At an encore performance of North Bergen High School’s “Alien: The Play” on April 26 students got a surprise visit from none other than the sci-fi legend and star of the first four “Alien” films, Sigourney Weaver.
Weaver, who starred in an Academy Award-wining portrayal of Lt. Ellen Ripley in the 1979 debut and three sequels, caught students off guard in a hallway just before they were about to take to the stage, and they were speechless.
“I’m so excited to be here,” Weaver said. “I’m representing all of the ‘Alien’ fans across the universe who think what you’re doing is so important.”
Weaver wished the students luck in their encore adaptation of the 1979 film that, shortly after being announced, sold out. When clips of the original play went viral in March with millions of views on social media, the students attracted national attention and kudos from celebrities, filmmakers, and journalists.
“I don’t think anyone’s ever done this before, and you’ve done it so well,” Weaver said. “It’s so exciting for me to be here, I brought my family. I just want to wish you a great show, and have so much fun. I’m just so delighted to finally be here and see all of you, after seeing you in the little clips online.”
In the first production on March 19 and 20, students guided by art director Steven Defendini, music teacher Brian Bonacci, and English teacher Perfecto Cuervo put together an adaptation true to the film’s plot, raised $3,500 through bake sales, and constructed all the props and costumes from recycled material.
The culmination of their months of labor resulted in a performance that sparked a PR tsunami from Broadway to Hollywood, and abroad.
One for the books
Weaver introduced the play onstage to the hundreds of ticket holders, some of whom had traveled across the country to show their appreciation for the production and the township of North Bergen.
“This is the night I’ve been waiting for,” Weaver said. “I’m so excited, and I want to thank Mayor Sacco and the Board of Commissioners for making it possible that we get to see this encore, back-by-popular-demand performance. I’ve only been here a couple of hours, but I can tell that this is a very special place and a very special town.”
Carlo’s Bakery, famous for the “Cake Boss” TV series, donated five cakes to students for the post-show festivities. The cakes were sculpted to depict iconic characters and monsters from the films.
Bryce Russel, director of admissions for the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, stopped by to see the performance, and to announce that the conservatory would award a $1,000 scholarship to each cast and crew member. Each graduating senior received a $10,000 scholarship to the conservatory.
The show must go on
It only took a few clips of the original performance online to draw national media attention to North Bergen High School. The current producers of the 40th anniversary edition of the film, along with celebrities and insiders from Broadway and Hollywood took to social media to demand the encore performances.
The play starred Gabriella Delacruz as “Lt. Ellen Ripley,” Weaver’s character. Other cosmonauts were played by Ibrahim Jaludi, David De Diego, Pedro Sarmiento, Britney Gonzalez, Jason Lopez, and Dakota Rios.
Xavier Perez was the man behind the full-size “xenomorph” outfit, who freaked out audiences with an intricately crafted costume.
The encore was bankrolled by Sacco’s nonprofit foundation, and donations from the director of the original film series, Ridley Scott. Scott thanked the students for doing “Alien,” and said he felt complimented. He recommended they stage “Gladiator,” a film he also directed.
“My hat comes off to all of you for your creativity, imagination, and determination to produce such an ambitious show,” Scott wrote in a letter to students.
“Limitations often produce the best results because imagination and determination can surpass any shortfalls and determine the way forward— always. This is maybe the biggest lesson for all of you, and your future plans. Stay with this determination, and this spirit in everything you do, and you will succeed.”
English Teacher Perfecto Cuervo, who directed the play, echoed Scott’s sentiment.
“I can’t think of a better thing to tell my kids,” Cuervo said. “Especially my seniors moving forward in this world, that with a little hard work, with ingenuity, and with passion, you can make a difference in this world.”
For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com, or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.