'She Kills Monsters' production to bring out the nerd in all of us

Dungeons and dragons and wizards, oh my! ASU is bringing all of these and more to the stage in the Herberger production of "She Kills Monsters."

The play is written by Qui Nguyen and directed by artist and scholar Lance Gharavi. It has won multiple awards including a 2012 GLAAD award and 2013 AATE distinguished play award

Gharavi, an associate professor and the assistant director of theater at the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at the Herberger Institute, said, "This is a show that ASU students are really going to love."

"She Kills Monsters" tells the story of Agnes, a young woman who has just lost her sister, Tilly, and her parents in a tragic car accident. As she prepares to leave her childhood home, Agnes stumbles across a Dungeons and Dragons-themed notebook and gaming module that belonged to her younger sister. Through this she is transported into the world of sorcery and magic, where she's forced to confront her demons and get to know the sister she always took for granted.

"The play is about Agnes discovering something about her little sister who she never got to know, but it’s also a play about Agnes getting to know something about herself — what’s weird and special about herself," he said. 

Gharavi said that this play is unique from others that students might see at ASU because of its humor and embrace of "geek culture."

"We do a lot of very serious theater (at Herberger), and this is really just a lot of fun," he said.

The play is also set in 1990s, which Gharavi said he thinks many college students will relate to. Throughout the show, there are several references to that time period, from the popular bands to the slang spoken in the era.

Behind the Scenes: She Kills Monsters from ASU Sch of Film, Dance & Theatre on Vimeo.

Theater senior Sarah Zorman plays the lead role of Agnes. Zorman said her character begins the play with no part in this so-called nerd culture. She even said that on the first day of rehearsals, Gharavi described Agnes to her as "the '90s version of basic." Agnes is extremely into the mainstream, generic trends, and therefore, she is totally out of her element when thrust into the world of Dungeons and Dragons.

This character is quite contrary to Zorman's own personality, which is a combination of self-proclaimed geek and lover of all things Star Wars. She was drawn to the show because its embrace of the geek scene. Zorman said she hopes that audience members will walk away with a newfound respect for this culture and a feeling of belonging.

"I want (the audience) to walk away knowing that no matter what they’re going through, what demons they're fighting … they are, in fact, special," she said. 

The cast also features Michael Alexander, a graduate teaching assistant studying theatre performance, as the roles of Ronnie, one of Agnes' peers, and Orcus, a demon prince from the fantasy world. 

Alexander described his character as an opinionated "free spirit." He said that the cast has been rehearsing since November with a six-day a week schedule and that as a student, it can be challenging to balance schoolwork with rehearsals. 

"I mostly just get everything done on Sundays," he said with a laugh. 

Alexander explained that the show is extremely physical and elaborate, which is why it requires such an intense schedule. 

"Theater often seems very dramatic and thoughtful but this was designed for people to have a good time," he said.

One of the physical aspects audiences can look forward to is the stage combat. The show involves multiple fight scenes as well as lots of stunts. 

Theatre grad teaching assistant Jamie Macpherson is the assistant director and fight captain of the show. She said the fights contribute to the storyline and keep the audience engaged. 

"It's a lot of fun to look at how the fights keep the narrative going through the show," she said. "It's exciting but it's still about the storytelling."

Macpherson said she has a wide background in stage combat and is a major of the Binary Theatre Company at ASU. She said she sees great value in the art of stage combat, despite concerns over safety. She also said she hopes to go on to teach and direct youth theater, highlighting stage combat in a safe and ethical way.

The show will take place at 7:30 p.m. on March 25 to 26 and March 31 to April 2 and at 2 p.m. on March 26 and April 3 at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse. Tickets can be bought here.

For more information, contact the School of Film, Dance and Theatre box office at 480-965-6447.

Reach the reporter at nlilley@asu.edu or follow her @noelledl on Twitter.

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