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‘She Kills Monsters’ Pays Homage to the Geek and Warrior Within
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Tuesday, February 7, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

High school student Agnes Evans has shut down her imagination in the wake of the cold, hard reality of losing her younger sister Tilly in a car accident.

But, when she stumbles upon Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, she is catapulted into a journey of discovery and adventure in the imaginary world that was her sister’s refuge. And, through this world of homicidal fairies, nasty ogres and other fantastical monsters, she discovers who she is even as she comes to grips with her sister and who she was.

“She Kills Monsters: Adventurers Edition” is the high-octane dramatic comedy that the Sun Valley Community Players will bring to the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 9-11. Tickets are $8 and $12, available online at https://ci.ovationtix.com/36066/production/1150885?performanceId.

The play is extremely popular among high schools and colleges, said Director Kevin Wade.

“It’s a really beautiful story—hilarious and heartfelt,” he added. “It is ultimately a story about acceptance and inclusivity, and the idea that we’re at our best when we allow ourselves to play.”

The play is action packed with the characters battling monsters with broadswords, battle axes and spears.

“Though I’ve had some certification in fight scenes, that doesn’t include battle axes,” said Wade. “I’ve had to do a lot of research into the weapons we’re using. I’ve learned, for instance, that the broadsword is very heavy so you have to take big swings—swirling, swinging, swirling--using momentum.  It’s a challenge, but the kids have really been enjoying the combat work.”

“She Kills Monsters” was written by award-winning playwright Qui Nguyen, who also created a virtual version for use during the pandemic. It debuted Off-Off Broadway in 2011 and was nominated for Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Costume Design and Sound Design. It also was nominated Outstanding New York Theater: Off-Off Broadway by the GLAAD Media Awards.

Katie Gardiner plays Agnes, a pop culture fan who was never close to her sister because she considered her nerdy or geeky.

“She feels like she never got to know her sister so, when she plays Dungeons & Dragons, she gets insights into her sister,” she said. “It’s a lot about acceptance—appreciating the people around you. Even though you might initially think they’re nerdy and not very cool, they’re really great if you get to know them.”

Charlie Coulter plays Chuck, the Dungeon Master.

“He controls how the story plays out—he’s kind of like a puppeteer,” he said. “It’s super beautiful because you see Agnes grow as the story goes on. The monsters are real-life characters, as well, so it’s cool to see both sides of them—to see what one is hiding, what another is trying to accomplish. It shows inner strength behind the defensive fronts.”

Cassius Klingenfuss plays Miles, Agnes’ boyfriend. He’s the typical jock, Klingenfuss said, but more insecure than you would think: “He thinks Agnes is cheating on him and he wants to be closer to her, to understand what’s going on. So, he starts playing Dungeons & Dragons, which ends up adding another  dimension to him.”

It’s challenge trying to make the characters believable, said Coulter.

“But I appreciate the realism of how the personalities are recognizable even in the monsters. Even the demon overlords has a human aspect to him in the way he reacts to things. It’s about intention, living lives with intention.”

Twenty-seven Upper School students are involved in the production on stage and behind the scenes, in addition to Gardner, Coulter and Klingenfuss.

Rose Bicas-Dolgen plays Tilly; Ida Belle Gorby, Kaliope; Lizzy Loving, Lilith; Sydney Lovering, Vera, and  Brady Giles, Orcus, a demon overlord who holds onto lost souls

Other cast members include Elyse Duffield, Tyler Salvoni, Phoebe Everett Williams, Aster Pitts, Steve Serva-Gonzales, Paisley Shapiro, Elizabeth Dahlen, Finian Ayliffe, Etienne Blumberg, Riley Siegel, Callan Duke and Lidia Kaminer.

Sara Gorby designed the costumes.

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