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Vortex Theater Brings D&D-Themed Play to NMT

Vortex Theater Bringing D&D-Themed Play to NMT

SOCORRO, N.M. – The New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series (PAS) is responding to the pulse of evolving cultural movements in arts and entertainment, as reflected in its offerings for the 2017 – 2018 PAS season, starting with its kick-off production.

“She Kills Monsters” is a comedic romp into fantasy role playing games and pop culture, staged by The Vortex Theater in Albuquerque. The performance will open the season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 16, at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center, days after the play closes its Duke City run.

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One of several fight scenes in 'She Kills Monsters,' which will be performed by the Vortex Theater on Sept. 16, at Macey Center.

 

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'She Kills Monsters' will entertain D&D experts and novices alike. 

 

The contemporary production, based on the phenomenally successful fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons, marks The Vortex’s first collaboration with the PAS.

“We’re opening the new PAS year with a unique play that tilts toward D&D fans, who will be privy to inside jokes, as well as to anyone who enjoys contemporary theater and live stage performances,” said PAS Director Ronna Kalish.

“Who knows? Those unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons could discover how fun it is, and may play it themselves after seeing this play,” Kalish said.

“But it’s not just about Dungeons and Dragons,” Kalish adds, “it is a heartfelt story about identity, coming of age, family and friends.  As I read the script, one scene had me laughing uncontrollably, the next brought me to tears.”

The Vortex Theater has a longstanding reputation for its unique and sometimes cutting-edge offerings, and “She Kills Monsters” doesn’t disappoint. With its spare set, the ideal backdrop for a collection of fantastical monsters and onstage battles, the full-length play is a hallmark of experimental theater.

Tech Club Macey will serve grilled cheese sandwiches and home-made chips, with a cash bar to those age 21 and older starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Galena Room off the upper lobby of Macey Center. Admission is free to all in this first show of the season.

     
 

Q&A with Bridget Dunne, Co-Director of ‘Monsters’

Q: Why did you pick this show?

A: Emily Carvey (also co-director) deserves the credit for selecting this play. She approached me over a year ago, while we were both in Immortal Longings (I was also the assistant director) to see if I’d be interested in co-directing She Kills Monsters with her. I’d already heard of the show, a theatre company in D.C. did it a few years ago (I’m acquainted with the artistic directors so I keep tabs on what they’re producing), and I’d been excited to hear about it. I’ve played some D&D, as well as other tabletop games, and I was a teenager in the 90s, so this script speaks to me on several levels. I understand Tilly’s feelings of alienation and awkwardness, and Agnes’ desire to just be "normal." The journey toward finding yourself, toward knowing yourself, which is the journey Agnes takes in this show is one that anyone can relate to.

Q: What is unique about this production of the play?

A: One of the most unique aspects of our production is that it’s being directed by two women! Theatre, like many fields, is still a male-dominated world, so the fact that two women are heading up this production is something of an anomaly in Albuquerque, or anywhere for that matter. Emily is handling the fight choreography, and with over 15 instances of stage combat, she will be directing 10 out of 11 cast members (only one character doesn’t fight!) plus a five-person fight ensemble. I will be helping our 11 cast members find their characters, and shape their relationships with each other; combining our work with the cast’s work, this show will thrill audiences, as well as move them.

Q. What will attract audiences to this show?

A: A mostly female cast of strong characters, and sword fights! There are going to be so many people fighting on stage, swinging swords and staffs, all set to a mid-90s soundtrack, and grounded in the relationships between these women and men, especially the relationship between sisters Agnes and Tilly. One of my favorite aspects of the script is the humor, which doesn't laugh at gamers and other geeks, but instead laughs with them, with lots of inside jokes that any geek will catch.

Q: What do you want audiences to know about you and/or the show? Are there topics or ideas (political, artistic, historical) that this show addresses in a new or different way?

A: This is the first and, to my knowledge, only play, that highlights Dungeons & Dragons as the cultural phenomenon that it’s become. We get to learn about the game from a newbie player, Agnes, while guided along by Chuck and Tilly and the other characters who know and love the game. We see the perspective of people who know the game but don’t play it (Vera and Miles), and how their attitudes reflect those people who judge and mock this game which has brought joy and acceptance to so many.

 
     

PAS is hosting a fantasy costume contest (“cosplay” by those who know!) which Kalish hopes will attract a lot of Tech students and other creative individuals.  Prizes to the best costumes will be tickets to either the Albuquerque or Santa Fe Comic-Con.

“She Kills Monsters” tells the story of Agnes Evans as she leaves her childhood home in Ohio following the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. When Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, however, she stumbles into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the fantasy world that was Tilly’s refuge.

This high-energy, dramatic comedy with its homicidal fairies, ogres, huge spiders and 90’s pop culture, brought acclaim to the young playwright Qui Nguyen, whose tale offers an homage to the geek and warrior within us all.

No fantasy monster saga would be complete without the obligatory dragon, and the one in this dramatic comedy is so large and ornate it takes 10 persons to operate.

The play is billed as one with sexual elements, monsters and fighting – lots of staged fighting, including an especially big scene that has actors performing acrobatic feats, all artfully choreographed.

For some critics, the play delves into who people are as individuals – and who they want to be. It’s a discovery of self that unfolds onstage.

It’s also a comedy – a comedy about death, as the audience follows Agnes on an emotional quest to understand the sister she lost.

“If you’ve ever felt alone, felt like an outcast, you’ll get it,” noted one observer.

Qui Nguyen is a playwright, screenwriter, and co-founder of the OBIE Award-winning Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company of NYC. “She Kills Monsters” won the 2014 AATE Distinguished Play Award, and was nominated for the 2012 GLAAD Media Award.

Nguyen is a member of the WGA, The Dramatists Guild, The Playwrights Center, Ensemble Studio Theatre and The Ma-Yi Writers Lab. He also is an alumnus of New Dramatists and Youngblood. For television, he’s written for PBS’s Peg+Cat and SYFY’s Inc.

He began writing for Marvel Studios in 2016, and his work with the Vampire Cowboys, particularly in the staging of martial arts, has been documented in a dissertation from the Drama Department at Tufts University.

The Vortex, Albuquerque’s oldest continuously-running black box theater, has been a pioneering venue for classic, contemporary and cutting-edge theatre since 1976. A black box theater, or experimental theater, consists of a simple, somewhat unadorned performance space, usually a large square room with black walls and a flat floor. It is a relatively recent innovation in theatre.

Sponsors for “She Kills Monsters” are the New Mexico Tech Student Government Association, Cirk Bejnar, M Mountain Coffee, Survice Engineering Co., Art Works, the National Endowment for the Arts and New Mexico Arts.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and $8 for youths. New Mexico Tech students will be admitted free with their student ID at the door, or can pick up one ticket each at the New Mexico Tech Bookstore. Tickets can be purchased online at nmtpas.org, or at the following locations: PAS office, New Mexico Tech Cashier (Fidel Center), Socorro County Chamber of Commerce and Sofia’s Kitchen.

– NMT –