We are our stories. Storytelling is how we catch up with friends, laugh with family, and keep memories alive. Entire cultures are remembered through their tales. Our loved ones who have passed live forever in the stories we tell. This is strikingly shown in the last line of Indian Creek's fall play "She Kills Monsters." Paraphrased, the character Tilly (played by junior Ava Rouse) says that her story remains; that our lives are just a collection of stories and that her “soul gets the chance to breathe for a moment once again.” In an often hilarious and cheeky play, it’s a deeply touching moment between sisters, and one thing is certain, the characters (and the ICS actors) earn that moment.
As stories go, the formula of a Hero’s Journey has been a tried and true one for thousands of years. She Kills Monsters follows this formula to the hilt. A call to adventure to another world is followed by different trials and tribulations filled with allies, enemies, and mentors. The hero returns to their own world but changed - filled with self-knowledge and a sense of completion - a master of two worlds. The play does little to subvert this blueprint but does it one better in how it deals with the troubles faced by young people who identify as LGBTQ+. As actor Ella Danyluk of Beyond the Page Theater Company said, “Each of the LGBT characters in the show have characteristics that are more dominant than their sexuality, and each of those characteristics are different. This isn’t a show with a bunch of gay characters. This is a show with a bunch of characters that happen to be gay.” Indian Creek is exceptionally proud of this cast and their mature and thoughtful approach to both the show and its characters.
In 1995, many LGBTQ+ people - most notably young adults - felt too frightened or too intimidated to live openly and freely as themselves. It was even more awful if, like Tilly Evans, one was not only gay, but a “nerd.” Living as a closeted gay nerd in the time before “geek chic” was not easy. Anyone like Tilly endured a tough life in high school, and escapism like Dungeons and Dragons provided a way to be free from the hassles of mean girls, math homework, and older sisters who were so cool they listened to 10,000 Maniacs and Neutral Milk Hotel. In She Kills Monsters, the D&D world provides us with a view of Tilly as she saw herself - or at least the self she wanted to be. To know that tough-as-nails, funny, loveable character was never revealed to the real world just makes us contemplate how many thousands of similar young people suffered as she did.
Tilly is called appalling names by both imaginary and real-world cheerleaders in this play. The “Evil” succubi use words that are jarring - and entirely unacceptable to us. We hurt right along with Tilly—and playwright Qui Nguyen chose these hurtful terms purposely. We should take a lesson from how we feel witnessing the meanness that takes place and look to prevent such feelings by being upstanders and allies as often as possible.
Looking to 1995 through a 2019 lens, it is too easy to say we’ve come a long way in our treatment of LGBTQ+ youth. We still have much work to do. Too many young people suffer from not feeling safe to be themselves. Mr. Nguyen knew this when he wrote She Kills Monsters in 2012, and it is likely why the play is now on the annual most-performed list for high schools.
At ICS, we attempt to give our students unique experiences in theater, and we pick shows that scare us a little. We strongly believe that taking part in theater teaches empathy to its participants and that performing arts open the door for conversations that may not have otherwise taken place. She Kills Monsters fits that mold. The scariest part was not the content - the Directors knew that the ICS students were mature enough to handle it. However, the intense stage combat had us feeling a little uneasy. Enter Casey Kaleba of Tooth and Claw Combat. He spent three eight-hour sessions with our cast and was a master teacher of fight choreography. As you’ll see in the show, the kids learned more than they ever thought they could and are ready to put their fighting skills to the test. And the Directors have noticed that they carry themselves a bit more confidently since this experience.
And while perhaps not as scary as students with swords and staffs, the audience will also notice the plethora of amazing and imaginative costumes in this show! They were designed true to the appropriate Dungeons and Dragons era. A crack-team of parents and students have worked since July to garb the heroes and creatures of Tilly’s imaginary D&D world. Their superhuman efforts have paid off - The costumes are incredible.
At the show, the audience is invited to sit at the table, grab the dice, and roll a natural twenty. The cast and crew hopes you enjoy this story and that it prompts further conversation at school and at home. We hope to see you there!
Indian Creek's high school fall play "She Kills Monsters" runs Friday and Saturday, November 15-16 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 17, at 3:00 p.m. The show is rated PG13. Tickets are available through this link. Click here to view a full gallery of photos.