Adam Savage takes backstage tour of North Bergen’s ‘Alien’ play

Here's an inside look for those who missed the sold-out shows

Photo courtesy Art Schwartz
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Photo courtesy Art Schwartz

TV Personality Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters and Savage Builds, recently posted videos detailing behind-the-scenes action at North Bergen High School’s internationally-acclaimed drama adaptation of the 1979 film Alien. For those who missed the sold-out performances, Savage provided an in-depth look at what went into the play, which was true to the original sci-fi blockbuster script.

Savage was one of many celebrities who praised video clips of the performance that circulated online, contributing to its international exposure.

Raves were so widespread that Sigourney Weaver, star of the original film, flew in to visit the students backstage and watch an encore performance. Alien director Ridley Scott gave the cast and crew his blessing.

Savage was enthralled with the production. As a special effects designer whose work appeared in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and The Matrix Reloaded, he couldn’t pass up a chance to view the props North Bergen students handcrafted from raw, recyclable materials.

Defendini visited the high school on his way to New York City’s Comic Con for a panel discussion for the 40th anniversary of the original Alien film. The star of the play, Gabriella Delacruz, went along.

Terrifying extraterrestrials

The finished products include shattered astronaut helmets, spacecraft interiors, and towering, terrifying extraterrestrials that display craftsmanship and ingenuity. The backstage tour also included props and costumes.

North Bergen High School teacher Steven Defendini, the play’s art director, gave Savage the inside scoop on how he and the crew created the puppetry and engineering that went into the gory “chestburster” scene in which a parasitic alien erupted face-first through a human host.

Student projects were also on display, including a “Millenium Falcon” from the Star Wars film series, life-size replicas of characters from Marvel’s Avengers films, and other iconic models and costumes.

Defendini said that once his students finish one piece, they get the itch to keep on building. His students are especially drawn to replicating pop culture fixtures. He showed Savage a replica of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones.

“We have to teach them certain techniques involving building, adhesives, along with creative solutions,” Defendini said. “If you tell a kid you’re going to make some random, abstract thing, they might be engaged, but if you tell them that you’re building the Iron Throne, they’ll latch onto that. We spend a couple days after school putting this together.”

“It’s really nice to work in a place where you can do this kind of stuff,” Defendini said. “Kids are able to work out the engineering through a really robust STEM program that recently started. Every year, it’s about what engineering and problem solving we’ll use. The play is the perfect way to show it.”

Defendini told Savage the group is thinking of working with film for the upcoming drama project.

In the meantime, check out Savage’s exploration of a play that garnered North Bergen High School worldwide acclaim on Adam Savage’s YouTube channel “Tested.” NBHS students also tested their mettle on several costumes that they wore to New York Comic Con.

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