Inside Alien: The Play, the high school production going viral for its scene-stealing Xenomorph
This is the high school production that has everyone, including some celebrities, demanding a Broadway version of Alien.
For two nights only, the drama club of North Bergen High School in New Jersey opened the curtains this week on something they’ve been planning for eight months, Alien: The Play, a stage production from the school’s drama teacher, Perfecto Cuervo, that’s based on Ridley Scott’s iconic sci-fi horror masterpiece of 1979.
Video shot and shared on social media by attendees from the showings on March 19 and March 22 made the rounds, showcasing a student-made Xenomorph costume creeping about, in addition to its own Facehugger sequence. The kids even filmed a trailer for Alien: The Play, shot and edited by Cuervo, released online to drum up their own publicity tour (shown above).
“My inspiration was just that I’m a huge fan of the movie,” says Cuervo, who spent two months of his nights and weekends adapting Alien: The Play from the film’s screenplay.
According to a Reddit thread posted by a North Bergen High student, the play runs approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. “It follows exactly like the movie with a few scenes added to kill time for scene changes.”
One such instance involves “a part where the alien walks around the audience to waste time for the scene changes.”
Steven Defendini, the school’s art instructor, tells EW the play is a collaboration between three teachers — including one music teacher, Brian Bonacci, with knowledge of stage lighting — and approximately 16 students. “We’re a real small drama program, so we’re used to doing small plays for the local community,” he says, adding how the viral attention online is now such a “surreal experience.”
Defendini’s team were responsible for the set designs and costumes, including that Xenomorph number which started out from “a standard morph suit” purchased on clearance. It was then beefed up with foam donated from Tom Carroll Scenery Inc. in New Jersey; the company donated much of the materials used for the production, including 23 flats for the set.
Then, Defendini adds, “We shaved down the foam and bought a plastic skeleton head at Target on clearance and painted it black.” It was a puzzle: how do you make theater-quality work on the budget of a high school drama department? A lot of improvising and thinking outside the box. In some cases, that includes an egg carton box, some of which were repurposed for the computer lab set.
“We really took nothing then made something that didn’t exist because we wanted to see what it looked like,” Defendini says.
Perhaps the craziest part of this whole story is that North Bergen High doesn’t even have an official drama department. Cuervo is really an English teacher who has been putting on plays — including last season’s take on Night of the Living Dead — out of sheer “passion.”
He hopes this unexpected attention online for Alien: The Play, sparked after Mythbusters star Adam Savage tweeted about it, might change that. “The reaction from the administration has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says. And with blessings from Elijah Wood, who wouldn’t be?
“holy s—!” praises the Lord of the Rings star after photos and video of the play hit Twitter.
“Alien needs to go to Broadway NOW!” tweeted actor Paul Scheer.
“OMFSM i need to see this. Wow,” Savage writes.
“We are impressed!” tweets the official Alien franchise account. “40 years and still going strong…”
Defendini isn’t sure if the program will be able to put on additional shows beyond the initial two. “It’s not so much that the production is too expensive,” he notes, “… it’s more logistically finding time.”
To put that into perspective, Cuervo explains, “We had a stage crew and our school’s a very crowded school so the stage is used for everything.” That includes band rehearsals and Study Hall. “This crew,” he adds, “came in and they had four or five days to get all of this done.”
“We were actually there dismantling the sets before Adam Savage tweeted about it,” Defendini says of making way for other events in the auditorium. Let’s see if all this viral attention can make a difference.
With all the people wanting to see this now, Cuervo adds, “It would definitely need to be a bigger venue.”