New musical ‘Resident Alien’ to kick off Mainstage theater season at WCU

The three members of the fictional Berdichevsky family share a moment during a scene from “Resident Alien,” a new musical being staged Thursday, Sept. 22, through Sunday, Sept. 25, at Western Carolina University. The three student actors are (from left) Ben Sears (Sasha, the father), Iliana Garcia (Svetlana, the mother) and Kelly McCarty (Nastya, the daughter).

The three members of the fictional Berdichevsky family share a moment during a scene from “Resident Alien,” a new musical being staged Thursday, Sept. 22, through Sunday, Sept. 25, at Western Carolina University. The three student actors are (from left) Ben Sears (Sasha, the father), Iliana Garcia (Svetlana, the mother) and Kelly McCarty (Nastya, the daughter).

A new musical written by a Western Carolina University faculty member about a Russian family’s emigration to the U.S. will open the 2016-17 Mainstage theater season of WCU’s School of Stage and Screen.

“Resident Alien,” the story of the fictional Berdichevsky family’s experience in assimilating in their new home country, will be presented Thursday, Sept. 22, through Sunday, Sept. 25, in WCU’s Hoey Auditorium. Show times are 7:30 p.m., except for a 3 p.m. matinee on Sept. 25.

The musical is the creation of Katya Stanislavskaya, director of WCU’s Musical Theatre Program. Having fought for many years to survive the iron grip of Russian communism, the Berdichevskys emigrate to America hopeful that their new country will provide the opportunities they desire. Sasha, a literary scholar and professor, and Sveta, a musician and professor, are parents of young daughter Nastya, who misses the known realities of her former home and whose massive culture shock coincides with her coming of age, said Jayme McGhan, director of the School of Stage and Screen.

“The harsh realities of the fading American Dream in the early ’90s begin to close in on them and they must decide which parts of their identities to keep and which parts to jettison in order to survive in their new home,” McGhan said. “‘Resident Alien’ is a thoughtful, humorous and heartbreaking exploration of what it means to be a family in any country.”

“Resident Alien” won the prestigious Weston New Musical Award in 2015 and was later presented as a staged reading for the Josefina Niggli New Works Reading Series at WCU. As part of an ongoing effort to develop new works for theater in the U.S., the faculty of the School of Stage and Screen unanimously agreed that producing Stanislavskaya’s play on campus “would be an amazing opportunity for students to bring to life an ever-evolving and living script,” McGhan said.

Stanislavskaya said she was inspired to create the musical during a writing retreat in New England. “People ask if the musical is about me, and I answer no, but it is about people like me,” she said. “I thought about why people decide to emigrate – how it affected some of my friends. ‘Resident Alien’ is adapted greatly from their experiences.”

Kelly McCarty, a senior musical theater major from Peachtree City, Georgia, will portray the young Nastya, while Kylee Smith, a senior musical theater major from Jacksonville, will play the role of the older Nastya. The parents will be portrayed by Ben Sears, a senior musical theater major from Waynesville, and Iliana Garcia, a senior musical theater major from Newnan, Georgia.

McGhan is directing the production, and Stanislavskaya will provide musical direction. Choreography will be directed by WCU dance faculty member Ashlee Wasmund and designs will be provided by faculty members Andrew Mannion, Chris Collins and Susan Brown-Strauss. Guest artists for the production will be New York City orchestrators Matt Castle and Frank Galgano, who are creating the band arrangements.

Tickets for “Resident Alien” are $22 for adults; $16 for WCU faculty and staff, and seniors; and $7 (advance) and $10 (day of show) for students. Tickets are available online at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu or by calling 828-227-2479.