By Lawrence Kassan
Known primarily for his role as the host of television’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Binghamton’s very own Rod Serling had one of the most exceptional and varied careers in television. As a writer, a producer, and for many years a teacher, Serling challenged the medium of television to reach for loftier artistic goals. He was writing for television during a time the medium was referred to as The Golden Age; sometimeafter his death, it began being referred to as America’s Vast Waste Land!
To this day, Serling holds the record for most Emmy Awards for dramatic writing, more than anyone in history. Serling expressed a deep social conscience in nearly every script he wrote. Born in Syracuse, New York in 1924, Rod Serling grew up in the city of Binghamton, and was graduated from Binghamton Central High School in 1943. Although he lived in many places around the country after his service as a paratrooper in WWII, he always had strong feelings for and fond memories of his Upstate New York roots:
“Everyone has to have a hometown, Binghamton’s mine. In the strangely brittle, terribly sensitive makeup of a human being, there is a need for a place to hang a hat, or kind of geographical womb to crawl back into, or maybe just a place that’s familiar because that’s where you grew up. When I dig back through my memory cells, I get one particularly distinctive feeling and that’s one of warmth, comfort and well-being. For whatever else I may have had, or lost, or will find, I’ve still got a hometown. This, nobody’s gonna take away from me.” – Rod Serling
This fall, October 2009 marks the 50th Anniversary of Rod Serling’s groundbreaking television series “The Twilight Zone” which had its first airing October 2, 1959 on CBS. Over a four-day period from October 1 through October 4, 2009 Southern Tier residents as well as fans from around the country will have an opportunity to celebrate and honor our “hometown” iconic genius. The Twilight Zone @ 50 … A Celebration of Rod Serling will be sponsored by the Rod Serling Video Festival, The Rod Serling School of the Arts at Binghamton City Schools, and the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation with generous support from area government, media and business organizations. The event is expected to attract numerous visitors as well as national media attention to the greater Binghamton area. In addition, the four day celebration will coincide with an educational Serling Conference at Ithaca College’s Park School of Communications where Serling’s archives are stored and where he was a teacher and frequent lecturer.
Although much of the planning is still in progress and subject to change, the celebration will include the following highlights:
- A kick-off event at the BHS Helen Foley Theatre with the Serling Family and local dignitaries in attendance. The event will include a reenactment of Rod Serling’s address to the Binghamton Central High School class of 1968,
- Guest Speaker Tony Albarella who has chronicled the work of legendary writer Rod Serling in several literary formats. Albarella’s magazine articles have appeared in publications that include Cemetery Dance, Filmfax, Outré, and Radiogram. Mr. Albarella is currently editing an ambitious, ten-volume book series titled AS TIMELESS AS INFINITY: THE COMPLETE TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS OF ROD SERLING.
- A public screening of the PBS American Masters documentary Submitted for your Approval: Rod Serling. This 90 minute special chronicles Rod Serling’s life. Much of the documentary was filmed in and around Binghamton, and features interviews with many local personalities as well as Hollywood colleagues and contemporaries.
- A special “live” WSKG public television broadcast of two Twilight Zone scripts, Walking Distance and Mirror Image. Each episode was written by Serling and inspired by Binghamton locales. The broadcast will feature local area actors and student performers.
- A walking / trolley tour of Serling sites including the BC Forum Theatre display of Day of a Playwright, The Binghamton High School’s Rod Serling School of the Arts which will present a special gallery display, Serling’s boyhood home on Binghamton’s West Side, a stop at the downtown Metro Center’s “Walk of Fame”, and a final visit to Recreation Park, the inspiration of WALKING DISTANCE, where visitors will get to see the Serling Pavilion and ride the carousel while continuous viewings of the actual episode on large television monitors run throughout the day.
- A special Twilight Zone marathon at the BC Forum Theater sponsored by Time Warner Cable and The Sci-Fi Channel. Twenty four individual episodes of the television classic will be projected on the Forum’s screen in a cinema setting.
Please plan to join us for The Twilight Zone @ 50… A Celebration of Rod Serling during the first weekend in October. As we get closer to the date, be sure to visit www.RodSerlingVideoFest.com for additional information and a daily schedule of activities. If you are a fan, you certainly will not want to miss any of the festivities. If you are new to the work of Rod Serling, you will certainly enjoy learning about this television visionary and pioneer that called Binghamton home.
Lawrence Kassan is Director of Special Projects for the Binghamton City School’s Rod Serling School of the Arts and Founder / Director of the Rod Serling Video Festival. Contact himat Director@RodSerlingVideoFest.com or by calling 607-762-8202.