Dungeons, Dragons and Sisterhood

“She Kills Monsters” opens Nov. 9.

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

Theatre professor Jeff Turner admits to not knowing much about Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), a popular fantasy role-playing game. Nonetheless, he was intrigued when a director friend showed him the script for “She Kills Monsters,” a 2011 play by Qui Nguyen which takes place heavily in the D&D-like gameworld of New Landia.

“I thought it was moving in places and also kind of fun and silly in places,” Turner said. “My daughter is really into Dungeons & Dragons… I read it and I was like, Kate would love this.”

That sealed the deal for “She Kills Monsters” to be chosen as Hamline’s fall play. Set partially in 1995 Athens, Ohio and partially in mythical New Landia, it introduces a twenty-something high school teacher named Agnes, who recently lost her family in a car accident. When she comes across a notebook belonging to her younger sister, Tilly, she sets out to learn more about the gaming references it contains and discovers Tilly’s player-created realm of New Landia.

Like last spring’s production of “Rabbit Hole,” also directed by Turner, grief is a prominent motif found in the script of “She Kills Monsters.” This time, however, heavy themes are set against a much lighter backdrop.

“It’s not too deep, which is nice every once in a while. [“Rabbit Hole”] was a sad play about grief and the family coping with the loss of their son, and the year before that we did “Hamlet,” and the year before that we did “[The] Pillowman,” Turner said. “[“She Kills Monsters” is] fun, perhaps a crowd pleaser, one hopes.”

The play features a cast of twelve, with junior Grace Busse as Agnes, sophomore Autumn Wilkie as Tilly and senior William Karnick as Chuck, a high school student who helps Agnes through the world of New Landia. In addition, a passion for D&D and all things fantasy inspired many Hamline students behind the scenes as well, such as junior Jackson Cobb, the video production designer.

“The video production for the show is more intense than any show that Hamline’s ever done before… when we enter the Dungeons & Dragons world, we’re immersed in projected textures,” Cobb said. “What’s really exciting is all the special effects that I get to do when I’m using video, so there are moments where a fairy will get blown up, and there is a projected blood spatter, and there are projected sparkles and magic.”

Autumn Wilkie shared her connection to her character, Tilly.

“She’s very nerdy, very geeky and I especially identify with that. Growing up, I kind of felt the same things that my character does, getting picked on and stuff for not being into traditional ‘girl things’,” Wilkie said. “I think that… Tilly’s whole story of coming out to her sister as a lesbian is so important to tell, and I think it’s so incredible how it unfolds, because it’s such a strong sister dynamic throughout the show.”

First-year DJ Brown plays Orcus, a character within New Landia.

“Orcus is basically a very laid-back slacker… He doesn’t really want to fight, but he will fight if he has to… I relate to just how sassy he can be, and how he just doesn’t want to get involved in anything, he kinda wants to sit in his home, watch TV and not do anything,” Brown said.

“She Kills Monsters” runs Nov. 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Anne Simley Theatre, with tickets at $2 for Hamline students and faculty and $8 for the public. Other future Hamline theatre productions are “Petroleum” in March and “Love and Information” in April.