"She Kills Monsters” written by Qui Nguyen, is a theatrical play that follows the story of Agnes Evans. A young woman who enters the world of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) to learn more about her late sister, Tilly. The play was originally set to open in mid-March 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19. It aired online and ran from Sept. 9 - Sept. 12. The show was aired via a private group on Facebook Live, and the actors performed on Zoom.
Life and Arts Editor, Sammi Su, sat with senior theatre arts majors Kylie Sullivan and Niall Sulcer, and junior theatre arts majors Jake Zingg, Chuck "DM" Biggs and Lucy McNulty to talk about their experiences and the process of telling this magical story through computer screens.
Sammi Su (SS): What are some challenges or disappointments you faced with the online transition and how did you overcome them?
Jake Zingg (JZ): “I was looking forward to being in front of an audience, especially to hear laughter and knowing what parts were funny… [but] it never fully came full circle in terms of getting that live reaction.”
Niall Sulcer (NS): I [moved] two weeks ago, and the living situation I was at didn’t have a room I could use [and] there wasn’t any private space… I was just thinking about how ironic it was that pretty much every theater in the world is empty right now and I’m scrounging to find a place to do theater from. [But,] in terms of the performance, it’s really fast-paced, and [if] you miss a button press and you’re muted; that messes up the audience’s immediacy.
Kylie Sullivan (KS): I have a habit of getting into my head, and when I’m around other people, that’s not as much of an issue because I can feed off of other people’s energy and emotions… that’s partially why I have things off to the side too that I can just look at and focus on. I [also] spend a lot of time in meditation and prayer before every show because I need a clear mindset before I perform.
Lucy McNulty (LM): One of the hardest things for me is the makeup and costume quick-change because I have … all of this faerie stuff that I have to quickly change out of by myself as well as putting on my cheerleader costume and switching all of my makeup … I practiced taking on and off my clothes fast enough and compensating for all of that was a new experience.
SS: Zingg mentioned that with the new challenges came new opportunities for things that could only be done on Zoom. What are some instances of that?
JZ: The hard thing about transitioning theater to Zoom is because film and theater are separate. In order for theater to exist as its own thing, it can’t try to be film. So the challenge with creating theater over Zoom is making sure it’s still its own thing and that it’s not a worse version of a film so that’s more of a bigger picture.
KS: It’s part of creating a new medium that’s really cool and hopefully other schools and companies are going to be able to try new things based on things that we’ve experimented with because as far as we know, we’re kind of the first to do stage combat through Zoom, per se.
NS: Early on in the tech process, Rob (the Zoom Performance Coordinator who Sulcer paraphrased) “Guys, we’re basically using Zoom, which is made for business meetings, and we’re just doing something that it’s not made for… and that is just one of the facts of making theater nowadays.”
KS: It can be used as a new art medium too, where it can make theater a lot more accessible if it’s done correctly.
JZ: I think what made it fun [was seeing] what was possible and what wasn’t ... to make things work was really just a spirit of creativity and not of “it sucks that we have to make it this way.”
SS: What were some memorable moments throughout the preparation process?
LM: Over the summer, we had done a cast-bonding D&D session before [quarantine] but we basically turned it into a much larger campaign. Of course, our director Dungeon Mastered it ... It really helped because even though we weren’t there for each other, we had all these events and stories ... that we got to experience with each other ... even though we were miles away.
NS: Bad day was great… the first time we got to see the montage of Steve dying while “Bad Day” played … that was really special.
KS: [During] the second to last rehearsal before we got shut down, Kevin said I made him tear … and it was wonderful. Over Zoom, … when things started clicking again for everybody, it was really fun to watch.
JZ: For me, it was the night that a bunch of people from the show came over to my apartment for a cast bonding night but the reason that’s special to me is that I had never invited a group of people to my apartment before and it ... felt like I had made a group of friends that I was comfortable with.