Heroes and villians and puppets share the stage in fall play

Before Stranger Things, there was She Kills Monsters, a 2011 coming-of-age drama comedy that was packed with Mind Flayers and Bulettes aka Land Sharks and a host of other monsters and heroes. taken from the popular role. Play Dungeons & Dragons game.

The popular Qui Nguyen play, which has performed nearly 800 times in high school and college theater departments across the country, celebrates its 10th anniversary and opens the University Theater’s 2022-23 season on November 4 at the Robinson Theatre.

The shows are on November 4th, 5th, 11th, 12th, 18th and 19th at 7:30pm and on November 13th at 2pm

The play follows a young woman who, after losing her family in a car accident, discovers a cartridge her younger sister wrote for the Dungeons & Dragons game. With the help of a dungeon master, fantasy and reality collide as she dives into the game and discovers how little she knew about her siblings.

The magic of the theater not only brings the game to life on stage, but also provides ample opportunity for the creativity of the cast and crew to let off steam.

The original plan was to use only puppets, but associate professor and costume designer Jeanette DeJong suggested combining actors and puppets with costumes.

“We’re going to use a variety of puppets and actors in big costumes and puppet appendages,” said Michael Malek Najjar, professor of theater arts and drama director. “It’s going to be a mix of costume and puppetry, and that hybridity will make it extremely exciting and help audiences make the leap into virtual reality and Dungeons & Dragons.

The play will also feature a Tiamat Dragon, “a large, elaborate puppet that all of the puppeteers playing the other characters and monsters will manipulate.”

Since fighting monsters can get quite physical, Najjar enlists the expertise of local actor and choreographer Bill Hulings to help the actors navigate the numerous fight scenes. Four UO cheerleaders, led by Morgan Nguyen, also volunteer their time and choreographic skills for a cheeroff in the play, which sees the heroine perform in a “Bring It On”-style call-and-response segment ‘ against some evil cheerleader suckubae.

On opening night, visitors are encouraged to join in the D&D fun and dress up in their favorite cosplay outfits.

Though monsters play a dominant role, the play also explores deeper issues related to bullying, identity, disability, and the ordeal that high school can be.

β€œIn the real world, there are high school students who are just trying to get through all of the lousy things that high school students face β€” the discrimination, the taunting, the bullying, the homophobia, the physical limitations that some of them have ‘ says Najjar said.

The challenge, he said, is making both worlds viable.

“It asks a designer to not only think about D&D as a genre,” Najjar said, “but also to think about living in the real world and having a D&D avatar, what connection there would be between your real world itself and theirs.” D&D character?”

For example, a character in the play has cerebral palsy and uses crutches in the real world, but in the world of Dungeons & Dragons he becomes a ferocious elf fighter.

“The solution,” he said, “was to take apart the elf staff he’s using and separate it into two different staffs, which turn back into the crutches.”

As the main character dives into the game, she learns that her sister, who was gay, had created a world where that wasn’t an issue, where people were accepted for who they were and by creating an avatar “self” created your friends could be the people they couldn’t be in the real world.

“The monsters are fun,” Najjar said, “but the message of the play is clearly that we are asking ourselves, are we as open-minded and tolerant as we believe we can ultimately create a real world that is more inclusive?”

Advance tickets are available online, by calling 541-346-4363 and at the Erb Memorial Union ticket office, or in the lobby of the Miller Theater Complex one hour before the performance. Tickets are free for UO students, $10 for adults, and $8 for UO faculty and staff, seniors 65 and older, youth in grades K-12, and non-UO college students.

– By Sharleen Nelson, University Communications