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‘Twilight Zone’ stories form basis of Big Idea’s ‘BIT More’ debut

Jack Hastings (center) plays the leader of an alien race eager to befriend the people of the Earth in “To Serve Man.”

More than one artistic director would appreciate an army of tireless, nimble-fingered scenic-designer elves who emerge at night to tear down old sets, then build and paint new ones. But the reality is it takes many human hands to ready a stage for a company’s acting contingent.

Recognizing the toll its quick turn-around schedule was taking on its design and technical team – and how the Del Paso Boulevard theater’s relatively short-runs might be affecting attendance – Big Idea Theatre company members Brian Harrower and Wade Lucas put their heads together over a few holiday-break drinks.

"Our solution was to do fewer main-stage shows, but schedule them for longer runs," said Lucas. "That would give us more time between shows to catch our breath, and to do things like our ‘A BIT More’ series."

"BIT," which is both an acronym for Big Idea Theatre and a description of the short-run, short-in-length productions the duo had in mind, will make its debut April 4 through 7, with back-to-back performances of two Rod Serling-penned "Twilight Zone" favorites ("The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," "To Serve Man") at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A test run of the "BIT More" concept was conducted during a December fundraising event, when the company performed an adaptation of Serling’s "Twilight Zone" teleplay "Five Characters in Search of an Exit."

Lucas, who is directing both one-acts, said the theater is "passionate about telling stories," and hopes the new series will give the 19-member company an opportunity to tell more stories than ever before.

In addition to presenting "live on stage" adaptations of classic "Twilight Zone" episodes, Lucas said future "BIT" productions will likely include special one-night readings, "black-box" one-acts, new works, as well as one-man and one-woman shows – basically anything that doesn’t require complicated sets, lavish costumes, or extensive rehearsals.

"I am positively giddy with enthusiasm to be able to bring two more episodes to life on the BIT stage," said Lucas. "We have a group of talented and funny people on board who will reallly make for an enjoyable night of theater for all ages."

Lucas said the cast of this inaugural "BIT More" production is a mix of Big Idea veterans and newcomers. Those returning to the BIT stage are: Dan Beard; Christina Clem; Robyn Colburn; Jamie Kale; Ryan Snyder; and Earl Victorine. Making their BIT debut are: Dennis Beck; Bethany Hidden-Cauley; Jack Hastings; Raymond Keller; LeeMarie Kelly; Edward Nason; Daryl Petrig; Ariel Ryan; and Amos Wright.

Providing additional opportunities for BIT’s established company members to "shine a bit more," as well as giving first-time BIT players extended, real-life tryouts are also benefits of the "BIT More" productions, said Lucas.

“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” is paired with “To Serve Man” in Big Idea Theatre’s inaugural “A BIT More” production.

For the uninitiated, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" is the story of what happens to a group of everyday American suburbanites whose neighborhood mysteriously loses electricity after a shadow passes overhead (accompanied by a deafening roar and flash of light). Panic ensues, fingers are pointed, and in true Cold War fashion, neighbor turns on neighbor.

"To Serve Man" like "Monsters," features an O. Henry-styled twist at the end, and is a look into a future when man makes first contact with a seemingly benevolent extraterrestrial race known as the Kanamit (played here by Hastings in a role created by a young Richard Kiel). in this tale, a linguist (Keller) and his assistant (Kale) attempt to decipher the Kanamit language in order to read one of their books.

While it is the company’s goal to remain faithful to the original scripts, Lucas said a bit of camp will be injected where appropriate.

"Both one-acts presented unique challenges, but I think they turned out very, very well," said Lucas.


WHAT: Big Idea Theatre’s "A BIT More" series debut, featuring "’The Twilight Zone’: Live On Stage"

WHEN: 8 p.m. April 4 and 5; 5 and 7 p.m. April 6 and 7

WHERE: Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento, Calif.

WHO: Directed by Wade Lucas; stage managed by Cyndi Lopez; featuring Dan Beard, Christina Clem, Robyn Colburn, Jamie Kale, Ryan Snyder, Earl Victorine, Dennis Beck, Bethany Hidden-Cauley, Jack Hastings, Raymond Keller, LeeMarie Kelly, Edward Nason Daryl Petrig, Ariel Ryan, and Amos Wright

HOW MUCH: $10; call (916) 960-3036; www.bigideatheatre.com

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