In this year’s winter play, She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms, sisters Agnes and Tilly couldn’t be more different. Agnes delights in fitting in and being an “average” high school girl, while Tilly, a Dungeons and Dragons aficionado with a wild imagination, can’t help but stand out.
When Tilly, played by Talia Sherman ’22, suddenly dies, Agnes, played by Lucy Hirschfeld ’21, finds herself on a quest through the D&D world, following a module Tilly created and hoping to connect with her sister. As Agnes meets her sister and a band of interesting adventurers in the fantasy world, a series of funny and dramatic events unfolds.
“I came into the show knowing very little about D&D, and throughout my time filming, I followed Agnes’ journey by gradually learning more about the game, and then becoming part of the D&D world,” Hirschfeld said. “Throughout the game, she finds herself and builds friendships she would never have expected.”
In preparing for the show, the cast members discussed the play’s themes, which include family and friend connections, homophobia, bullying, and escapism. Originally written in 2011 for the stage by playwright Qui Nguyen, the “Virtual Realms” version was adapted specifically for the COVID-19 era, designed to be performed and recorded using virtual conferencing software. Nguyen’s adaptation encourages directors and performers to play with the unconventional medium.
“It involves some whimsical distractions from the real pain we face,” said Sherman. “Preparing to play Tilly required a lot of reflection on what it meant for her to be an outcast. She felt alienated by her sister and classmates while she was questioning her sexuality and so many other things. I find her extremely inspiring and, hopefully, relatable. She’s a natural leader with a careful thought process.”
Directed and edited by Performing Arts Department faculty member Shane Fuller, the play was filmed in students’ homes and on campus in front of green screens and edited like a feature film. Faculty member Dar Anastas created the background artwork and music teacher Alan Rodi created the music. Pam Walker crafted costumes for the various demons, elves, and fairies in the cast.
This is Fuller’s fourth time editing a Milton production during the COVID-19 restrictions that have made onstage performances and live audiences impossible. “With each step, we’ve gotten a little more efficient,” he said. His direction of She Kills Monsters evokes graphic novels and video games; the characters’ interactions in many of the scenes appear to be simultaneous, although everything was filmed.
“Being able to rehearse together has been great, even if it’s different from our normal rehearsals,” Fuller said. “Having portions of the cast present, we had a good energy going. Seeing all the pieces come together is exciting.”
Hirschfeld said, “It’s an exciting and funny show packed with lots of adventure, with moments that I think the Milton community will find relatable. Everyone could use some fantasy and escapism during the pandemic. There’s something for everyone, even if you have very little or no knowledge about D&D.”
She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms is open for streaming between Thursday at 7 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) and Sunday at 7 p.m. Viewers can register to watch the stream any time during that period through the School’s Eventbrite page. On Friday at 7:30 p.m., viewers can attend a watch party followed by an informal chat with the cast. Milton students may register for the open stream or the watch party through their CampusGroups accounts.