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“Life is not about the monsters you fight – it’s about the adventures you have.”
Those words, spoken by senior lead actress Elena Gasparri, could not be more appropriate for Springfield College Theater’s spring production of Qui Nguyen’s She Kills Monsters, which will be performed in the Fuller Arts Center Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
The play’s adventurous plot moves at a frenetic rate, combining thrilling fight scenes with the dorky element of the Dungeons and Dragons’ world to enthrall the audience, all the while keeping them laughing.
It is a play unlike any other that Director Martin Shell has ever produced, and caught his attention due to its unmatched energy.
“It’s one thing to hear about something or even another thing to see a photo or a video of something, but nothing can match being in the same room with something wild and crazy,” Shell said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen next, and you’re the witness of it along with a group of other people, so really you’re sharing an experience.”
She Kills Monsters takes the audience into the lives of two sisters, Agnes and Tilly Evans. Agnes is the older of the two. She is a high school English teacher in her mid-20s who never truly understood her dorky 15-year-old sister, Tilly. When Agnes learns that Tilly has passed away, she decides to try to navigate the wedge that always existed between them by playing the Dungeons and Dragons’ adventure that Tilly wrote. Through this experience, Agnes learns more than she ever thought possible about her younger sister.
The play shifts between the real world and this fantasy land, leading to exhilarating combat scenes. Springfield adjunct professor David Regan (who has a background in puppetry) worked with his behind-the-scenes crew on both the stage production and the technical aspects, which are indispensable to accurately reflect the D&D world. Meanwhile, the cast put in over 50 hours of training for the stage fighting alone, working with one of Shell’s close associates and a professional fight director, Samantha Phillips-Norton.
The learning process took some time, leading to various self-inflicted “stab” wounds and bruises, according to Gasparri and lead supporting actress Lori Hallowell (Tilly), but thanks to the availability of ice packs and Phillips-Norton’s guidance, the cast feels confident that all of their hard work has paid of.
“If we’re going to fight, we’re going to do it right. We’re going to do it big. We’re going into this like it’s a battle,” Gasparri said. “When you swing that weapon around you can’t help but feel like you are [in] Braveheart.”
While the stage combat keeps the play moving, it is the story’s underlying messages that warm the heart. As Agnes discovers more about her late sister, she discovers conflicts about confronting bullies and intolerant people. It is these messages that make the production more than just a mindless action thriller.
“All the monsters in this play represent people’s real problems and represent the triumph that people can have,” Hallowell said. “It’s quite the journey.”
Part action, part comedy, part drama and all fun, Springfield College Theater’s production of She Kills Monsters is sure to win over your heart while keeping you laughing and sword-fighting in your seats the whole time.
The suggested donation for general admission tickets is $5 for the public, and $2 for students and seniors. So take a ride into the D&D world along with Agnes Evans and company, and experience one sibling’s discovery of true appreciation for her younger sister.