In the play "She Kills Monsters," high school senior and cheerleader Agnes Evans discovers a Dungeons & Dragons notebook that belonged to her younger sister Tilly who was killed in a biking accident.
As she grieves her sister's death, she's launched into an epic adventure of fairies, ogres and—of course—dragons in Qui Nguyen's play.
Mira Costa High School Drama/Tech's production of “She Kills Monsters” opens Friday, Nov. 8, and closes Nov. 16, at the high school's Small Theatre, located at 1401 Artesia Blvd. in Manhattan Beach.
“She Kills Monsters” made its stage debut in November 2011 at the Flea Theater in New York City.
Costa director Jonathan Westerberg said the play deals with the typical social cliques of high school and how those scenarios play out in the Dungeons & Dragons world and in the real world.
“So it's interesting to see black and white, good versus evil world of fantasy, as fantasy so often becomes blurred in this play,” said Westerberg.
In “She Kills Monsters,” Agnes takes her sister's notebook to a local game store and discovers Tilly was famous around town for being a Dungeons & Dragons player.
The play bounces back from the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world, where Tilly is resurrected, and that Agnes eventually enters. The monsters they battle are based on real people in their lives.
Costa senior Caroline Lesser, who plays Agnes, said her character is “taking a journey in real life and in the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons to get closure about her sister's death and to discover herself as a person.”
Lesser said she and the character Agnes are “very similar people.”
“What was difficult was separating myself from the character so I could play the character more accurately,” Lesser said. “But what was fun is Agnes goes through a journey that I did when I was younger discovering this game of Dungeons & Dragons and using it as a coping mechanism for life. It was kind of fun to re-live that.”
Senior Emma Gray plays Vera who is Agnes' best friend.
“She's sort of a snarky cheerleader... I think it's really different than how I am in real life.... that's what's fun being a whole different person than I usually am,” Gray said.
Senior Griffin Moore plays Orcus, a “very lazy character, who is a retired demon overlord” who “gets dragged into this adventure."
“I relate to the character a lot of just being very relaxed and very easy going,” Moore said. “It's a lot of fun to be comic relief at times just because it's very well in my comfort zone.”
While Dungeons & Dragons has been around since the 1970s, Lesser and Moore said they were introduced to Dungeons & Dragons around five years ago, Lesser through her father, and Moore through his friends. Gray, who was invited to play with friends, started playing last summer.
The love and acceptance theme of “She Kills Monsters—” whether it's about LGBTQ issues or about fantasy-playing teens—shows another side, said Moore.
"These people are actually incredible and have such amazing, vivid imaginations," said Moore, who added people need to not judge and learn to tolerate and even indulge others.
"You'll be surprised at what stories they can give you,” said Moore.
Cast member Gray added that even though differences are more socially acceptable, bullying still takes shape in different ways.
“It could be a demonic cheerleader or it could just be a friend who is not quite a nice person," said Gray. "I think the show does a really good job of leaving that sort of theme in which ... is a sad reminder that still happens.”
Lesser added that even if audience members don't leave wanting to play Dungeons & Dragons, at least they come away with an understanding of how to see from other's perspectives.
Westerberg said “She Kills Monsters” is a tech heavy play. The staging, he said, lets them use their imagination and includes “one of the most kick-ass battles to ever appear on the American stage.”
“I've envisioned this taking place in a loft or attic like space where Tilly used to play with her friends,” Westerberg said. “So we're treating the Dungeons & Dragons world in a very playful way... these creatures appear out of boxes, they are made of materials that you find in a high school kid's room.”
Performances of “She Kills Monsters” take place Friday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 9, at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 4 p.m.; Thursday, Nov. 14, at 6:30 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 16, at 7:30 p.m.
For ticket information, visit miracostadramaboosters.org.