About the Show

Set in the late 1800s when Irish immigrants lived an average of six years after arriving in the new world, “ALIEN: The Musical” tells the compelling story of the Dolan family, starting with their initial years in New York. Their narrative continues to present-day California, where “Mexican” immigrants work in the kitchen at “O’Neils’ Irish Pub and Restaurant.”  

Worlds collide when an unexpected twist brings the Irish and Latinos into conflict as they navigate a decision that causes both groups to consider the cost of pursuing their personal interests versus the burden of carrying history into the future.

Audiences have called the show “life-changing” and have left the theatre emotionally charged to make a better world; “to make this place home.” The musical features over a dozen original songs in four different musical styles (Irish, Folk, Latin and Pop).

Creating

ALIEN: The Musical

The Arts at Center Street wanted to give me a chance to tell the story connected to the song I had written. I was given dates for the performance of a play I had yet to write, and hoping for the best, I agreed. ALIEN would need to be performance-ready in four months. Auditions were scheduled for the end of August, and rehearsals began in September in preparation for a weekend of performances early in December.

Whenever I had a moment to think about what I was going to write for the play, I would envision the opening number, the first song of Act 2, and the finale - that’s it. I would get lost thinking through the basic plot line: Irish Immigrants struggle with little help, and even less compassion… Latino Immigrants struggle in such a way their lives modernly mirror the experience of the Irish... descendants of the original Irish immigrants are the source of the current Latino’s struggle… That was it.

I wrote an interaction between some Irish characters, and some Latino characters, and that’s what was used for the reading during auditions. The play hadn’t been written, and I was auditioning very willing people to be a part of something that was hovering around in my subconscious.

  Gregg in Africa talking to local community leaders about sustainable development.

Gregg in Africa talking to local community leaders about sustainable development.

After auditions, I immediately went on a short trip to Africa, and on the return flight, with the audition candidates in mind, I wrote the script. Singing songs into my iPhone and typing away, I finished the first act as fast as it took to type it out.

The way I write, I bring a character into the story, they come into the situation with their own background and personality and the lines just start coming. I often feel like I’m just sitting in a room with people and writing down their conversations. It comes fast.

I separated the initial cast readings into three sessions, one per act. Partly because I wanted the cast to get the experience of the audience, in that I hadn’t pre-released the script, but gave it to the actors on the spot. They were going through the story in real time. I wrote the second and third acts on the day of their respective readings--in the same way as the first act--typing it out, singing into the phone.

I loved watching the actors get emotionally involved in the characters, as well as the plot. They were really my first test group with the script - and I liked the impact. They were laughing, oohing, ahhing, and even crying. It was fantastic. There were multiple times during those first readings, and even into rehearsals when the entire cast had to stop because it was too much to keep going. The subject matter. The communication. The impact. It was more than our cast could handle, and we could only stop.

I didn't want to write a script that was predictable or cliché. It seemed to me that most of the stories I'd read, or seen, concerning the subject matter of racism, discrimination, prejudice, or immigration, all had a similar plot line and the same resolution. I didn't want to do that. I had to think of a way that I could show how such discrimination is in all of us. How all of us, regardless of race, have to work through the conflict of self-interest versus the burden of creating an hospitable world for people who may be different than us. I had to get creative in imagining how my resolution could be universal, and take the audience to a place of decision. I didn't want people to think I was taking a political position. I wanted to somehow draw everyone into a storyline that would make them forget about the political, and get to the human; to somehow awaken compassion, open up hearts, and make a little more room for someone else. Thank God, I think I did it.

History

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Originally scheduled for only five shows in early December 2014, ALIEN: The Musical received such high admiration that it returned for nine more performances in early January 2015. Shows sold out quickly, and positive reviews mounted for the musical by local viewers and critics alike. It became evident that ALIEN: The Musical had a future beyond the small stage of The Arts at Center Street.

What began as a community theatre production, intended for a one-time weekend of performances, was requested to travel to theaters across the nation. Invitations poured in from Ohio, Indiana, Washington, and California.

It was officially decided mid-May of 2015, that efforts would be made to bring the musical to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The script, including the songs, choreography and production have all been updated, revised, and now produced for the big stage.

About the Music

“ALIEN: The Musical” features all original songs and lyrics composed by Gregg D. Garner.  

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I first wrote the song ALIEN for a recording project about four years ago. As soon as I started penning the tune, I could hear the voices of people I’ve met over the years; people who struggle to have life because their new home is inhospitable to them, they were singing the song. These vivid characters with compelling stories to tell, were giving me the words to write - I had to tell their story.

I wrote each song in this musical with a few goals: a) advance the plot, b) keep it interesting, and c) keep it human in both content and style (imperfect and emotional).

At the time I wrote ALIEN, I had songwriting credits to over 40 tunes, but I had never been to a live musical. I had seen some high school productions (i.e., Hello Dolly, or The Wizard of Oz), but I had never seen what I would learn to be the incredible work that composers for Broadway and the West End would turn out. On the one hand, I’m not sure I could ever do what those talented folks on Broadway do, but on the other hand, I knew I could write songs that people would remember, be impacted by, and perhaps even carry in their heart.

  Gregg in the studio recording the soundtrack with the cast.

Gregg in the studio recording the soundtrack with the cast.

Another issue I faced in composing the songs, was that I was writing for community theatre, and I didn't know who I would have to sing the songs. So, I wrote the songs emphasizing the human factor - songs that could be sung by anyone, songs that people with a heart to say something meaningful about their moment would be able to take on as a theme song for their own lives.

I wrote the songs in the musical style of the people group singing the song, (i.e., Irish Folk and Cumbia). I also composed the lyrics with the cultural, linguistic and time period considerations that would make the communication not only authentic, but also relatable to people who wouldn’t normally like that particular genre. 

Some of my favorite comments for this play have been along the lines of “I hate musicals, but I loved this one!”  I don’t know if I’m more a songwriter, or a playwright, but a comment like that makes me excited to keep honing the craft.

I cried multiple times writing these songs. My songwriting process for over half of the tunes was to close my eyes, think of the plot situation and the characters, and then sing into my phone. The characters, living in my mind, would sing their songs and bring me to tears. Perhaps, when you see these characters come to life on stage, and hear them singing their songs, it will have the same impact on you as it did to me putting it to paper.

 
If a child be born in this world we know. Into pain and suffering. Do you swallow it, or do you just get pissed, or decide to do something!
— Seamus, Wide Awake Me Boys
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So you can do no harm, at least not to them [his kids]. I’ll do anything that I possibly can. I have little dignity, in this life I don’t have much. But the pains in me hands, are healed by my wife’s touch.
— Jimmy, Dragon’s Lullaby
 
 
If I’ve only got one chance at life, I hope this is not a mistake. Cause I’m giving it all that I’ve got. There’s so much at stake. To love, while alive, can we be so brave? This is our lot - to love on our way to the grave.
— Cast, Love on Our Way