Before continuing its mainstage season next weekend with the upbeat production Dames at Sea, Bucks County Playhouse is giving young, local talent the chance to hit the historic stage at 70 S. Main St. in New Hope.
From Aug. 4-6, the new contemporary musical Alien8 is being presented by the Playhouse Youth Company — a 5-week intensive training program for students who boast a serious interest in theater. Alien8, written by Kate Brennan and David Lee White, and directed and choreographed by Kara Jönsson, with musical direction by Kyle Duke, was workshopped at McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey, followed by a run at Drexel University.
Bridget Parker, 17, a student at New Hope-Solebury High School, described the idea of being in a fairly new project as “enticing.”
“It gives everyone a lot of freedom with their characters,” she said. “It really lets the actors be able to make their imprint on the show.”
In Alien8, Parker portrays 8, an alien creature who appears in a small Midwestern town following a devastating tornado. At first, 8 can only communicate using a variety of sounds and gestures. But as the alien spends more time among humans, it’s able to express emotions through words.
“It’s been an interesting experience, especially being able to use physical gestures to convey what the character’s trying to say,” said Parker, who described 8 as having a “puppy-like” quality. “But it’s made everyone realize the power that physical movement really has.”
Plus, Parker gets to wear some really cool purple pants for the role.
Riley Malone, 17, a student at Central Bucks West High School, is playing Michael Bradsfield — one of many town residents working to keep a dark secret buried. But upon the arrival of 8, the town’s dark past threatens to come to light.
“It’s something that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to,” said Malone, who has appeared in Central Bucks West’s productions of White Christmas and Amelie. “I have a very good personal connection to this character.”
Malone was drawn to audition for Alien8 because of its link to real-world issues.
“It’s the story of becoming human, but also a story about LGBTQ+ activism and becoming more aware of your identity, being able to share that with the world and how that affects other people and how you can stay true to yourself. It was a very exciting project that I wanted to be a part of, especially with how tough it has been to discuss some of these things lately,” said Malone.
Sofia Garcia, a rising senior at Lawrence High School, plays Anna, a character who experiences a true journey of self-discovery in Alien8.
“She kind of starts out with a lot of suppressed emotions, disconnected, doesn’t know how to stand up for herself, express what she wants,” said Garcia. “It’s been cool working with Bridget and seeing how 8’s impact takes Anna on a journey and into discovering who she is and kind of finding herself.”
Also starring in Alien8 are Jessica Daley (Pennsbury High School) as the Chief; Michael Murphy (Holland Middle School) as Coach Weber; Isabelle Hoskins (Newtown Middle School) as Rayne Berry; Athena Matthes (Pennwood Middle School) as Linda Foster; Maya Micsion (Council Rock High School North) as Emily; Jacob Rabinowitz (Pennsbury High School) as Zach; and Makayla McClintic (Central Bucks South High School) as Alex & Abby.
Alien8 is written in the style of Dear Evan Hansen, Be More Chill and Heathers, and features a contemporary score performed by the Youth Company Orchestra and the diverse cast of characters.
Ultimately, the show aims to inspire theater-goers to think deeply about who they really are, who they want to be, and how to reconcile differences between their present and future selves. Alien8 was developed with and written for teenagers, and speaks to intergenerational views of gender, identity and inclusion with an anthem of belonging, love and acceptance.
“We’re honored that the Playhouse Youth Company gets to perform the regional premiere of Alien8,” said Michaela Murphy, director of education at Bucks County Playhouse. “Our students connected with the material immediately and it is exhilarating to see the show resonate with them so deeply. For all of us on the creative team, it has been a joy to work with these incredible young people. This timely musical reminds us that miracles can happen when we radically accept the differences of those we love.”
To prepare for the premiere of Alien8, participants of the Playhouse Youth Company, which is celebrating its ninth year, took part in daily rehearsals, master classes with artists from the Playhouse’s mainstage and outreach performances throughout the region.
The students are performing Alien8 on Thursday, Aug. 4 through Saturday, Aug. 6, at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily. Tickets are on sale now. Cost is $15 for children, $20 for adults, plus fees. Patrons save 20 percent off when buying four or more tickets. Special rates for groups of 10 or more. Visit buckscountyplayhouse.org or call 215-862-2121 for more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org