According to a survey conducted by the Educational Theatre Association, the most-performed musical production in schools across the United States is The Addams Family. Perhaps you can picture them now: a cocksure senior in Gomez’s striped suit, a white-faced Morticia at his side. Or, if your high school’s theater director is a bit of an oddball, maybe something like Law and Order: Fairy Tale Unit, which also cracked the EdTA ranking.
But Alien? The star of the 1979 space horror classic, Sigourney Weaver, said she had never seen it performed by a high school. Never, that is, before North Bergen (N.J.) High School English teacher—and Sithole Regional No. 10 seed—Perfecto Cuervo.
Alien: The Play was big news last year, back when something this innocent still could be. Cuervo made the media rounds. He explained to the New York Times that he was encouraged by the film’s cramped spaceship setting, which was both ideal for body horror and inexpensive to recreate. “We have a spaceship. We have a planet. It could be handled,” Cuervo said he told North Bergen art teacher and drama club moderator Steven Defendini.
The May 2019 run proved so popular (Patton Oswalt: “Blows my high school’s adaptation of PINK FLAMINGOS out of the water”) that an encore was commissioned. This performance had a budget of $5,000 provided by Alien director Ridley Scott’s production company. Weaver herself attended. Afterward, the cast and crew celebrated with a cake adorned with an alien egg decoration. No word on whether the cake burst out of anyone’s chest in the night.
The year before bringing Alien to North Bergen, Cuervo, Defendini, and their students put on a production of Night of the Living Dead. What next? The virus-stricken landscape of 28 Days Later might be a little on the nose. We might suggest another Broadway horror: Cats. What lyrics could be more appropriate for Perfecto Cuervo than these, from “The Naming of Cats”?
When you notice a cat in profound meditation
The reason, I tell you, is always the same
His mind is engaged in rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name
Perfecto Cuervo is moving on in the Name of the Year Tournament. He squeaked by the No. 7 seed in the Sithole, Chicago attorney and hockey player Lowell Snorf III, and faces No. 2 Rod McQuality, an Illinois teacher, in the Round of 32.
Second-round voting is open on NOTY’s Twitter feed. Go there now.
Sam Gutelle lives in Oxford, Ohio, and is the editor-in-chief of OxMag, a literary journal run by grad students at Miami University. He is currently staring longingly at some deer in his backyard.