student success

The High School Play Everyone’s Talking About Shows Why We Need More Arts Funding in Schools

The sun can’t reach you but face-hugging and acid-spewing aliens can. Welcome, you’ve arrived at LV-426. Or have you? The drama club at New Jersey’s North Bergen High School have been getting all the accolades on the internet for their self-funded stage adaptation of director Ridley Scott’s 1979 science fiction-horror classic “Alien.” They had it all: the “Space Jockey’s” gun turret seat, the face-joining aliens, the choking and paranoid atmosphere and, most importantly, a spindly main villain so malevolent and dominating that you can’t even believe it’s a kid under all the material. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOmDCrV7Dt4

Recycled Terror (But Fun!)

They did it all despite not having anything resembling a Hollywood budget. North Bergen’s drama club began rehearsals in September, when they held fundraising drives and started repurposing materials, creating special effects and even doing a bit of dumpster diving to make sure everything went off without a hitch. “This is going to sound really funny but [the set crew used] garbage essentially,” North Bergen drama club student Justin Pierson told NJ.com on YouTube. That’s right, parts of those eggs, those rocks, that gun turret, that freaking enormous and terrifying Xenomorph: actual garbage. That’s resourcefulness right there. For a school with a student body consisting of 90 percent students of color, it’s great to see celebrities calling for these kids to bring their talents to Broadway to perform their “Alien” show for wider audiences.  This is how you diversify the crews, creative teams and casts of future projects to ensure they represent all of America.

Creativity’s Great, But Money Makes It Easier

What the North Bergen kids pulled off is nothing short of astonishing. But it’s over, unless the district grants the drama club’s request for a third performance. Drama teacher Perfecto Cuervo told NJ.com the neighborhood surrounding North Bergen High is poor, so they rake in all the cash they can—by themselves, just like so many other schools with high populations of students of color. “We fundraise for ourselves," he said. "The community doesn’t have a lot of money. I don’t think we can afford another production unless someone is willing to pick up the tab.” Until someone else picks up the tab, the drama club at North Bergen High will struggle to put on another production. They’ll have to scrape together the cash, by themselves, to wow audiences with any future shows. But that shouldn’t be the way things are. Every school deserves a chance to build something beautiful. (OK, this case was terrifying on purpose, but you get the idea.)
Rob Samuelson
Rob Samuelson is a Staff Writer at Education Post and Digital Media Manager for the brightbeam network.

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