Damien Atkins knows how it sounds when he tells people he wrote a play about UFOs. Throughout the process of researching and writing We Are Not Alone, Atkins had people ask him why he would write about encounters with extraterrestrials when there were much more serious subjects up for grabs, and he shares those conversations—and his responses—within his one-man show.
The play is highly self-referential as it chronicles all that Atkins went through while researching it. The playwright and actor depicts not only himself—as he decides to write the work, defends it against detractors, and meets experiencers, that is people who’ve encountered aliens or UFOs—but also the individuals he interviewed and met, and characters he pulled up from history.
For example, Atkins takes on the role of Kenneth Arnold, the pilot whose UFO sighting in June 1947 received wide media coverage and opened the floodgates for hundreds of reports worldwide in the following weeks.
Atkins does an excellent job of switching between characters, changing his voice, posture, mannerisms, and style of speech for each one. A particularly impressive scene is when he plays a telephone operator taking the influx of calls in 1947, creating not only her character, but that of each caller, while switching rapidly between them—making it all look effortless.
The set and costuming for We Are Not Alone are pretty minimal—there a couple of props on stage and Atkins wears a suit for the duration—but the performance, lighting, and sound all combine to make a highly immersive experience. There’s even recordings from the visit Atkins, along with co-director Christian Barry, made to Sedona to have an ‘experience.’ The two made the trip while they were in Phoenix, Arizona attending the UFO Congress, which is where Atkins met a lot of the experiencers whose stories are shared in the play—and it’s Atkins handling of these stories and their tellers that’s really the shining heart of We Are Not Alone.
While the play is definitely humorous, Atkins’ goal is not to ridicule. No matter how bizarre their tales, no matter what his feelings might have been like at the time, Atkins ultimately portrays each of the people he met with care and empathy. You may or may not change your mind about the existence of UFOs before you leave the theatre, but you will have contemplated something about what it means to be human.
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