During the weekend of Nov. 8-11, the Meredith Ensemble Theater performed She Kills Monsters, a Dungeons and Dragons-themed production written by playwright Qui Nguyen. The play tells the story of Agnes Evans and her younger sister Tilly who died in a tragic car accident at the beginning of the play. Tilly, an accomplished teenage “nerd,” created her own world by writing a complex D & D game. Agnes, upon finding the game’s rules amongst Tilly’s things, recruits her sister’s Dungeons and Dragons friends to help her complete the quest. The play weaves together comedic relief as Agnes progresses through the game, all the while learning more about her sister and processing her grief.
The play’s themes grapple with the complexities of identity and tackle issues such as homophobia; however, sexuality and disability are portrayed without coming across as tropes or replacing the story’s central focus. Playwright Nguyen’s message is one of not being afraid to be yourself and the importance of having a place to fit in. According to Anna Phillips, ‘22, the production’s assistant director, “the play’s all about family...the story in its entirety is about the bond between two sisters as Agnes tries so desperately to discover who her sister truly was.”
Leslie Castro ‘19, who played Tilly, describes She Kills Monsters as the “pièce de résistance” of her career as a theatre major at Meredith College. As someone who identifies with the character, she felt like she could finally act in the way that her theatre classes had encouraged: by “liv[ing] truthfully in a set of imaginary circumstances.” “Acting Tilly’s story... was painting a truth that I and so many others have lived.” For many, theater becomes a second home and acting a way of self-expression that allows for the creation and further exploration of one’s own narrative in real life, and in She Kills Monsters. She Kills Monsters was performed in the Studio Theater of Jones Auditorium, a small, intimate space which solidifies and enhances the theme of family by allowing the audience to feel closer to the actors than with a traditional auditorium setup. The cohesiveness of the cast and crew with one another was also evident. Phillips and Castro discussed the long hours spent navigating the logistics of the show beyond the usual blocking and rehearsing of lines. The play included dance choreography, fight scenes, and life-sized puppets; and many students dedicated their free time to costume sewing and set design. The collaborative efforts paid off in spectacular performances that allowed everyone involved to showcase their talents.
I attended the final performance and was able to see just how hard everyone had worked, how proud the cast and crew were of their successes, and how sad everyone was to leave the show behind as they took their final bows. While initially skeptical of how I could relate, having little knowledge of the inner workings of D & D, I felt quickly drawn into New Landia, the world of Tilly’s creation, and spent my afternoon laughing, crying, and finding pieces of myself in the characters’ stories. “That’s the funny thing about She Kills Monsters,” Castro said. “You don’t expect a play about the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons to so closely resemble life.” She went on to explain, “In the weeks since the show I’ve received so much support from my fellow Angels...it was a pleasant surprise to have a classmate...tell me they loved the play and unexpectedly connected with it.” Through several well-executed performances, Meredith Ensemble Theater spread a message of love, acceptance, belonging, and the encouragement to live your truth.
By Caroline Garrett, A&E Editor