BWW Previews: SHE KILLS MONSTERS at Theatre Baton Rouge
Swords, daggers, shields and the power of sisterhood take over Theatre Baton Rouge as part of their Turner-Fischer series with SHE KILLS MONSTERS running from February 9-18.
Set in 1995, SHE KILLS MONSTERS by Qui Nguyen, is an action-packed show riddled with excitement, humor, '90s pop culture, but most of all, heart. Agnes Evans is a schoolteacher from Ohio, who uses the role-playing fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons to better understand the life of her deceased teenage sister, Tilly. Along with the fantasy world aspect, the play features events in Agnes' real life where she deals with teaching at Tilly's school and meeting the people who influenced her sister's life both positively and negatively.
Kendall Gibson, who stars as Agnes, is originally from Tennessee and is a Spanish instructor at LSU. She expressed that SHE KILLS MONSTERS jumped out at her immediately when she read it last summer.
"I am completely unapologetic about how much of a nerd I am," Gibson said. "Now I don't play Dungeons and Dragons, I have yet to do that, but I see a show about family, and about girls nerds, which is a thing you never ever hear about, and out of everything they were doing it was the one that jumped out the most to me...I sat back, and I was like, 'Dude that sounds great.' It's a female-heavy show; it's about girls, it's about women, it's about nerdiness and acceptance and family, I just have to be a part of it."
While she is a big sister herself, Gibson says the most significant contrast between her and Agnes is that she embraces being a nerd, where Agnes does not.
"I am definitely a nerd where she is not," Gibson said. "I am much more open to the nerdiness and granted this was written in the '90's so there has been a shift in our society since then so I can't fault her for that."
But Gibson still identifies with Agnes, who early on wishes that her life was less boring.
"She is conflicted, she is that kind of normal, conventional girl but she wants to figure out how to not be that anymore, and that's a big part of what the show's plot is, and I have never been as conventional as she is, but I have had that moment of I don't know where I fit in...I do identify with that," Gibson said.
The cast and crew of SHE KILLS MONSTERS have been busy these last few months, working on memorizing lines as well as fight choreography. Gibson explained the magnitude of layers that have gone in preparing for the show.
"This has been one of the hardest roles I've ever played," Gibson said. "Agnes is on stage for most of the show, so you have the work of the lines, and the being present, but then you have the fight choreography because it's taking place in the Dungeons and Dragons world primarily, so in terms of the magnitude of what's on the page and what you are given, it's very intense."
But with all the preparation, the cast has become a small family to one another, especially Gibson and Ashley Stevens who stars as Tilly.
"I feel like her big sister on stage, and when she gets hurt I want to run over and hug her and protect her," Gibson said. "[Stevens] is such a talented actress and so capable and nuanced, it makes my job so much easier."
The play exemplifies geek culture by showing Agnes navigating through the Dungeons and Dragons game. Along with that, there is also a focus on LGBTQIA culture, and the female role in both worlds is highlighted. Throughout the play, Agnes finds herself fighting ogres, wicked fairies, and evil cheerleading demons while simultaneously battling with Tilly's real-life demons. SHE KILLS MONSTERS touches on several themes including grief, acceptance, homosexuality, open-mindedness, teen angst, adventure, bullying and coming-of-age.
"I honestly think there is something for just about everybody in this show because there are so many levels to it and at the heart of it it's about acceptance, and I think that is a theme that every single human being has dealt with," Gibson said.
SHE KILLS MONSTERS will run from February 8-19, 2018. Performances will be Thursday-Saturday night (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (2:00 p.m.) in TBR's Studio Theatre. Tickets are $25, with student tickets available for $19! SHE KILLS MONSTERS is rated "PG-13." To purchase tickets visit theatrebr.org.