‘We’re not bounded by realism’: WKU theatre & dance to perform ‘She Kills Monsters’

Provided+by+WKU+Theatre+%26+Dance.

Provided by WKU Theatre & Dance.

Dragons, monsters, battles and other classic tabletop gaming elements will be on full display this week when WKU’s Department of Theatre & Dance presents its first show of their season, “She Kills Monsters.”

“She Kills Monsters” tells the story of Agnes, an ordinary young woman who has always been embarrassed by her younger sister Tilly. When Tilly dies in a car accident, Agnes must understand her sister through what she left behind – an unfinished game of Dungeons & Dragons.

Through fight sequences, puppetry, visual effects and a heartfelt narrative about finding spaces to be yourself, “She Kills Monsters” brings a unique perspective to the campus community.

The cast and crew had roughly four weeks to prepare from the start of production to opening night, according to Carol Jordan, instructor of theatre and director of “She Kills Monsters.”

“The first show, it’s always a little crazy because it’s very quick at the beginning of the semester,” Jordan said. “We all came in and hit the ground running […] But it’s also been an incredibly exciting process, just because this is a show that does all kinds of amazing visual stuff. It has lots of fantasy elements.”

Since the show is based around Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy roleplaying game, cast and crew members were given the opportunity to produce a performance with heavy theatrics and intense visual elements, including fantasy weapons, monsters, dragons and huge fight scenes.

Jordan said the show employs a heavy usage of 1990s styles and cultures, combining the elements into a “loving homage” of the era.

“It’s a very 90s pop culture aesthetic,” Jordan said. “We’re sort of using some of the rave culture and some of the club kid culture of that era, partly because that was in many ways  the queer culture of that era, which is also what the show is dealing with.”

Jorah Graham, a senior, plays Tilly in the show. For Graham, “She Kills Monsters” gave the opportunity to gain experience with a different aspect of performance – fight choreography.

“‘She Kills Monsters’ has a lot of fight choreography, and I’ve never done fight choreography before,” Graham said. “We got to work with an actual fight choreographer […] It’s just been super-duper cool to see the process go from basic fight moves to how we’ve integrated it into the show to make it look like an actual believable performance. It’s been very fun in that aspect.”

According to Jordan, the show’s 11 different fight sequences were the biggest challenge for the cast and crew. These monster-fighting sequences are what cast and crew members are most looking forward to seeing come alive on stage.

Sebastian Tingle, a junior, is the puppet designer for the show. The final fight sequence with a five-headed dragon is what he is most excited for students to see.

“I think it’s [the dragon] the highlight of the whole show,” Tingle said. “It’s the climactic battle, and there’s these five dragon heads. Each of them represent a different character on stage. Each of them represent a different color, and each of them have a different elemental power. They have been really fun to mess with, and our director has a vision where we’re using a lot of influence from 90s pop culture, techno stuff, really fun colors. It’s been fun to tie those into the dragons. I’m excited to finally see them on stage.”

Jordan said the puppets used in the show are “very far from Sesame Street” and allow the cast and crew to showcase another art form.

“These are big scary puppets, but to me, that’s an exciting way to just make theater that is extremely theatrical,” Jordan said. “ […] We’re not bounded by realism. Therefore, everything can be incredibly creative, and the puppets allow us to do a lot of that.”

The combination of this intense visual design and the show’s narrative is what built the world of “She Kills Monsters”, according to Graham, and it is what she hopes students come to see.

I think that not being afraid to do things that are deemed as dorky or silly just because other people are telling you that, if you truly love what you’re doing and it’s helping you have an outlet for who you are.”

— Emma McGee

“He [Tingle] actually made these monsters come alive on stage,” Graham said. “[…] The way that Sebastian has taken them and actually made them real, and there’s going to be so much cool lighting design, I think that’s what’s so cool about this play. Every aspect of theater is really coming together to make this beautiful, whimsical world. It’s going to be so cool.”

Emma McGee, a senior, plays Agnes. She reflected on her connection to her character through the traits they share and the relationship she has with her own siblings.

“I feel like I’ve really connected with her in the sense of [that] she’s very dependent, dependable and reliable,” McGee said. “[…] I feel like she kind of moves through her worlds, trying to be as perfect as possible, which is not always the most healthy thing.”

Outside of performance, McGee has been involved in a variety of theatrical disciplines, such as directing and dramaturgy. “She Kills Monsters” is her return to the stage, which McGee said has “opened up new doorways, but also reminded me about how much I love acting.”

At the core of the show is its message of acceptance and learning to be yourself through what may not be understood by others. To McGee, this theme is what she hopes audiences take away from the performances.

“I think that not being afraid to do things that are deemed as dorky or silly just because other people are telling you that, if you truly love what you’re doing and it’s helping you have an outlet for who you are,” McGee said. “[…] I’m hoping that audiences can see that in us as actors, but also see that in the characters as well.”

According to Jordan, the usage of a fantasy world provides an outlet for stories that “mainstream culture isn’t telling” – something she believes theater does as well.

“What I love about this show is that it is very much about teenagers who are marginalized for a whole range of reasons, sexual orientation and identity being one of those, but also just because they’re geeky kids [that] don’t fit in,” Jordan said. “[…] I feel like this show is a way of saying, ‘hey, if your story is not being told, there are ways you can tell it yourself’, and if you can tell the story, even if it’s in a fantasy setting, that gives you paths to then live that story truthfully in the real world.”

“She Kills Monsters” runs Friday, Sept. 23 through Tuesday, Sept. 27 in the Russell Miller Theatre in the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center. Tickets for each performance are $12 for students and seniors and $16 for adults, and they can be purchased online or at the door.

Content editor Alexandria Anderson can be reached at [email protected]