by Andrew M. Polak
On Wednesday, October 28, 2009, the Paley Center in New York City presented a celebrity reading of The Twilight Zone episode “The Masks.”
Jeff and I were staying at our friend Patti’s on the upper Eastside and arrived from Binghamton just in time for the three of us to grab a cab and head to 25 West 52nd Street. We were meeting Doug and Anne Sutton and Larry Kassan at the Museum. With the World Series and the upcoming New York Marathon, traffic was as bad as ever.
Anne was part of the program for the evening so she and Doug were escorted upstairs before we arrived. We picked up our tickets upon entering the lobby and headed to the auditorium and found our seats.
The cast was brought out which consisted of Lucie Arnaz, Fritz Weaver, Robert Walden, Laurence Luckinbill, Katharine Luckinbill and Jeremy Hollingworth. A Paley Center representative introduced the cast members as they came out as well as Michael Citriniti who was the narrator.
There were brief talks about Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone and connections with the cast.
Lucie Arnaz was surprised to have found out the connection with her father’s Desilu Playhouse and “The Time Element” – sometimes referred to as the unofficial pilot of TZ.
Fritz Weaver had fond recollections of his appearances in two original TZ episodes: “The Obsolete Man” and “Third From the Sun.”
Robert Walden talked of his thrill at having had the opportunity to write a TZ episode for the 1980s reincarnation.
It was fun watching the cast members getting into character as Michael Citriniti began vocally setting the stage.
A recording of Rod Serling was interjected giving the opening monologue and the reading proceeded. The cast did a fabulous job bringing the words to life.
I honestly wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy a reading of a television show I considered so visual. It actually made me appreciate how great the writing is on its own.
Hearing Fritz Weaver’s booming voice was a highlight for me being a long time fan. Kudos to the entire cast on a superb job. The play ended with Rod’s voice giving the closing monologue. The director of the production, Antony Marsellis, was brought on stage along with Anne Serling-Sutton.
After a brief introduction Anne walked to the podium and brought us into her world reading an excerpt from her upcoming memoir. [a portion can be read on our website at https://rodserling.com/annesbook/default.htm] Her moving words and heartfelt remembrances of growing up with her father painted pictures in our minds as she journeyed through her life.
It was a highlight of the evening and visibly affected the audience as well as the cast. The auditorium event ended with a short question and answer period.
The stage reading was followed by a Paley After Dark event that included a private dinner with the panelists. There was time to mingle with the crowd before sitting down to a delicious New Orleans Mardi Gras inspired dinner. We saw clips from the actual “Masks” episode and also clips of Fritz Weaver in “The Obsolete Man.”
I was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Memorial Foundation giving a short talk on our background and Rod’s connection to Binghamton and also to thank the Paley Center for their part in continuing to promote and preserve Rod Serling’s great work.
Larry Kassan spoke next giving a history of Rod’s life and career and also talking about the Binghamotn School District’s great 5th grade program “The Fifth Dimension.” Fritz Weaver gave a short talk about his TZ experience and Anne Serling-Sutton commented and read from Rod’s last interview where he had many powerful statements about himself and his life. [https://rodserling.com/brevelleint.htm]
The evening was a great tribute to Rod Serling and the golden anniversary of the stellar television show “The Twilight Zone.”