the Watters Theater in the Fine Arts Building. Director Elizabeth Mozer has adapted the original scripts for "Monsters" and "Dust" into a two-act play, both of which deal with community—the disintegration of an idyllic 1950s suburb in "Monsters" and the redemption of a turn-of-the-century dustbowl town in "Dust." Like Macur, Mozer sees the stories of "The Twilight Zone" as morality plays that reflect real-world issues.
"I love ‘The Twilight Zone,’" Mozer said. "There are these imaginative parables that speak to societal issues, framed within fictional worlds that resemble our worlds, but one step removed so we can see ourselves without being oppressed by it because of the imaginative circumstances Serling places people in."
When Mozer moved to Binghamton a few years ago, she was astonished to learn that Serling had grown up in the area. Once she realized the connection and saw the pride the area has in its famous son, she sought to honor Serling’s work by dramatizing two of his 92 original scripts. She found assistance in Lawrence Kassan, founder and director of the Rod Serling Video Festival, who helped her get in touch with Serling’s daughter, Anne. After discussing her ideas, Serling gave Mozer her stamp of approval, and the show was a go. Serling will be in the Watters Theater Lobby at 1:30 p.m. March 16, prior to the performance, for a signing of her book, "As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling," which will also be available for purchase that day. Following the 2 p.m. performance, the director and company will be joined by Serling and Kassan for a talk-back with the audience.
"I re-discovered Serling after moving here," Mozer said. "That’s one of the reasons why I was so excited about the project. I have other ideas about translating films to stage, but because Rod Serling lived in Binghamton, that had a big impact on the choice. It got a lot of people excited about the project."
Kassan, who gave a presentation on the roots, life journey and continuing legacy of Serling to the cast and members of the public on Feb. 18, thinks Serling’s scripts are perfect for the live stage, and believes Mozer has what it takes to make them work.
"I think his work was extremely theatrical because he understood how to move people through drama," Kassan said. "His teleplays are like theatrical events, and I have complete confidence in Elizabeth that she will take his words and really make it a memorable piece of theater."
With the production taking place in the unofficial "Twilight Zone" capital of the world, the cast and crew expect plenty of people to come out and experience that magic.
"The name ‘The Twilight Zone’ alone has a certain draw," Macur said. "But ‘The Twilight Zone’ in Binghamton—that’s a huge draw."