HAYLEY – Hard working, a straight-A student. Being successful is important to her.
EMILY – Bit of a goth chick. She’s gone through some changes the past couple of years.
ANNA – Daughter of Pastor Warren, she’s still grieving the loss of her sibling.
ETHAN – Used to be friends with Emily. Now he’s a bit of an internet conspiracy theorist.
ZACH – Solid guy. Lives in the shadow of his famous father. Whatever his sexuality is, he hasn’t quite figured it out yet.
ANDY/ABBY DANCER – She moved to Festial a year ago but is still considered a newbie.
BRASFIELD – Guidance counselor. Tries to do the right thing.
TANNER – Literature teacher. Well-liked by the students.
PASTOR WARREN – The moral compass of the town of Festial.
RAY – Zach’s father. Used to be a semi-famous pop star. Festial’s only celebrity.
JANET – Pastor Warren’s wife and Anna’s mother. Still grieving the loss of a child.
FOSTER – Principal of Festial High, she’s very worried about angering the school board.
(The character of 8 is genderless. 8 can be played by a single actor/actress or by a female and male actor alternating scenes.)
MALE ENSEMBLE MEMBER 2 – VOICE/BEN/ CHAZ/WEBER/WALTER – Adults
FEMALE ENSEMBLE MEMBER 2 – SUZANNE/MARTA/CLARA/SANDERS/ – Adults
A tornado touches down in the small town of Festial, MO on prom night. During the chaos, a student named Anna runs outside to rescue a mysterious stranger. The stranger goes by the name “8.” When the tornado passes, the students and teachers discover that a third of their town has been destroyed. (Song: THE END OF THE WORLD.) The townspeople begin the slow process of rebuilding and 8 moves in with the high school guidance counsleor, Mr. Brasfield. 8 begins taking classes at Festial High School, where the students and faculty are unable to determine 8’s gender. 8 attends Ms. Tanner’s English Lit class and develops an affinity for “Catcher in the Rye” and “Franny & Zooey.” That weekend, Anna Warren, the young woman who saved 8 from the tornado, attends her father’s church service where she is welcomed as a hero. Instead of accepting the applause, she expresses her newfound atheism (Song: FALLEN). Later that day, the obnoxious morning show hosts “Chaz & Marta” report on the tornado damage in Festial. A reporter interviews the townspeople (Song: WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE.) Monday, during lunch, the students discuss how Mr. Tanner and Ms. Brasfield were in a relationship before suddenly breaking up two years ago. 8 begins to develop friendships with the other students at Festial High, who are drawn to 8’s mysterious language which is expressed through a series of wordless gestures. Over the next few weeks, 8 learns the English language through perennial high school standbys “The Catcher in the Rye,” “Lord of the Flies” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” At the same time, 8 begins to observe the complicated relationships between the students, their parents and one another. (Song: THE SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN) Later that afternoon at Anna’s house, Pastor Warren reprimands Anna during dinner, prompting Anna to threaten to run away. Anna’s mother, Janet, expresses grief over the death of Anna’s younger brother, Abe. (Song: A MOTHER KNOWS.) High school students Zach, Anna & Emily begin seeing Mr. Brasfield, the guidance counselor, but are unable to find the right words to express the turmoil they’re experiencing. After 8 teaches Anna an “intimacy gesture” that appears to create a connection between them, Anna teaches the gesture to Emily who teaches it to Zach (Song: WHAT I MEAN). At the end of the week, Ethan invites the other students over to his house to show them some mysterious information he discovered on the dark web. Apparently, Festial has a history of mysterious strangers showing up after tornadoes touch down. Ethan thinks 8 has arrived to punish everyone for their treatment of Abby Warren, Anna’s sister, three years ago. We learn that Abby began life as Abe before identifying as a female at age 13. When the town refused to accept her, Abby took her own life. (Song: READY FOR HER) End of Act I.
After Hayley, a high-achieving student, gets jealous of the attention 8 is receiving for their academic achievments, she tells 8 to leave town. Despondent, 8 visits the home of Zach and Ray where Zach and Emily’s rock band is rehearsing. Eager to boost 8’s confidence, the group sings their new song (Song: ROCKSTAR) Frustrated by the mysterious new language the high school students are speaking, Principal Foster summons Mr. Brasfield and Ms. Tanner to her office and tells them to get control of the situation. Ms. Tanner reveals that she’s leaving Festial for a new job at the end of the year, which upsets Mr. Brasfield. The two hold a counseling session in Ms. Tanner’s classroom which leads to a conflict between the students who have learned 8’s language and the ones that refuse to do so. Brasfield confronts Tanner about her leaving as their affection for one another begins to resurface. (Song: ON MY WAY) The town attends the annual Brass Key Club Banquet where 8 is scheduled to give the keynote speech. Tanner and Brasfield confess that they still feel guilt over the death of Abby Warren two years earlier. The two of them remember the teachers that changed their lives. After Tanner returns to the banquet, Brasfield reveals that he is still in love with her. (Song: CO-CREATORS OF THE 21st CENTURY) After 8 reveals to the crowd that “others” are coming to Festial, the banquent descends into chaos. Ethan tells everyone that 8’s presence is their punishment for how they treated Abby. Pastor Warren attempts to shout down Ethan, but Anna stops him and tries to make everyone see that by exiling 8, the town is treating 8 the same way they treated Abby. In the ensuing melee, Anna and 8 vanish. On top of her father’s church, the same spot she used to come with Abby, Anna tells 8 that she’s leaving Festial because she doesn’t believe it will ever change. She begs 8 to take her away. Anna and 8 begin to dance as Janet appears. (Song: CIVIL WAR). 8 urges Anna to stay in Festial and forgive them. After telling her to prepare for the arrival of more of 8’s people, 8 vanishes. Pastor Warren appears and begs for Anna’s forgiveness, asking her to show him how to be a better man. (Song: IF ONLY.)Days later, the students and teachers gather in the gymnasium of the school to welcome 8’s people to Festial. When a voice of authority tells them to return home, they refuse. Just then, a siren sounds indicating that another tornado is about to drop on Festial. With Anna in the lead, the group heads outside into the storm to welcome 8’s people. (Song: IS ANYBODY OUT THERE)