She Kills Monsters production: a preview

The name is Agnes Evans and the game is Dungeons & Dragons. With swords, daggers, shields and strength, Evans kills monsters and finishes what her sister, Tilly Evans, started. Agnes, a schoolteacher from Ohio, uses the role-playing fantasy game to better understand the life of her deceased teenage sister, Tilly. Set in 1995, “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen, is an action-packed play riddled with excitement, humor and references to ‘90s pop culture.

The cast and crew of “She Kills Monsters” have been busy these last three months, working on incorporating various special effects into the show. According to junior and Master Electrician Alex Conkright, shadow puppetry and video projection will be used to enhance the play for the audience.

“I think it’s a really unique play compared to anything I’ve done at Guilford so far,” said Conkright. “It has a lot more fantasy and dragons and cool imagery and puppets and stuff. I’ve never seen anything produced here at Guilford with that level of added special effects. We have fog, and there’s going to be video projected on the stage, mostly on the walls to make more of a backdrop. (There are) a lot of puppets and giant masks and sword fights. It’s going to be a really intense play.”

Along with the fantastical aspect, the play features a real-life setting where Agnes deals with teaching at the school Tilly attended. Agnes has to meet the people who influenced Tilly’s life, both positively and negatively.

Madison Stranahan, who plays Agnes, expressed the importance of empathy for the characters.

“It combines spectacle and comedy and action, but at its core, there is an emotional heart,” said Stranahan. “A lot of this play is (about) a sister dealing with grief. It starts with basically the growth of Agnes, and her sort of accepting that playing Dungeons & Dragons can be fun, and accepting her grief and dealing with it because she’s put it off.”

The play exemplifies geek culture by showing Agnes navigating through the Dungeons and Dragons game. LGBTQIA culture is also highlighted in the play. Many characters, including Tilly, are queer in the play. There is a special focus on the female role in both of these worlds. Jeremy Toda-Ambaras, Assistant Director and Stage Manager, spoke about the importance of representing different backgrounds through art.

“I’m happy we’re doing a play by a Vietnamese American playwright,” said Toda-Ambaras “As a Japanese-American, it is always nice to see other cultures represented on the stage.”

Throughout the play, Agnes finds herself fighting ogres, elves and vicious fairies while simultaneously battling with Tilly’s real-life demons. “She Kills Monsters” touches on several themes including bereavement, acceptance, homosexuality, open-mindedness, teen angst, adventure, bullying and coming-of-age.

“It’s a very open-minded show,” said Brandon Jones, a first-year who plays Chuck, the Dungeon Master. “Sexuality is something that’s talked about and very well-represented. I feel like within recent times, (LGBTQIA) content on television and online has become a bit more prominent, but at the same time, in the political era that we’re in, it’s still getting pushed back. So I think it’s good because we’re adding to the content that’s already out, while at the same time pushing back against the negativity.”

“She Kills Monsters” will be performed on Nov. 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. in Sternberger Auditorium, and will be accompanied by American Sign Language translation on Nov. 17.

Theatre Studies has partnered with Guilford’s Yachting Club and Pride for the play, and people who attend are encouraged to dress in costume.

“It does a really fun job of showing how fun and magical things can be, and captures the enjoyment people can get from just pretending to be these characters and having these big boss battles to fight,” said Laura Navie, the Associate Costume Designer. “If you like the ‘90s, if you like fun, goofy fantasy and if you like supporting gay kids in the community, that is exactly what it’s about. It’s about a queer ‘90s kid fighting monsters.”