“She Kills Monsters” Offers Unique Virtual Adventure
Oct. 9, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti
By Mikah Boyd
It can be hard to imagine actors rehearsing and performing without the ability to meet in person, but the Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre at Sam Houston State University has risen to the occasion. The group will present “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen starting October 14 via livestream.
The story centers around a woman’s desire to reconnect with her late sister. Through her search, she learns more than she ever imagined about her sibling and the mystical world of the popular role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
The play has been adapted for a virtual format, allowing the actors to rehearse through Zoom meetings. The final production is also virtual and will be presented via a livestream. For Victoria Lantz, assistant theatre professor and director of the play, virtual rehearsals are nothing new. Even prior to the pandemic, she has collaborated with artists in virtual settings for years.
“I work with my performance art group on developing and creating performances from a distance, and have since 2012,” Lantz said. “We have lived all over the country (Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas) so the only way we can develop a work community is through Google Docs and video conferences.”
Assistant director and actress in the show, Laurel Burrer also has experience in virtual performances.
“Several cast members and I have had experiences with virtual rehearsals from either spring shows that were moved online or summer projects,” Burrer said. “Because we are doing a show written for a virtual world, it does help us to bring the words to life when we can’t be around each other.”
Johanna Wylie-Turner, who plays Tilly in the show, said everyone is making the most of the situation. Even though the cast and crew are not together physically, she said they still have plenty of inside jokes and off-topic conversations during rehearsals, which makes the experience feel more normal.
According to Lantz the virtual rehearsals have been useful, as she is able to focus the cast around three central topics: what brings characters into a particular moment, spacing from the computer camera and keeping expressive interaction between characters spontaneous and lively.
Costume and set design are pivotal to the portrayal of characters within “She Kills Monsters,” with the story taking place in both the real world and a Dungeons & Dragons world.
“We see all the fantastical and real-world characters, full bodied and fully articulated. We have a wonderful student designer Alexis Renfro, designing original costumes for all characters,” Lantz said. “We have original props and backdrops that all reflect the geometric shapes, gridded lines, and notebooks of most Dungeons and Dragons players. We have original artwork from an excellent student artist, Natalie Holmes. This is an all-hands-on-deck, virtually and social distanced both, to create this amazing adventure!”
The unique set concept has cast members enthusiastic to see what the designers will come up with in the end.
“Our technical team has been working super hard and I am so excited to see the finished product and appreciate their phenomenal work,” Wylie-Turner said.
“I am so grateful that we have an incredible team of designers that are still giving us as many elements of a stage show they can while limited to a virtual space,” Burrer said.
Lantz’s personal experience playing D&D had some influence on her choosing this play. She said she also found the format to be one that would greatly benefit her students by providing them with inventive ways to act in a virtual landscape. Another reason she selected “She Kills Monsters” was based how the story explores the way people communally experience loss.
“I think many people can relate to the fact that sometimes you just want to escape into a different world (especially during the past few months),” Burrer said. “Games such as D&D truly allow you to become immersed in a world unlike your everyday one. And really, that’s what theatre aims to do as well. This play is an incredible opportunity to dive into a world of fantasy and adventure without leaving your chair.”
Virtual performances of “She Kills Monsters” will take place Oct. 14 – 17. More information can be found at https://shsu.universitytickets.com/. Once a ticket is reserved, online viewing information will be provided.
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