She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition - November 18 - November 20, 2021

Syosset High School

  Director's Notes  

     If there is one thing we learn when doing Improv Theatre it's to always expect the unexpected. But it also teaches us to "go with the flow" and react to the events of the moment. The unprecedented confluence of events that started in March of 2020 have been extremely unexpected to say the least. Broadway theatres shut down on March 12th and are just now beginning to open up with some sense of normalcy. Most high schools, colleges and community theatres lost the chance to present their spring shows and for some this moratorium still continues. The theatre world has found itself in a crisis from which we are just now beginning to recover.  Even "going with the flow", one thing is very clear - how we produce and experience theatre is still going to be very different for our foreseeable future.

     With all of this swirling about, we here at Syosset High School Theatre Arts made a commitment to try to bring back some sort of normalcy for our students. The arts have always been an integral part of the educational experience at SHS and in these still uncertain times they are the one thing many of our students look to in order to express who they are and how they are feeling.  Expression through the arts is an important way for many of them to cope with the constant uncertainty created by this pandemic and we've been so grateful for the support of the administration, our parents and the students of The Association of Creative Thespians in coming together to make these shows possible.  Although some schools are still limited to creating shows with actors relating to each other from small boxes on the screen, we have been blessed to be able to perform live (although masked) for you on our stage. It is indeed a blessing to share this story with you and the cast and crew are so very excited to be back doing what they love.

     It is no surprise that many of the people who participate in theatre also playDungeons and Dragons. The storytelling, detailed character creation, and improvisational skills involved in the game are pure theatricality. Both create a reality dependent on the imagination and commitment of those that participate in it. Both are also realms where many feel they are “outsiders” and that they have found a group to which they belong.  The Playwright, Qui Nguyen is an exciting voice in the American Theatre who understands what it means to negotiate many worlds and identities. He is achild of Vietnamese immigrants, born and raised in the American south, and whose action filled plays are a vehicle to explore surprising depths of human nature. So prolific is Nguyen's writing and so distinct his style, that he is singlehandedly creating a genre that pushes the boundaries of what you can accomplish in a theatre. This play is filled with sword fights, monsters, dragons, and exciting choreography but at its heart She Kills Monsters is a play about loss, escape, and finding the people who make your journey through life worthwhile. It was a joy to work on this production with so many excellent artists, designers, actors, and technicians, who have so painstakingly built this world. It is an honor to be a part of your group.  Our play, She Kills Monsters is an comical, fantastical, poignant, and heartfelt exploration of loss, connection, and self-discovery. 

     Dungeons and Dragons is having a renaissance. It may be because my generation – the generation who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s when this play is set – not only grew up playing games but expected those games to grow up with us. We still play it these games: video games, phone games, board games and yes, tabletop role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. In the theatre, our work depends on our ability to play, and the skills required to bring an imaginary world to life are the more of less the same whether on a stage or aound a D&D table.   In creating She Kills Monsters Qui Nguyen takes us on a thrilling journey where Tilly Evans challenges her older sister Agnes to step outside of her comfort zone and take risks through playing Dungeons & Dragons.  “It’s about adventures and saving the world and having magic.”  

     Unfortunatey, like theatre, D&D also has a misogynist and racist history. The particular edition of D&D played in this text not only put a lower cap on a female character’s strength than a man’s, but it also depicted all human and humanoid characters as Caucasian. In its most recent iteration, D&D has evolved to embrace diversity of gender, sexual orientation and race. But, like in theatre, in practice men still do most of the fighting.

     One of the remarkable things about She Kills Monsters is that it makes space for women to be the hero and take no prisoners on stage in ways we rarely get to see. Like theatre, D&D is a space that has been claimed by outsiders despite its history. It is a place where queer communities, communities of colour and many others who don’t always fit into the norm can take space.  This play foregrounds the story of a teenage lesbian Dungeon Master in a time and place when being queer, female and a geek made you a target and a freak.  


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