Crazed fairies, bloodthirsty ogres, and monsters of all sorts populate the fantasy world of She Kills Monsters. The Northeast State Department of Theater presents this modern production running Nov. 10 to Nov. 20 by playwright Qui Nguyen. The new production continues the tradition of vividly creative and cutting edge productions from the College’s award-winning Theater Department.
“I am exceedingly proud of my students, present and former, who have really had to step up to bring this visually exciting show to life,” said Brad McKenzie, director of Monsters and technical director of Northeast State Theater (NST).
Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans as she leaves her childhood home in Ohio following the death of her mother, father, and teenage sister, Tilly. Five years later when Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, however, she stumbles into a journey of discovery and adventure in the imaginary world that was Tilly’s refuge.
“This production has some of the biggest spectacle and design that we have done, and that is saying something,” said Elizabeth M. Sloan, director of NST. “I am constantly amazed by Brad’s vision and the imagination he inspires in his students. Everyone has put in a lot hours to create this spectacularly fun show.”
Madison Phillips plays Tilly in flashback scenes of the fantasy world. Phillips made her NST debut in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest last spring. She followed that with the lead role of Carole in Oleanna produced earlier this year. Her memories of Tilly propels Agnes into the adventure to learn more about the sister she thought she knew.
“I think thematically the play tells a story about who people are and how they deal with life differently,” said Phillips. “Everything in this play comes from truth. It is relatable to everyone because it tells a truth about the lives people live every day.”
Haley Forbes portrays Agnes, an imaginative young woman whose yearning for exciting life brings her more adventure than she ever expected.
“I think it is a story about losing someone you love and feeling lost,” said Forbes, in her first performance with Northeast State Theater. “This is a story about loss and how Agnes deals with losing her sister and finding a connection with her, too.”
Agnes meets a wide assortment of characters and faces down many demons her sister fought through the game. Megan Proctor plays Lilith Morningstar, a feisty fairy queen wielding a battle axe. Despite Proctor’s fearsome character, she said Lilith hides a good heart.
“I feel like the play is about sisterhood,” said Proctor, a veteran Northeast State Theater performer working in her sixth production. “The bond between Tilly and Agnes carries through to the fantasy world and gives Agnes a bridge to her sister’s world where they can be together.”
The play’s overarching theme of the beloved Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game highlights not only the game but the offbeat characters involved in the game. McKenzie had the cast and crew play a game of Dungeons and Dragons to get acquainted with the game and theme of the play.
The play features a series of sword battles between the characters. Charles Clark serves as fight captain in charge of orchestrating the actors’ fight scenes and keeping cast members in one piece. He also portrays the evil lord of the underworld Orcus who is bent on destroying Agnes.
“The costume and sword I use are well done that it is exciting to wear,” said Clark. “I feel like a lot of the fantasy elements of the play translate into the real world. You need to keep an open mind and roll through the bad times to get to the good.”
Building the weapons and armor fell to theater shop foreman and Northeast State alumnus Richard Curtis. An award-winning creative designer and theater veteran, Curtis returns to Northeast State after completing his bachelor’s degree in Theater at King University. The weapons wielded by the characters are formed with foam coated with resin to provide the hard structure needed for effect.
“Each weapon has its own identity and purpose,” said Curtis. “Brad and Elizabeth told me about the play and asked if I wanted to be involved and I said, ‘Of course, I do!'”
Designing the creature prosthetics, character masks, and large wearable wings fell to Northeast State alumnus and Theater veteran Dustin Lawson. Inspired by the game’s characters, Lawson sketched out monsters well known to D&D players and created masks to reflect them.
“These are most prosthetics I’ve ever made for a show so, yes, many long hours have been put in by all of us,” said Lawson, now an ETSU student majoring in Theater. “My biggest thing is actor comfort so I’m always asking how the masks feel and how they need to be adjusted.”
Marty France brought his skills to costuming a cast of regular and fantasy world characters. France’s work with costuming as well as hair and makeup has been showcased in numerous Northeast State Theater productions including Steel Magnolias and The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe.
“Brad and Elizabeth focus a lot on us respecting each other so the crew and cast understand what each other brings to the table in each production,” he said. “I love that so many new people are coming into the program.”
Agnes dealing with the loss of her family and expectations of a new life with her fiancé Miles (Aaron Musselwhite). The relationship between Agnes and Miles changes as she searches for answers and looks for strength on her quest.
“Agnes and Miles knew each other superficially, but through her quest they get to know each other in a very deep way,” said Musselwhite. “The story tells you how there are times not everything is going to go how you planned, and you need to take a second to enjoy the moments you live in every day.”
Ashley Guy took on the formidable job of Puppet Master designing and building seven large puppet figures from dragons to an enormous planetoid head. An experienced costume designer and crew member in multiple NST productions, Guy took on the new design challenge and began sketching her creations last summer. Armed with raw materials and her imagination, Guy created a posse of dragon puppets that add to the night
“I think people feel like Dungeons and Dragons is some game nerds play, but if they knew how fun it was they would think about playing, too,” said Guy, a longtime D&D player. “Even though this is a community college, we are putting on some amazing plays with top-notch values and some of the best productions around.”
While the play delves into adult and sensitive themes, cast and crew members agreed the show was not about prurient shock value. The play used fantasy and comedy to ask critical and universal questions about human beings and where we all fit in the world.
The play involves mature themes and strong adult language and is recommended for audiences ages 18 and older. She Kills Monsters is produced by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. Tickets are $10 and admission is free to currently enrolled Northeast State students with valid identification. The play’s performance dates are Nov. 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 13 and 20 at 2:00 p.m. in the WRCPA Theater.