Department of Theatre and Dance puts on first fully virtual play, “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms”

By Betty Yirga

Elm Staff Writer 

The Washington College Department of Theatre and Dance presented “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms” by Qui Nguyen directed by Professor of Theatre Dale Daigle and senior Patrick Salerno. The virtual production was presented via Zoom on April 29, April 30, and May 1 at 7:30 p.m.

The performances were introduced by house managers sophomore Emma Russell and senior Will Reid.

The play told the story of Agnes Evans, played by freshman Mackenzie Ford, a young girl grieving the death of her younger sister, Tilly, played by Kelly Young ’20. Before Tilly’s death, the two sisters were not close. However, after Tilly’s death, Agnes discovers a notebook that has a Dungeons and Dragons game scenario that Tilly created. Agnes, wanting to learn more about her sister, decides to play the game her sister created before she died.

Agnes goes on a mission to unlock additional secrets about her mysterious sister by recruiting a “dungeon master” named Chuck Biggs, played by sophomore Zachary Papatheodorou, to guide her through the game, where Agnes gets to know Tilly and come to terms with her sister’s death. Agnes is accompanied on her journey by Lilith the demon queen, played by freshman Niko Chen; Kaliope the elf, played by sophomore Sophia Rooks; and Orcus the demon, played by junior Percy Mohn. 

“This was the first full Zoom production WC Theatre and Dance has taken on, so the biggest challenge was figuring out how this thing is supposed to work. We’ve put on some radio plays and staged readings virtually, which present their own set of challenges, but this was our first attempt at a full-length live play since the shutdown. As such, the team had to do a lot of research to see if we even could host a project like this. Fortunately, we felt we did and found an amazing cast and crew to put it on,” Salerno said.

Freshman Grace Apostol who played Agnes’ sassy best friend Vera said that she had a bit of trouble “honing [Vera’s] sassiness and attitude. I am not like her in most parts of my personality, so it was hard to find my inner Vera at times.”

Apostol said some of her favorite things about being part of this play included how creative the directors were and “the passion of this cast, that just warms my heart. I just love being a part of something so wonderful with such amazing people.”

The remaining cast members consisted of junior Mike Nichols, who played Agnes’ boyfriend Miles; sophomore Archer Bergmann, who played the Great Mage Steve; freshman Belle Leiphart, who played Farrah the fairy; freshman Skye Hass, who played the succubus Evil Tina; and senior Sarah Bowden, who played the succubus Evil Gabbi. 

“The show was tentative for a long while due to COVID-19, so when we were able to start recruiting it was quite humbling to see how many people wanted to work on it. We put out an open call and the response was amazing. That enthusiasm stayed with us throughout the project and made this play unique. Despite our distance, there was so much collaborative energy in the virtual room,” Salerno said.

Salerno said when it came to virtual rehearsals “the rule of thumb was ‘give everything more time than you think you need.’ This helped a lot, especially when trying to figure out how to make the green screens and camera filters work and not overload the Zoom.”

The directors and creative crew made full use of the virtual format of the play, employing the use of virtual backgrounds to help create a fantasy setting and filters as part of costumes to give a fairy fluttering wings, the succubi’s horns, and glowing red eyes, and to turn Nichols into a green slime cube. 

Apostol said being in a fully virtual play has “been difficult. It is hard to connect on certain levels at first, but I think we always get there. I’m ready to be back on stage in front of a live audience for sure.”

With the return of the student body back to campus next semester, this will most likely be the Department of Theatre and Dance’s first and last fully virtual production. 

Featured Photo caption: Top to bottom, left to right: Kelly Young ’20 as Tilly, freshman Niko Chen as Lilith, sophomore Sophia Rooks as Kaliope, senior Percy Mohn as Orcus, and freshman Mackenzie Ford as Agnes, in Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms,” directed by Professor of Theatre Dale Daigle and senior Patrick Salerno. Photo by Mark Cooley.

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