Southeastern's Vonnie Borden Theatre prepares to unleash a monster of a spectacle
Thursday, November 2, 2017
by: Tonya Lowentritt
SWORDSMANSHIP – Visual Art + Design faculty members Steve Schepker, far left, and Jeff Mickey discuss the custom-made medieval-weapons created by student weapons and props designer Veronica Hall. The weapons were specifically made for Southeastern Theatre’s upcoming production of “She Kills Monsters” scheduled Nov. 7 – 10 in Vonnie Borden Theatre.
HAMMOND – In the early days of November, the proscenium of Southeastern Louisiana
University's Vonnie Borden Theatre will host its most ambitious spectacle in recent
memory. From the geeky mind of Qui Nguyen, “She Kills Monsters” is a comedy of two
sisters set in the backdrop of the iconic Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) mythos.
Instructor of Theatre Jim Winter said this action-packed production follows Agnes Evans, played by Elizabeth McCoy of Mandeville, as she dives into the fantasy world of her recently deceased sister Tilly, played by Gabrielle Nixon of Walker, after discovering her D&D notebook. On Agnes’ ensuing journey of self discovery and coping with her loss, she encounters psychopathic fairies, bloodthirsty ogres, ninth-grade boys and 90s pop cultural references, making for an adrenaline-fueled homage to everyone’s inner warrior geek.
Evans and Nixon will share the stage with Emery Foster of Hammond, the narrator of the story; Megan Blomquist of Prairieville, as both Farah and Evil Gabbi; Jessica Mansour of Slidell, as Vera; Ally Holloway of Hammond, as Kaliope; Madison Wilson of Baton Rouge, as Lilith; Jeremy Guillot of Denham Springs, as The Demon Prince Orcus and Ronnie; Gavin Gaudry of Lafitte, as Chuck; Colin Ross of Baton Rouge, as Miles and finally Chaz Montaldo of Maurepas as Steve.
True to the genre of sword and sorcery, this action packed play will feature fight choreography using custom made medieval-weapons. Winter said that, while impressive, these scenes are tricky to get right.
“We have a certified fight director in Ben Norman, who knows how to deal with young actor combatants to ensure everything is both amazing and safe,” said Winter, who also serves as the play’s director. “They need a lot of time to learn the fights. They’re like a dance; you have to learn the individual steps, put them together and move into performance speed. They actors have basically had a month of stage combat before I even started acting rehearsals with them.”
Winter is particularly excited about the combat props that were custom made for this show.
“Usually you rent weapons from a prop house, but Veronica Hall, an undergraduate student from Destrehan, designed all the weaponry and built them herself in the sculpture lab out of aircraft aluminum,” he said. “They’re combat ready, custom made weapons; nobody does that outside of Broadway.”
Most impressive, however, will be the appearance of monsters and creatures fans of D&D know and love, like bugbears and gelatinous cubes. Among them is Tiamat, the five-headed dragon goddess of avarice and mother of evil dragons, who will make an appearance as a fully practical effect.
“Avery Brent is an alumnus who has designed puppets for me before and is designing all the puppets for this show as well,”said Winter. “Tiamat’s going to be in there and she’s big - very big. At minimum, we are looking at nine operators for this one puppet alone.”
Bringing these fantastical and frightening creatures to life will be Thomas Murphy of Metairie, DeJuan James of Hammond, Taylor Meng of Gonzales, Elizabeth Odom of Covington and Payton Core of Folsom.
Dungeons & Dragons is enjoying a surge in popularity in recent years, being the focus of several television and streaming shows like Adventure Time, Stranger Things and Critical Role just to name a few. Winter, who grew up in the years of the first and second editions of the game, says that this resurgence did not inspire his decision to choose this play for the stage. Instead, he saw the script and his crew’s passion for the game as an opportunity to push the limits of what they had done before.
“I was never a big D&D player and had to do a fair amount research going into this show,” he said. “My research is usually very actor-centric in smaller theatres, so we’re really swinging for the fences. We have this huge proscenium, so we have decided to go big and bring the D&D world to life. I don’t think you’re going to see too many productions of this show that go as big as we’re going to go.”
“She Kills Monsters” opens Nov. 7 on the Vonnie Borden Theatre stage and runs nightly at 7:30 p.m. through Nov. 10. Ticket information and further details can be found at www.southeastern.edu.