West Sound Academy students will be presenting their production of “She Kills Monsters” a play by Qui Nguyen Nov. 15-17 at the William D. Harvey Theatre at Olympic College.
“She Kills Monsters,” is a dramatic comedy that centers around the character of Agnes Evans, a high school student trying to process the death of her younger sister, Tilly, following a tragic accident.
When Agnes finds a curious notebook among Tilly’s things, she takes it to one of the places her sister hung out and learned that the notebook was that of a game module used by a dungeon master in the popular role-playing game series, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).
Agnes, with the help of a geeky shop owner called Chuck, learns to play D&D and over the course of the show, the story shifts from present-day to the imaginary world of D&D created by Tilly’s notebook.
Through playing the game Agnes learns that the notebook served as a refuge for her sister while dealing with high school bullies and understanding her own sexuality as an adolescent growing up in Ohio in 1995.
“I read the script a year-and-a-half ago and loved it, but there’s some challenging language in it, there’s bullying in it. It also turns out the ‘game module’ is Tilly’s journal and as Chuck says ‘it’s written in geek,” show Director Gretchen Nordleaf said. “There’s this very interesting mix of what is reality and what is not reality, and watching Agnes process all of her feelings.”
Nordleaf showed the script to West Sound Academy’s Head of School Barrie Hillman, noting the potential challenges of the script, but that students and the drama department were up to the task.
“[I asked] are you up for West Sound Academy producing the show, she read it and she said ‘absolutely, we need to talk about kids questioning their sexuality, we need to talk about the LGBTQ community and support them and we need to talk about bullying because its not tolerated [here].’”
If the themes, language, and length of the play didn’t present enough of challenge to the production, the choreography certainly has.
Over the course of the last seven weeks students participating in the production, have been learning combat choreography: basically learning how to fight without hurting themselves or each other using stage weapons.
“Any kind of stage fighting that you see on movies or TV or anything like that requires people to actually learn how to fight without hurting each other. It manifests itself in a way that we call it combat choreography because it’s pretty much like a dance. So they learn counts and they know when to move to certain counts so that they end up not actually physically hurting each other but looking like they are,” choreographer Sara Adams said.
Some of the students have technical dance training and one has fight training, but for the majority of the students, this is their first time ever being trained in the format of stage combat.
“The fun part for them is that most kids kinda catch on pretty quickly, and even though they’re high schoolers, it’s like they get to go back to their memories from when they were younger and they ran around with sticks,” Adams said. “You get a lot of buy-in pretty quickly, but also they know if they don’t they’re gonna end up getting hurt or hurting each other, so they take it very seriously.”
According to Adams, there’s been a lot of initial training on how to safely fall and how to safely look like they’ve hit someone. So far there’s only been minor bumps and bruises as the students learn to control their movements, especially while using prop swords and staffs which adds some weight.
“All the props we are using right now are made from hard plastic or bamboo, like bamboo canes, they are not easy to wield and are really heavy,” Adams said.
Tickets for the show will be available at the door 40 minutes prior to each performance or can be bought online at westsoundacademy.org. Tickets are $8 for students K-12 and $12 adults. Showtimes are 7 p.m. on Nov. 15 and Nov. 16 with 2 p.m. matinees as well.
Parents should note that this show contains adult humor and language, violence and mature themes.