‘She Kills Monsters’ brings ’90s gaming culture to the CCU stage through the world of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’
Coastal Carolina University presents Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Dragons” (2011), a dramatic comedy set in the fantasy world of role-playing games, Thursday, Jan. 31, through Saturday, Feb. 2, at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Feb. 6, through Friday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 9, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Parental discretion is advised.
Agnes Evans, searching for clues after her sister Tilly’s death, discovers Tilly’s “Dungeons & Dragons” notebook, which leads her into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was Tilly’s refuge.
“It’s very cinematic and really, really entertaining,” said Ben Sota, assistant professor of theatre and director of the production. “It’s off the charts as far as spectacle, with lots of fun and excitement.”
Simultaneously, the play works through the serious subject matter of issues facing the LGBTQ+ community as Agnes learns how Tilly conquered the demons of adolescence from bullying to sexuality and self-acceptance. Through “Dungeons & Dragons,” Agnes goes on a heroic adventure to learn about her sister and confront her own monsters.
“Agnes didn’t know her sister liked to date women,” said Sota, “because Tilly never felt comfortable enough to talk to her sister about who she was.”
Amani Huell, senior BFA acting major who shared creative direction with Sota, said the challenge in staging the play was to treat gender-related issues with the appropriate respect and attention while emphasizing the boisterous elements of imaginative, wide-open play.
“We do talk about serious issues in the production, and we want to make sure those are validated and that we’re thorough in delving into those but also to honor the fun,” said Huell. “We also don’t want to trivialize those issues, so it’s a matter of asking, ‘How can we normalize talking about same-sex relationships, how can we normalize talking about grief, without trivializing it?’”
The cast includes CCU students Autumn McNutt as Tilly, Quinn Jones as Agnes, Huell as Lilly and Aliza Saper as Kelly. Other cast members include Leslie Alexander, Morgan Dallison, John Dudley, Hannah Duncan, Bailey Foard, Michelle Garcia, Nick Haddad, Dalton Hedrick, Stacy Jackson, Zach Montou, Lyra-Grace Schwartz, Kat Stoneback and Benett Sullivan, with Jala Bennett as creative collaborator.
Sota explained that the production was created with input from every member of the cast, rather than the traditional structure of professor-as-director.
“You play ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ collaboratively, and that’s the same model we’re working on with this play,” said Sota.
“Everybody in the cast – even people who are monsters who don’t have names –plays an active role in creating the story,” said Amani.
The Edwards Theatre is located in the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts building at 133 Chanticleer Drive W. on CCU’s campus in Conway. General admission tickets are $17 (with CCU discounts available). Call the Wheelwright Box Office between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 843-349-ARTS (2787) or visit coastal.edu/culturalarts. The Wheelwright Box Office is located at 108 Spadoni Park Circle on the Conway campus.