by: Haley Sprankle
“Some people run, some people paint, and some people play D&D.”
Green Room Productions, the completely student-run production company at the University of South Carolina, presents Qui Nguyen’s play She Kills Monsters.
The play follows Agnes Evans, a woman who lost her parents and younger sister Tilly in a car crash, as she moves out of her childhood home. While packing up, she discovers her sister’s Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) campaign book, and she takes on the journey to learn more about herself, her sister, and how to cope with loss.
“I think that the play makes a lot of statements. On the surface, it’s a celebration of ‘nerd culture’ and misfits and kids who may be a little different,” junior Brooke Smith, playing Agnes, explains. “But, the biggest statement that it makes is on how people deal with grief and what it takes to process tragedies in our own lives.”
Graduate student Ryan Stevens returns to the director’s chair with this production. His work was last seen in the USC Lab Theatre where he directed his original piece Player King, but he has also produced some intimate staged-readings of other original works since then.
The crew is full of USC seasoned regulars with Megan Branham (lighting designer), Jordan Young (sound designer), Rebecca Shrom (costume designer), Kira Neighbors (stage manager), and Grace Ann Roberts (assistant director/choreographer). They have put together a technical show with impressive and complex design elements. Also, with the USC Theatre Department’s season in full swing, Stevens was able to accrue a sizeable, talented group of students to be a part of this production.
“This cast is extremely diverse. Yet again, I’ve drawn extensively from Columbia’s improv community and brought in a few people who are relatively new to the acting game, because the script, in my mind, dictates a large amount of looseness and freedom and natural reaction from its actors,” Stevens elaborates. “These twelve actors are all giving their all to immerse themselves in the worlds of the play, both real and imaginary. This script has most of its actors playing multiple roles, or multiple versions of the same character, so it’s really a great showcase for their range, and they are absolutely rising to the occasion.”
One of the new kids on the block is junior Corey Drennon. Drennon was showcased previously this year through the Overreactors improv group, but she has not pursued theatre since high school. Adopting the role of Tilly Evans, Drennon has had to learn how to bring a deceased character to life.
“Tilly is exuberant, imaginative, and steadfast, especially when it comes to her friends. She’s funny and extremely sarcastic. Tilly has a spark in her–she definitely goes against the crowd. In a field of flowers facing the sun, she’s facing the opposite way,” Drennon highlights.
This complex character leads her sister into a world that not everyone gets to experience in their lives–the elaborate world of Dungeons and Dragons.
“I’d actually never played D&D until my freshman year. I thought that it was just a very long-winded and jargon-heavy sort of board game, with all the maps, graph paper, figurines, dice, and huge books, because that’s how it always looks on TV,” Stevens relays. “It was a really refreshing surprise when I found out the game is mostly imaginative. Sure you have like a sheet of character information, and you have dice, but it really is just a lot of world-building with friends. It’s a very communal game, all about working together to tell, and participate in, this story that no one really knows how it’ll turn out.”
Get a feel for that D&D experience February 4-7 at Benson Theatre. Tickets are $5 at the door, with limited seating available.
“I think audiences will be charmed by the fantasy of the escapism and the spectacle of this magic, Lord of the Rings-on-Adderall type of world we’re creating,” Stevens adds. “But I think once they’re charmed, they’ll find a lot in common with Agnes in her attempt to reconnect with her late sister. It’s a very human longing, the longing to have known someone better, all the more exacerbated after that person has been lost. It’s very much a play about bonding and connection, whether through a sense of capital-H Honor, through family bonds, or just plain old love.”