There is an alien among the teenagers at Pin Cushion High and it does not have good intentions.
For its fall production, Atholton High School's drama club is presenting the East Coast premiere of the play "Crush" by Stephen Gregg. Set in the fictional town of Pin Cushion, "Crush" tells the story of Bark, a high school student who is navigating the typical ups and downs of a teenager with the added stress of being the only person who can see the alien among his peers.
"I read the play ... and thought, I could do that," said Nathan Rosen, Atholton theater arts teacher and director. "There are a variety of interesting characters and the alien creature did catch my eye. I thought it was an interesting new way to get to issues with teenagers."
The alien creature also provided a challenge for the crew. Set in present time, the play's characters wear contemporary youth clothing and the set is sparse, leaving much to the imagination. The alien, however, requires special makeup for each of its faces, for though it appears to everyone as one teenage girl, the alien has five other bodies attached to it that only Bark can see.
"Each of the aliens have their own personality and way of moving," said Zach Garrigus, who plays one of the alien creatures. "We don't really use that many props ... but those we do have pack a punch. It is funny to see yourself turn into an alien."
To help create the aliens, Rosen invited Roger Riggle, a professional make-up artist who has done work at Toby's Dinner Theatre, to host a makeup workshop with the students. Each of the four alien faces is created using prosthetics that are attached to the face. Three of the masks are partial, while one is full-face.
"Roger Riggle was fabulous," said Connor Dobson, who besides being an ensemble cast member is part of the make-up and design team. "He taught us the basics of how to apply the prosthetics."
"Latex is the worse part to get off," said Jordan Semmont, who has the full-face treatment and has special gloves as part of her costume, too. "I have gloves with long finger-long things. I have lots of stuff."
While the alien plot is a twist, the cast of "Crush" says the play is realistic in its issues.
"Despite the alien part, it is easy to relate to," said Grace Tyson, 15. "The idea is, it is high school students facing regular student issues."
"My character is definitely trying to figure out who she is," said Molly Goldstein, who plays Chloe, Bark's girlfriend. "She's had some rough things to deal with. She is awkward and insecure."
As Aspen, the alien teenager, Jennifer Yoo has the challenge of appearing like a normal teenager as dictated by the numerous beings that create her.
"It's definitely interesting," Yoo said. "When we read it during theater class, I thought the character was sort of a challenge. I wanted it."
"It's wild," said Hannah Bizokas, of the play. "When you try to explain it, you think of a different way you might" each time.
Though this is his first high school production, Jace Franco, 14, is no stranger to the stage. The young actor has been in several productions, most recently in Toby's production of "Peter Pan" last summer.
"I've always been the youngest player," Franco said. "This is much more laid back, and more fun since I am with my peers."
Like most things with teenagers, the story of "Crush" shows that even when "things seems to be going horribly wrong, this too shall pass," said Rosen, who has been the theater arts teacher at Atholton for 20 years.
"Aliens are an interesting concept," Rosen said. "Overall, it is a romantic comedy. The kids worked so hard and learned special make-up. It's been an adventure."
"Crush" will be performed Nov. 5, 11 and 12, at 7 p.m., and Nov. 6 at 3 p.m., at Atholton High School, 6520 Freetown Road, Columbia. Tickets are $10. 410-313-7065