For the past few months, I have been hard at work in rehearsals for a production called “She Kills Monsters”, written by Qui Nguyen, directed by Neal Utterback, one of the theatre professors here at Juniata College. This show is about a cheerleader named Agnes who gets thrown into the world of Dungeons and Dragons after the loss of her little sister Tilly. Agnes has no idea what she is doing, but throughout the show, learns how to stick up for herself, learns more about her younger sister, and learns how to finally confront and defeat her inner demons. The show is a crazy mix of monsters, puppets, dancing, fight scenes, and comedy. It’s basically a giant 90’s party that we’re throwing in Suzanne Von Liebig Theatre!
When rehearsals first got started at the beginning of the semester, it was very hands-on and physically demanding. We rehearse six days a week for 3-4 hours each day, all while trying to balance our schoolwork and other activities outside of the show. On the weekends, in addition to building the show, we were also working on strengthening and conditioning as a cast, since this is a very physical show. There are a lot of fight scenes throughout the show, and for my character specifically, not much rest time between scenes, so it was important to build up strength and breath.
We also had workshops throughout the rehearsal process to work on choreography, fighting, and puppetry. Our choreographers for the show were the two presidents of the Dance Ensemble, and our dance numbers were super fun and silly. Since the show takes place in the 90’s, there was definitely an incorporation of moves like the running man, as well as iconic songs, such as “Ice Ice Baby” and “Whomp There it Is”. We had a fight choreographer and her assistance fly in from New York to help choreograph our fight scenes. We worked with real steel prop weapons, such as swords, shields and knives, which I had never worked with before. The first thing I noticed was how heavy the weapons were! There was no room for flimsy, cheap materials in this show! All of our fights were incredibly specific, and we had to know exactly when and where we were attempting to hit another person, and how to safely block and returns blows. We learned specific vocabulary for fighting, to help make it easier to learn the choreography. With puppets, we had a professional puppeteer bring her supplies to us and teach us about the history of puppetry, as well as work with us with different kinds of puppets, to get used to how they work and feel. Most of our monsters in the show are puppets, which is the style of the playwright Qui Nyguyen, as well as a little bit of imagination. I personally do not get to handle puppets in the show, but several other cast members were able to work heavily with different kinds of puppets.
I’ve done several shows here at Juniata within the Theatre Department, and I can definitely say this is the most intricate and difficult show I have ever worked on. Not only was it incredibly physical and emotional for me, but the entire premise of the show is so incredible and deep and beautiful. I truly have fallen in love with this genre of fantasy comedy, and I have had such an fantastic time working on the show. We have already had three performances so far, two of which were completely sold out, and we have three more this coming weekend. If you haven’t seen the show yet or got your tickets, be sure to check out the Theatre Department homepage for ticket information. Our final shows are October 26th, 27th and 28th! I hope to see you there!