The Marginalized Take Center Stage in “She Kills Monsters”

-By, Teresa Lawlor

Never before has Winsor seen a production more fantastical, intense, or daring than She Kills Monsters, which was performed on November 11th and 12th at Winsor. After finding an old Dungeons and Dragons notebook, Agnes (Saphia S. ’17) sets out on a wild adventure that spans both reality and a fantasy world with the goal of finally understanding her dead sister Tilly (Ariela R. ’19), with whom she had a complicated and distant relationship. Along the way, Agnes befriends a miscellany of magical, otherworldly creatures who push her out of her comfort zone.

The show featured eleven combat sequences that were choreographed by professional fight director Dr. Danielle Rosvally, and the actors were armed with live steel weapons. “I’ve never worked on a show in either a professional or educational setting that has incorporated this much stage combat!” says Mr. Johnson, the director of the show. This level of complexity certainly presented some challenges; for many of the actors, stage combat is a completely new skill. “You have to really focus and know what you’re doing to make sure no one gets hurt,” says Asrah R. ‘20, who plays the role of Steve. However, it was also rewarding. Rehearsing a sequence to perfection and “knowing how realistic it will look to the audience is a great feeling,” according to Lia K. ‘19 (Vera).

This year, the Winsor fall play experienced a surprisingly high turn-out for auditions; twenty-five girls auditioned for fifteen parts. But a rising interest in the arts is not just due to this play – over the last few years, the Winsor theater program has been growing in size and creating new opportunities. “Our new space has also allowed us to really start to own our place in the community… I’ve been able to build a sense of respect and trust with my actors so that our work continues to get richer and stronger with each production,” says Mr. Johnson. According to the cast  of this particular production, he has succeeded. “The Winsor drama department is a wonderful, thriving group of talented people,” says Ariela R. ‘19, “and I love each and every one of them.”

The other part of this growth is due to the shows that Mr. Johnson and the Performing Arts Department have chosen for the students. “It’s been really fascinating to explore what it means to be a woman in the world by selecting plays from different places, time periods, and writers,” says Mr. Johnson. “I loved that She Kills Monsters had so many complex, well written female roles and really dug into the relationship between sisters.” The script highlights powerful, independent female characters and tells the stories of several queer teenagers, as well as celebrating “geekery” typically viewed as untrendy — all topics that are rarely together onstage.

One of the central themes of She Kills Monsters is self-discovery, as seen in Agnes’s journey from an “average” high school teacher to a monster-slaying warrior, but the show also advocates for looking past someone’s outward appearance to understand and appreciate who the person truly is. The play deals with these issues within the context of a teenage girl’s life and invites its audience to fight their own dragons through the lenses of adventure, magic, and fantasy.