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By Constance Scrafield
Funny, strange, maybe controversial, She Kills Monsters is this year's Theatre Orangeville Young Company Production on stage at the Opera House for three performances this weekend, Friday August 26 through Sunday August 28, for two evening performances on Friday and Saturday and a matinee on Sunday.
Much of She Kills Monsters may surprise us for, in the YouTube video in which playwright Qui Nguyen tells viewers how he came to pen this play, we learn the tender story of his friendship with Chuck, his best friend of his youth, on whom the Chuck character in She Kills Monsters is based. Yet, he does not prepare us for its intensity, action and comedy, except to say that it is the most produced high school play in America and to refer many times to Dragons and Dungeons, hints enough perhaps.
The choice of this play came together with the help of Theatre Orangeville's Youth Advisory Committee and was accepted without any push back at all by everyone involved.
Director, Murdoch Schon (they/them) and program co-ordinator, Kait Gallant spoke with the Citizen about the show. “The play presents a lot of questions about the topics and themes and we're excited to bring this to the community,” Schon said.
They noted that the theme is identity and how it is handled through the lens of grief, where they are at in the moment and through the face of death, which are handled with comedy.
Murdoch Schon continued, “They are other stories within the play of bullying and relationships when we're young.”
Basically, the play's story is about Agnes Evans and her sister Tilly who has died. Agnes tries to learn more about her sister. While trying to discover who her sister was, Agnes is more importantly discovering more about herself. Since they had not spent much time together, Agnes does not know Tilly well and now she will not be able to know her.
However, the difficult subject of grief is wrapped in comedy, which, Schon notes is really important to know.
She Kills Monsters is all done though popular culture, very playful – much about “cool hearts and camp(iness).”
Camp is defined as humour, silliness, influences of Monty Python.
She Kills Monsters is placed entirely in the 1990's, “a period piece,” Schon calls it, elaborating, “The advent of the Internet and social media have changed the way people can create information which isn't always helpful. Even 15 years ago when we were not as instantly available, there was distance from how available we were but now everything is so quick – the barriers are so vastly different.”
In the 1990's, Murdock Schon thinks one of the interesting things about the actors in this play is they do not necessarily understand: what does it mean to knock on someone's door and say, “I know we had a fight and I'm sorry.”
Nobody in this play has a cellphone. It's a very different learning curve; the kids have to imagine that.
In today's world the phone is the universe; this play is a “more historical time. It's also quite a challenge as actors,” adding, “We've really approached this play in the same way.”
Socially the claim is things have changed completely but this play is so specifically about the '90's, and written about the culture of the time, even to a greater extent than other plays based in the '90's.
“Each scene we've gone through, the better epic and excited heart shines through,” Schon told the Citizen. “In other parts to keep the pace up, campiness rises to the surface.”
Camp is in the drivers' seat right now.
Plenty of action carries the play along, including over nine battle scenes, some five minutes long and the kids are really mastering how to use swords, daggers and shields – it's all in the show. There is a treasure chest with teeth, famous D'n'D monster.
The play's director assured us, “There's some unbelievable acting; they've really dug down to camp, even the 13-year-old kids.
“Our cast have dedicated themselves to 'I'm ok with looking silly.' That risk-taking is so amazing from this cast; they have to be different creatures – the audience can laugh and laugh.”
The invitation to audiences is to really pay attention and to start the dialogue; to talk about what does identity mean. Identity has been in question but now we have different words, Schon claimed, like bullying, relations. For them, the play is really trying to start a conversation: what are things that we hold on to and how do we navigate those things?
She ruminated, “A lot of it is about the fear of getting it wrong. Agnes has a really hard time of getting into the campiness because she has this fear of that playfulness. The show is an invitation to imagine our lives as more playful, more inviting. We're expanding from the 'me' to something that's more about the community,” reckoning, “Everybody could do with a reminder to be kinder, more playful or kinder in their lives.”
Rated 12 or older, we were told there is some [not intense] swearing. These are conversations that everyone can be a part of, no matter your generation or your place in life. We can do with having another look. Schon believes that camp which is very physical is not referential that will leave people behind.
Schon said, “It's been really interesting working with a new group of people. I'm so grateful for the excellence, talent and artistry of these people.”
“As a queer person growing up,” they commented, “this was not the kind of representation I knew.
“My responsibility as an artist is to make the world a better place and I'm impressed with how TOV [Theatre Orangeville] is supporting that. We've won cue to cue and there's over 100 cues – there' s dance, lights – it's a monster play and TOV has been so supportive always saying, 'This is what the show needs.'
Kait Gallant added to the whole, “A lot of people are involved and all of them are on board. The kids were very excited. It's a powerful play.
“It is a monster show.”
Some of the special effects match Schon's taste as an artist and training. The show is full of music, lights flashing; most of the music is from the time period, like TLC's Water Fall and more from the era.
“When we think of the 90's,” they said, “grandparents from this time are immediately going to get chuckles. This is a coming-of-age comedy about identity, grief and vulnerability.”
Young Company's She Kills Monsters runs this weekend from Friday, August 26 to Sunday August 28.
Said Murdock Schon, “I'm very lucky to be a part of it.”
For tickets go to www.theatreorangeville.ca or call the box office at 519-942-3423.
Post date: 2022-08-25 15:19:55
Post date GMT: 2022-08-25 19:19:55
Post modified date: 2022-09-01 16:35:06
Post modified date GMT: 2022-09-01 20:35:06
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