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'She Kills Monsters'

Are you in the mood for an exciting visual experience that blends mediums and themes?  If so, then you will love “She Kills Monsters,” the most recent mainstage production from the Department of Theater Studies,  coming to Rubenstein Arts Center this Thursday at 8:00 p.m. 

Written by Qui Nguyen and first debuted in 2011, “She Kills Monsters” focuses on Agnes Evans, a woman who lives a pretty average life in 1995, Athens, Ohio, until she loses her parents and younger sister Tilly in a car crash. After this tragedy, she discovers a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) campaign written by Tilly and decides to play it with the help of a dungeon master (the person who organizes and runs the game for the players) in an effort to learn more about her. Within the campaign, she takes the role of her sister’s character Tillius the Paladin and interacts with characters based off of people from Tilly’s life while working to beat the quest. In the process, she discovers her sister’s struggles with her sexuality and important lessons about herself.

To convey the themes of this play and show how Agnes’s life changes through the course of the campaign, the play switches between the D&D game and the real world, with most of the action taking place within the world of the game. A D&D campaign is a unique choice that distinguishes the play and also provides a more modern setting with the opportunity for plenty of pop culture references. To capture both the fantasy world of D&D and the more normal world of Agnes, the play combines various types of puppetry, shadow theater, elaborate sets, and both simple and elaborate cosplay. As Assistant Director Ondine Peck Voll details, the  department chose to perform “She Kills Monsters” because of its power and relevance, featuring universal themes such as the fear of the unknown, obstruction of potential, and trauma and how we survive it.

According to Peck-Voll, people should know about all the work that went into preparing to put on the play. The cast went through a series of team-bonding exercises to encourage camaraderie, in addition to going through multiple intimacy and fight training workshops so that they would have the skills and knowledge necessary to be an expert in their action scenes. 

For those who don’t yet know if they are interested in seeing the play or not, Peck-Voll recommends it to anyone who wants to know themselves better when they face the unknown, people who like gaming, and, beyond that, pretty much… everyone and anyone. How does Peck-Voll sum up “She Kills Monsters?” “A total mindbender.”  

The first showing of the production is this Thursday, Nov. 10 at 8:00 p.m. To learn more about the play and its showtimes this fall, visit the Duke Theatre Studies website for more information. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed "She Kills Monsters" to Duke Players. The Chronicle regrets the error.

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