Late Nite Re-Emerges From The Twilight Zone


You’ve got nothing to do this weekend? You want to go out, but the bars just seem boring? Got eight bucks to spend but don’t want to blow it on some crappy Tinseltown movie? Well, have I got something for you: Blue Room Late Nite is back in business! There’s Twilight Zone episodes, there’s sketch comedy, and there’s off the wall entertainment that you won’t find anywhere else.

After a mysterious absence, Late Nite director Craig Blamer recently returned to the Blue Room with a special early evening double feature of classic episodes from The Twilight Zone: the existentialist Four Characters in Search of an Exit, and the Christmas classic Night of the Meek. These two episodes mixed seasoned actors with fresh meat making their stage debut. The craziest part was that this whole production was put together in only two weeks.

“I’ve done it to myself a lot with Late Nite as well as Sketch Valley (now known as Paint Dry)!” laughs Late Nite veteran Samantha Deshler. “I guess I perform best under pressure even if I feel like I’m losing my hair. That, and I can get really burnt out on rehearsing for a show if it lasts more than three weeks. I get to the point where I’m not longer ‘in’ it and I am just doing it to get it done. So two weeks is perfect!” The fresh meat had no idea that this isn’t the norm and the experienced actors are just a little crazy. The unpredictability is what makes these shows so intriguing.

The thing that drives actors to work under such pressure is the stories they’re enacting. Each one of the shows performed is fun to do as well as entertaining to the audience. “In this world of super-sized CG characters and Kardashian nightmares, SOMETHING has to remain sacred! says actor Erika Sorenson, returning to the Chico stage as the lost ballerina in Five Characters. The Twilight Zone is the little black dress of television shows.”

The Twilight Zone may be an old series, but every episode is still relevant today. Night of the Meek is your typical underdog story. It’s about a drunk that finds his true calling. “I’ve always been a sucker for redemption stories and I love how Henry discovers something about himself that most people couldn’t see,” offers actor Nick Anderson, filling the ratty red suit of an ersatz Santa Claus. “Anybody that pulls themselves out of an addiction or a seriously rough time in life to become even better people through tribulation is pretty awesome in my book.”

Five Characters Looking for an Exit is very Sartre-esque. It’s about figuring out your true self and where you belong. Five Characters has always been my favorite episode,” says actor Garrett Miller. “It was the first story I remember where there is a twist that you wouldn’t expect.”

The draw to Late Nite is that it’s not your stereotypical kind of theater. It takes pop culture and makes it art on stage. It’s something that both theatre enthusiasts as well as couch potatoes can enjoy. It takes something that is known or known about and puts a different spin on it. It’s a draw to all audiences and helps more people appreciate live theatre.

Luckily, interest in the science fiction genre is at an all time high, making a return to the fifty-year-old Twilight Zone ideal for a younger audience that has never experienced the show on TV. Taking an outlandish idea and making it seem almost possible opens up the imagination. It makes you feel like a kid again. Seeing a beloved show acted on stage brings about whole new perspective, makes it almost tangible.

From the actor’s perspective, Late Nite gives them something fun to do. It allows them to be creative and develop their character without the restrictions of traditional plays. With traditional theatre, the audience knows what to expect and has a preconceived idea of who the character is and how they behave. The Late Nite productions take shows and stories that may be known, but can make a horror story a comedy. There are fewer restrictions and it’s more about having fun and creating something enjoyable to watch.

“I think anyone who works on Late Nite is a little bit insane,” admits Dani Kay, master of light and sound for the series. “I think we all like to be around each other because there’s almost another language about it. I got my first shot doing tech for a show because Craig took a chance on me and now, however many years later, I’ve met some of my best friends because I did tech for shows and they were in the show, or involved in some other way, and it’s become this family that I could never have expected. So that’s pretty fucking magical.”

Late Nite gives artists a way to work together outside of their norm. It allows musicians to be actors and actors to be singers. It lets people who have never attempted to act to try and to work with some of the best around. It lets those who have been acting forever do smaller, goofier parts. “Late Nite is different for everybody.” says Miller. “It all depends on the individual. I think the only promise it can bring, is that you’ll be happy that you went.”

And as Blamer frequently observes, when the cast is having a good time, the audience will, too. “The goal here is to continue to do Late Nite shows every month and bring more attention to theatre and to get more people in the community involved. There is so much amazing local talent that goes unrecognized because not many people know about the theatre that’s going on. A lot of people seem to be turned off by theatre because they think it’s going to be Shakespeare or a musical and have no idea that there is so much more out there. The thing is, Shakespeare himself was more in the spirit of the Late Nite than the snooty arty stuff he’s commonly associated with. He was kind of the punk writer of his day, and that’s totally in the spirit of the Late Nite. It’s anarchy, man. Controlled anarchy, but still total DIY theatre. No money, no time, but buttloads of passion and enthusiasm!”

Hopefully, by experiencing things like The Twilight Zone and other sketch comedy pieces, people will realize how much fun theatre can be.

Next month there’s a sketch comedy written by Nicole Collado and Annie Fischer. It might inspire some people to give acting a try, or even writing. Most of the comedy pieces are written by the people acting in them. Do yourself a favor and check it out. Besides…

“If they don’t come to our shows,” Dani warns ominously,” I will hunt them down like they’re animals and I will never stop.

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