Playing D&D for keeps

SCAD's She Kills Monsters explores a world of fantasy

In Qui Nguyen's comedy She Kills Monsters: Kaitlyn Ortega, left, Gabrielle Hespe, Meagan Mulgrew and Cayla Scott.

For 20 years, Martin Noyes has been active in the role-playing gamers' world of Dungeons & Dragons. When the staff of SCAD's Performing Arts Department discovered the comedy She Kills Monsters, which takes place in that world, choosing its director was a no-brainer.

"It was actually one of the easiest play selections for us this season," beams Noyes, whose official title is Professor of Movement and Combat. "'Let's get Martin, the combat guy who plays Dungeons & Dragons, to direct the play about Dungeons & Dragons.'

"It truly is a perfect fit. I was meant to direct this play."

Qui Nguyen, a member of New York's award-winning off-Broadway company Vampire Cowboys, wrote and debuted She Kills Monsters in 2011. Chicago's Steppenwolf Garage Rep began its own production last month.

"It doesn't matter whether you're a D&D freak or whether you don't know a Harpie from a Hobbit," raved Chicago Theater Beat. "She Kills Monsters is great fun for gamers and average folk alike."

Noyes is quick to point out that games like Dungeons & Dragons, with their over-the-top heroic characters sprung straight from the foreheads of average, non-heroic people, is inherently funny.

"When you get a bunch of geeky people sitting around a table, pretending and role-playing, the stuff that comes out of that situation is hysterical," he says.

"I mean, we're watching a bunch of nerds try to be tough and powerful. We're watching clumsy, uncoordinated folk suddenly become masterful dragon killers."

But She Kills Monsters is not just fun and games. "That's where we as the audience get to remember those geeky moments within ourselves," Noyes adds.

It's about schoolteacher Agnes Evans, whose father, mother and 15-year-old sister have recently died in a car crash.

Tilly was Agnes' annoying little sister; the two had virtually nothing in common. Tilly was shy and withdrawn, and had immersed herself — like so many with those traits — in role-playing.

In She Kills Monsters, Noyes explains, Agnes goes on a "journey of relationship. A journey of connection. She's a typical, average lady that has an incredibly un-typical thing happen to her. She realizes that she has questions, and they need to be answered, so that she can mourn and move on and handle the death of her family in a healthy way."

Big sister discovers that little sister had been on a quest in Dungeons & Dragons ... and that the quest was not resolved at the time of her death.

So Agnes enters Tilly's world.

"Her personal quest is to connect with her sister, and it parallels what she's doing in the D&D game," says Noyes. "In the game, her sister's character has lost her soul. Agnes has to retrieve her soul so that she can pass on to whatever the next stage of existence is.

"But in a way, Agnes is saving their relationship, whatever little relationship they had. She's saving that connection with her dead sister in a similar way as her D&D character is trying to save her soul."



Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.
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