University of Houston’s School of Theatre and Dance is taking monsters, mean girls and melees to new heights in their upcoming production She Kills Monsters. Introducing aerial work to the program, the performance is shaping up to be an unprecedented ensemble.
Written in 2012 but a comedic romp set in 1995, She Kills Monsters follows school teacher Agnes Evans, as she bereaves her family’s death by following her sister Tilly’s playbook, through the role playing Dungeon & Dragons. Since its debut, the play has seen success across the country, as it conquers deeper issues of family loss, sexuality, gender roles, all while having a geeky backbone. “I wasn’t interested in just doing [She Kills Monsters] again, which is how we ended up in the more difficult aspects of the play,” says director Adam Noble, referring to the aerial work, fight scenes, “creature” crew and set design.
The creation of the equipment and design required over a year of preparation as it would accompany aerial work. Fortunately, Noble’s wife Melissa specializes in aerial trapeze and assisted him throughout the entire production. She created the distinct movements for the many creatures in the play, from warm-ups to individual movement and synchronization.
She Kills Monsters also premieres several never-before-seen elements, such as new characters like the monster crew and a five-headed dragon with a 35-foot wing span and 20-foot tall canvas. But there will definitely be many identifiable elements like ‘90s music, hair and wardrobe—you can expect cheerleader uniforms, high ponytails, pigtails, fishnets and more.
The escapism of gaming, however, was a concept the cast had to grapple with, either by playing the real life Dungeon & Dragons or in UH senior’s Skyler Sinclair’s case, facing an insecurity by donning a cheerleader uniform for her role as Gaby the evil cheerleader. “I went through bullying in junior high, then in high school when I became a cheerleader, all of a sudden I was deemed worthy,” Sinclair remembers. “It was hard. I was using this otherworldliness [to play evil Gaby].”
Once Noble coached her to act like “two mean girls in the hallway,” Sinclair completely altered her character and helped shed the protection she was using. “It’s really exciting when [students] can see themselves mirrored on stage with a vernacular and experiences that are closer to their head,” says Nobel. “And for them to just experience it—who they are and the questions they have about life.”
April 22–23, 28–30 at 8 p.m, April 24, May 1 at at 2 p.m., Wortham Theatre. $10 Students, $20 General Public, 713-743-2929. uh.edu