The film Alien is one of my favorites. The film, released in 1979, birthed the famous tagline “in space no one can hear you scream,” catapulted actress Sigourney Weaver to stardom, and created one of the most iconic science fiction franchises in history. Weaver would later garner a Best Actress nomination for the 1986 follow-up Aliens, which was directed by then-up-and-coming director James Cameron, who was fresh off his hit The Terminator two years prior. Why bring this up? Well, spring is here. Taxes are due. And high schools across the country are about to showcase their productions for the season. Damn Yankees, Guys and Dolls, Annie, The Producers, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, etc.—they’re all part of the line-up. Well, a high school in North Bergen, New Jersey decided to go way out of left field: they adapted Aliens for their spring play.
At first thought, you’d think how could you do this? One massive impasse to this production: the cost. This is high school. No multi-million dollar loan is going to be taken out by the school. There is no producer who is going to fork over the cash. What to do? Yes, it’s a minimal budget. Yes, the set was made from recycled parts; even the iconic xenomorph was made from such materials. And what about the result? It’s a viral sensation. And this isn’t the first time the school has moved away from traditional spring productions. The teachers running the drama club adapted George A. Romero’s horror classic “Night Of The Living Dead” two years ago (via NYT):
A New Jersey high school has found itself the unexpected recipient of online acclaim and viral attention for its recent stage production of “Alien,” the 1979 science-fiction thriller.
“Alien: The Play,” presented last weekend by the drama club of North Bergen High School, starred a cast of eight students in the film roles originally played by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Ian Holm.
Whereas the movie had a budget in the range of about $10 million, “Alien: The Play” had costumes, props and set designs made mostly from donated and recycled materials.
Alien: The Play” is the brainchild of Perfecto Cuervo, an English teacher at the school and the moderator of its drama club, and Steven Defendini, an art teacher there.
Last year, the two teachers worked together on a student staging of “Night of the Living Dead,” the George Romero zombie movie. This past summer, they started to plan a follow-up.
As Mr. Cuervo recalled their conversation, he said, “Do you think we can do ‘Alien’ as a play?” It seemed to require few sets, he said: “We have a spaceship. We have a planet. It could be handled.”
Barstool Sports aptly noted that this school killed it. Director Ridley Scott sent a thank you letter, asking if an adaptation of “Gladiator” would be in the making soon. Sigourney Weaver was blown away by the play as well, giving extra props to the costume design (via The Hollywood Reporter):
"I saw a bit of your production of Alien, and I just want to say it looked incredible," the actress said in a video shared by the official Fox franchise YouTube account. "You put so much heart and soul into that. The alien, I must say, looked very real to me."
Weaver went on to say that there were others from the franchise who were also impressed by the kids' innovation and work.
"I just wanted to send our compliments. Not only from me but from James Cameron and the original screenwriter, Walter Hill," she said. "We all say bravo. Well done. "And just one more thing — you know the alien might still be round, so when you're opening your locker, just do it very slowly...."
The students and staff posted a thank you to Weaver for her kind words.
Hats off, North Bergen High, the hard work paid off—big league. Well done, everyone.