The Twilight Zone: Live!
Theater Schmeater, November 2018
Director: Rachel Delmar
Lighting Design: Lily McLeod
Scenic Design: Konstantin Lazarov
Costume Design: Hannah Stellmacher
Props Design: Jessamyn Bateman-lino
Every year Theater Schmeater receives special permission from CBS to turn Rod Serling-written episodes of the Twilight Zone into live plays, producing and performing them through November December as a counterpart to the Nutcrackers and Christmas Carols of the city. As a giant fan of the Twilight Zone, I had been hoping to get to work on one of these productions ever since I moved to Seattle, so when finally asked to sound design it this past year I leaped at the chance!
However, as eager as I was to work on a show with such rich source material, the production was not without its share of stumbling blocks--the first and foremost being the small space the show was being performed in: a long-ago converted fitness studio with all of the charm and challenge of a fringe theatre shoehorned into a space not built for theatre. And, because the company was losing their lease at the end of the year, any upkeep on the space had ended quite a while before I got there. The final result was still lovely, and while the sound was limited to 4 mis-matched speakers at each corner of the room and a tiny speaker in the lobby, I was quite happy with the end product!
A lucky benefit to the company's deal with CBS was unfettered use of music written for the show, so I got to have fun cutting together and scoring these with different pieces from the original show. Each episode was essentially a short play that lived in its own world, but I still wanted to keep all of them unified to some degree so it wouldn't just feel like a fringe festival of sorts. To do this, I found several songs that I could use as themes on more than one occasion without being too obvious as well as few other "recyclable" cues, and made sure each piece flowed well into the next.
The episodes presented this year were To Serve Man, Deaths-head Revisited, The Shelter, and Changing of the Guard. In between the first two and second two acts, "commercials" were read by the cast's Rod Serling to entertain audiences through scene changes, which helped as well.
While I unfortunately do not have any photos from the show, I have included a couple of clips from the first episode along with my cue sheet to give some context.
This is a clip from a direct recording of my QLab file for the show, from the end of preshow-- a string of 50's pop hits filtered to sound like they were coming from an old radio with static and short clips from 50's/60's TV themes spliced in--through the curtain speech (Rod Serling played by Madhu Rao) and the opening cue of the first episode, To Serve Man. It was by far the most sound-heavy of all of the episodes, requiring a lot of prerecorded voiceover playback and atmospheric & sci-fi elements. We definitely leaned into the camp factor of the episode, which played well.
The setting of the first scene (which is where this ends) is a "space jail" on a rocket ship headed to an unknown planet.
Near the end of the episode, a big (and quite dramatic) twist is revealed, leading to the climax of the piece. This is the accent that played immediately after the fateful line was shouted, and featured an alien dragging the main character offstage to a spaceship and, presumably, his doom. The final scene brings us back to the space jail we saw at the top of show, and because it took some time for both actors to get to their next marks at the top of the final scene, this cue sequence had to be long enough to get them there, loud enough to cover the sound of a giant paper mache puppet head knocking around backstage, and interesting keep the audience engaged. Because we were essentially going back to the beginning of the episode, I included elements from the rocket ship sequence that kicked the episode off.