Day 6

How a New Jersey high school production of Alien charmed Sigourney Weaver

The performance went viral, director Ridley Scott donated money for an encore and then actor Sigourney Weaver surprised the cast when she showed up to congratulate them.

'She seemed to be thrilled with it, which is kind of the best seal of approval you could get,' says teacher

Sigourney Weaver, right, joins the North Bergen High School cast of Alien, the Play. Students and staff at the school staged a rendition of the 1979 classic that caught the attention of the film's star and director Ridley Scott. Gabriella Delacruz, who plays Ripley, stands left of Weaver. (20th Century Fox)

When art teacher Steven Defendini built a set out of recycled materials for his high school's annual play, he had no idea the queen of sci-fi would soon be seeing it.

In March, students and staff at North Bergen High School in New Jersey became internet superstars when their performance of Alien, the Play, went viral for its surprisingly high production values.

It was so acclaimed that Ridley Scott, who directed the original 1979 film Alien, offered a donation for the school to stage an encore performance.

And so the students and staff happily put on one final performance scheduled for April 27. On that night, as the cast warmed up, Alien star Sigourney Weaver made an appearance.

"I looked to my right and there she is, the queen, walking down the hallway — our hallways — so gracefully with the biggest smile on her face," said grade 12 student Gabriella Delacruz, speaking with Day 6 guest host Saroja Coelho.

"It was magical, honestly."

Defendini,  along with students, built an out-of-this-world set with mostly garbage. According to Buzzfeed News, it included everything from egg cartons to a used vacuum cleaner.

"We've been kind of building things around here the same way for a long time," Defendini said.

"Whatever we can do to make the silhouette of the shape of the object we use and then we just paint. It's like a really modified version of what we used to do in the 70s on old sci-fi movies."

In a speech before the encore performance, Weaver praised the cast for their creativity and work. The Academy Award nominee briefly became part of the show when the Alien approached her in the audience.

"She seemed to be thrilled with it, which is kind of I guess the best seal of approval you could get," Defendini said.

Despite warning the young thespians she might have to leave before the curtain call, Weaver stuck around to the end of the show and offered flowers to Delacruz.

"Oddly enough, it was less nerve wracking [to perform for Weaver] because when she met us before we started to perform, she was just so reassuring and so supportive and seemed so onboard with what we were doing," Delacruz recalled.

"I just wanted to make her proud really."

While Defendini and the cast are happy to "entertain" the idea of even more performances, as the school year ends, the art teacher says there are more pressing priorities.

"Right now we're in the middle of making sure that prom dresses are bought and that exams are being taken care of," he said laughing.

To hear more from Gabriella Delacruz and Steven Defendini, download our podcast or click 'Listen' at the top of this page.


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