Grappling Geeks and Grief

The 90s was a time of butterfly clips, scrunchies, beanie babies, “the Macarena” and the cliché portrayal of the distinct differences between high school cliques. Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, and She’s All That depicted high school groups through inescapable labels like “geeks,” “jocks,” “emos,” etc.
Cross that with a fantasy role-playing game and you have the makings of an amazing play.

The fall play, “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen, has now opened and everyone involved is working dedicatedly to prepare for the thrilling show. The cast and crew has spent around 9 to 16 hours a week rehearsing in the Black Box Theater.

Taking place in the 90s, “She Kills Monsters” is a humorous and heartwarming dramatic comedy involving the fantasy role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. The story follows Agnes Evans, a high school student coming to terms with the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. An exhilarating adventure begins after Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons and Dragons notebook and gets transported in and out of the whimsical game throughout the play. The quirky humor and amusing characters compliment the touching storyline, encompassing themes of overcoming loss and discovering sexuality.

The director of the play, Ms. Tepe, shared her enthusiasm about putting on this production. “I like the female leads and that it’s got an element of fantasy. I also like the LGBTQ+ aspect of it. I really like that it has a message of empowerment through death. I think there is something really spiritual about loss that the play invokes through something really fun like Dungeons and Dragons,” said Ms. Tepe.

The actors have been rehearsing since mid-September, running lines, learning stage combat, and studying the basics of D&D. Luckily, the cast has marvelous chemistry on and off stage, making those long nights in the theater enjoyable and exciting.

Something that makes this show so entertaining are the wild fight scenes and stage combat. While it gives the director and actors more work in terms of choreography and blocking, it also gives the show a fun, attention grabbing quality. The students have spent hours working with fake swords and daggers, perfecting their stabs, punches, and kicks to make them look just realistic enough to fool the audience. To know they’ve achieved a successful fight scene, the actors can only hope to hear the audience gasp in shock at every punch or kick over the sound of LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ or The Offspring’s ‘Come Out and Play’.

Along with the actors, there is an entire team of students working behind the scenes to put the show together. They are arguably the most important part of a Notre Dame theatre production. The student directors, producers, and stage managers are constantly busy, making sure all the actors know what to do and where to be at every moment. There is also a running crew of students who set the stage for every scene, having to move large blocks in just the right position for the actors. The students in charge of the lights, sound, and projections have to make sure they hit their every cue, which adds a lot to a scene and makes transitions smooth.

The student-run costume/hair/makeup crew has been given a pretty ambitious task as well. The world of Dungeons and Dragons includes various extraordinarily bizarre looking creatures and monsters, all of which need to be made into costumes. However, the challenge is one that the students are eager to tackle.
Student producer of the play, Sophia Magner says, “It is chaos until the very last second when it all kind of cements together and it becomes a beautiful mess of hard work from a lot of people.”
Sophia also acknowledges the importance of the crew, saying, “The crew members are like the unsung heroes of the production. Without them, we wouldn’t get much done.”

Since it’s not an extremely well known play, many people had the experience of watching it without knowing what would happen next. Having the story be a total surprise made it even more thrilling for the audience.
Overall, this play was a great way to bring live theatre back to Notre Dame!