“She Kills Monsters” Explores the Space between Fantasy and Reality

As purple lights illuminate the platform, hooded figures gather on the stage, setting the stage for a world full of fantasy and magic. A lone character appears and raises a sword as the horde of monsters swarm around her.

“It’s a really comical play with amazing costumes and stage settings. Really cool props and a lot of action. But it also dives into the mind and the emotions of the main character because everything that is happening in the ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ world is in [Agnes’] imagination,” said Martina Gil-Diaz ’21, an ensemble member of the play.

“She Kills Monsters,” a dramatic comedy set in the ’90s and written by Qui Nguyen, follows Agnes, a 24 year-old teacher who discovers a ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ kit in her late sister’s bedroom. In immersing herself in a fantastical world of elves and monsters, Agnes becomes closer to her sister’s memory and ultimately comes to terms with her sister’s death.

“[“She Kills Monsters”] is about family and grief. It’s about the need for empowerment and to find community. It’s not a very complicated play in that regard, but it really is about one’s sister’s grief and her need to connect all the [people] in her life that passed away,” said Allen Grimm, co-director of the production.

In addition to grief, “She Kills Monsters” revolves around universal themes such as family, loss, and acceptance, according to Emma Brown ’19, who plays Agnes.

“You can find people to be your family. [Also,] fantasy in terms of both wish fulfillment and the experiencing of things in a bit of another world. I suppose loss is a duality, as in the losing of something to regain another, and letting go of things when you need to,” said Brown.

The show also explores how people find comfort in recreational activities like “Dungeons & Dragons,” allowing them to escape the the real world and take on alter egos that represent their greater selves.

“If you think about Tilly [and her friends], these are all high school students who are imperfect or scared or have things going on. In this fantasy world, they’re able to be almost super-humans, greater than they could ever be in real life. They get to fulfill some of these fantasies or wishes that they need to experience so that someday they may be more confident,” said Grimm.

One unique element of this production is the extended platform that allows the audience to be seated around the stage. According to Elizabeth Jancsy, a co-director of the play, the set-up works to create intimacy between the actors and the audience.

“[The stage is] particularly effective for fight scenes where we want the audience to feel like they’re right there with us. It allows us to get across this theme of fantasy. We want to bring the audience with us on this game,” Jancsy said.

Because the play’s message is relatable to the general public, no prior knowledge of “Dungeons & Dragons” is required to watch the show.

“I think everyone can relate to the theme of ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ which I find to be the essence of storytelling and being able to put on this persona that’s different from who you are… a lesson we can all take from this show is to really go out of your way to understand people, because there’s a lot more than just what meets the eye,” said Jancsy.