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High school’s ‘Alien’ adaptation in national spotlight

Mayor's nonprofit bankrolls encore performances

The cast and crew will be taking to the stage again in the near future. Photo by Art Schwartz.

Let’s hope this will be the only story in The North Bergen Reporter that mentions killer extraterrestrials descending on Hudson County’s northern end.

A towering creature immediately recognizable from Ridley Scott’s masterpiece “Alien” film series took to the stage of North Bergen High School’s auditorium on March 19 and 22.

It stalked actors in spacesuits against the backdrop of the Nostromo, the intergalactic space vessel featured in the franchise’s debut and numerous sequels. The trailer for the show released by North Bergen High School can be viewed here.

Blowing off the usual “Crucibles” and “Our Towns,” the high school’s drama club may have been the first to attempt a stage adaptation of the 1979 sci-fi thriller, complete with special effects that rival those of big-budget feature films.

The result garnered headlines in The New York Times, USA Today, and dozens of other national publications, after videos of the show went viral.

With a $3,500 bake-sale budget, a handful of students worked months with supportive faculty to reach this new frontier.

North Bergen High School doesn’t have an official theater program, but that didn’t keep the cast, crew, and teachers from creating an eye-popping sci-fi production.

But wait. This wasn’t the drama club’s first technically-ambitious, self-written foray into the unknown. Last year, students performed their own take on the 1968 horror cult classic “Night of the Living Dead.”

An overnight sensation

“Alien” starred eight North Bergen High School students. Ibrahim Jaludi, David De Diego, Pedro Sarmiento, Britney Gonzalez, Jason Lopez, Dakota Rios, and Gabriella Delacruz play the cosmonauts who discover an alien ship during a return trip to Earth’s moon.

Xavier Perez petrified audiences in a full-size “xenomorph” outfit, complete with dripping fangs, spiky back, and tensile tail.

The play was conceived and produced by drama teacher Perfecto Cuervo. Art director Steven Defendini’s skill with sculpture helped in the set and costume design collaborations with students. Music teacher Brian Bonacci, who was involved in sound and lighting, co-produced the play. The set designs and costumes were constructed from recycled materials. Face-smothering parasites, airlock doors, and space suits were constructed from discarded plastic.

“We are impressed!” those behind the 1979 film franchise wrote on their official Twitter feed. “Forty years and still going strong.”

Sigourney Weaver, the star of several films in the series, also caught wind of the production and sang its praises.

“I saw a bit of your production of Alien and I just want to say it looked incredible,” Weaver said in a video uploaded to YouTube. “You put so much heart and soul into that, and the alien, I must say, looked very real to me. I want to send our compliments, not only from me, but from James Cameron, and the original screenwriter, Walter Hill. We wanted to say bravo, well done.”

Elijah Wood, of “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy fame, tweeted, “Holy s—!” in response to a snapshot of the ghastly monster. MythBusters co-host Adam Savage also gave North Bergen a twitter shout-out, writing about his itch to see the performance in person.

Momentum in dramatic arts

After the play’s initial showings on March 19 and 22, North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco funded encore performances through the Nicholas J. Sacco Foundation. The encore dates have yet to be announced.

Drama teacher and play director Perfecto Cuervo said, “We have all been absolutely floored by the positive attention this play has brought to our school and our students, and it is wonderful to see Mayor Sacco step up and provide funding so that our incredible cast will once again be able to showcase their months of hard work.”

North Bergen high school students are currently in a transition period. A high school expansion project includes a performing arts program slated to run at the former High Tech High School building.

The theater there, equipped for TV and radio production, would be a major asset to the students in their future dramatic efforts.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com, or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.

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