Way back when I was in high school (right around the time of the first cave paintings) I was in our school’s drama club. Even though I had no real intention of ever becoming an actor (though one of my classmates did), it helped me build a little self-confidence and overcome a fear of public speaking. I even did a few community theater plays after graduation, as I really enjoyed it. For the experience and the good times, I’m forever grateful.
As readers of this site also know, I’m a huge fan of ALIEN (ALIEN (1979) is still a ‘perfect organism’ after 40 years….), so it was with tremendous curiosity that I begin to hear more and more buzz about North Bergen New Jersey’s high school adaptation of ALIEN.
I was first tipped off about this play via social media and author/screenwriter Marc Scott Zicree’s “Mr. Sci-Fi” YouTube channel. Zicree, who is currently shooting his own crowd-source funded space series “Space Command,”flew into New Jersey to give these kids and their instructor his personal encouragement as well (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkKt7gHnZpcY0nreBdPhwmQ).
Tonight, I had a little time, so I watched the entire play on YouTube:
Forgive the somewhat shaky amateur video recording, but even so, the sincerity and quality of this heartfelt and energetic production is palpable. Zoom the YouTube window up to full-size, grab some popcorn and enjoy the show!
The sheer audacity and courage to even attempt to stage a school play adaptation of an FX-laden sci-fi masterpiece like ALIEN is downright awe-inspiring. These kids, under the direction of their drama teacher Perfecto Cuervo (wonderful name!) pull it off with aplomb.
So much so, in fact, that original ALIEN star Sigourney Weaver flew in to wish them luck and to watch the show on opening night. She also stayed and took multiple pics with the cast and crew. She’s a hell of a great sport. ALIEN director Sir Ridley Scott also gave the production his full support as well. The New York Conservatory pledged $1,000 for each of the cast to attend its summer camp, and the graduating seniors in the cast each received $10,000 scholarships. Well deserved!
The scale of the high school production, which I’ve only seen on YouTube (I live on the opposite coast), is quite impressive . They’ve built props, full spacesuits, a sliding hatch, a ‘space jockey,’ a richly detailed xenomorph costume, a functioning ‘egg’ and overhead visuals projected onto a large screen; many chase scenes and special effects are cleverly cheated, but never at the expense of the story. It’s all the more impressive when I read it was staged for around $3,500 (a fraction of what a decent-sized modern high school or community theater project like this would normally cost).
The energetic young cast, led by Gabriella Delacruz as “Ripley”, gives it their all, and the performances are surprisingly strong for a high school production (I say this as a onetime drama student myself; these kids have real talent). Another round of applause has to be given to their teacher (and adaptor) Perfecto Cuervo; he and his kids put on one hell of a good show! As the husband of an art teacher, I always enjoy seeing an inspiring educator get their due applause.
In space no one can hear you scream, but the screams carried quite well in the North Bergen High School auditorium! To paraphrase Bishop from the sequel ALIENS, “Not bad for humans.”