'She Kills Monsters': A 'Dungeons & Dragons' masterpiece

Some members of the cast of "She Kills Monsters" pose during rehearsal in the Clifford E. White Theater, March 26.

NAU Theatre’s second mainstage show of the semester, “She Kills Monsters” by Qui Nguyen, will preview via livestream from the Clifford E. White Theater April 8-11.

“She Kills Monsters,” is a play set in the '90s that contains elements of action, romance, drama, LGBTQ+ themes and some mythical beings. It is a heartfelt story of learning to cope with grief, self-discovery and bullying, and it tells the tale of an average girl’s not-so-average adventure. 

The production process has been altered as director Rebecca Whitehurst chose to adopt an in-person, masked and socially distanced rehearsal style.

Sophomore Chaiah Durst, who plays Tilly Evans in the show, said she would describe the experience with two words.

“Creativity and resilience," Durst said. "We’ve had to really exercise and expand our creativity because we have all of these restrictions now." 

On the topic of creativity, the action sequences have been specially choreographed by the show’s movement captains and all-role understudies, juniors Camryn McMahon and Logan Block, to maintain the mandatory distance between students. 

“Especially with COVID-19 and the potential of somebody not getting to be in rehearsal, due to either being sick or needing to quarantine because of exposure to someone who was sick, we have two understudies that are understudying everyone," Whitehurst said. "They’re also the movement captains and have to learn all the choreography for everyone.”

They haven’t gone without challenges, though, senior Alexis Gibbs, who plays Agnes Evans, said. 

“It’s been really hard to make sure that we’re not touching each other, I just want to go up and hug my boyfriend in the show, but I can’t do that.”

Through it all, Whitehurst still described the experience as fun, as the cast learned to push through adversity while maintaining masked smiles and laughs, and remembering that they are doing what they love: storytelling.

Gibbs agreed and added, “With all of the stuff going on in the world, we need fun right now.”

That said, members of the cast explained why the story is important to tell right now, aside from just being fun.

Junior James Wallis, Farrah the Faerie and Steve in the show, said the story is important because, “There are a lot of nerds out there right now and, speaking as a nerd, our experience is a lot different now than it was in the ‘90s and, in a lot of ways, it is the same.”

Clay Woodard, who plays Lilith Morningstar, added by providing some insight into the public’s growth in interest for “Dungeons and Dragons” over quarantine and correlated it with people’s desire to find a hobby that will connect them with others online.

"This is just a story about that and it will connect with more people than ever before, after quarantine,” Woodard said. 

Durst described connecting with other cast members as being “very natural” because of the in-person interactions they have with one another.

Woodard also mentioned the cast really got to bond at the very beginning of the process when an NAU Theatre faculty member created a “two-shot 'Dungeons & Dragons' game,” for the cast, in which the students were able to improvise as their characters for two hours over Zoom.

Whitehurst jokingly credited Mark Delancey, the Department of Theatre’s senior technical director, for “creating D&D” and explained that he has a vast knowledge of the game and made the character sheets for each student.

“The biggest thing is realizing how much time everyone is putting in, whether they’re here or not, and making sure that we accommodate, while also trying to put on a production, because we’re all students and doing double duty, which can be a strain,” senior and stage manager Kathryn Frketich said.

Nonetheless, the show caters to a wide audience and the students and staff have worked extremely hard to put on a captivating, world-building show all during the pandemic. Once again, NAU Theatre’s creativity, resilience and dedication are commendable.

 Tickets for the show are on sale on the NAU Central Ticket Office website.