‘She Kills Monsters’ Delights with Foes, Friends and Fears

Agnes+%28Piper+Salazar%29+and+Tilly+%28Allison+Bilmeyer%29+battle+a+Bugbear+%28Courtesy+Todd+Collins+I+University+of+Utah+Theatre%29
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‘She Kills Monsters’ Delights with Foes, Friends and Fears

Agnes (Piper Salazar) and Tilly (Allison Bilmeyer) battle a Bugbear (Courtesy Todd Collins I University of Utah Theatre)

Agnes (Piper Salazar) and Tilly (Allison Bilmeyer) battle a Bugbear (Courtesy Todd Collins I University of Utah Theatre)

Agnes (Piper Salazar) and Tilly (Allison Bilmeyer) battle a Bugbear (Courtesy Todd Collins I University of Utah Theatre)

Agnes (Piper Salazar) and Tilly (Allison Bilmeyer) battle a Bugbear (Courtesy Todd Collins I University of Utah Theatre)

By Kate Button, Arts Writer

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This article contains mild spoilers for “She Kills Monsters.”

When you think about grief, turning to a game of Dungeons and Dragons might not seem like an obvious coping mechanism. But, as Agnes Evans (Piper Salazar) mourns the loss of both of her parents and her younger, self-identified “dork” of a sister Tilly (Allison Billmeyer), Agnes utilizes her sister’s favorite pastime of D&D to try to understand who her sister was. 

In “She Kills Monsters,” Agnes explores the world of D&D from her “newb” perspective, and she is introduced to a brand new world full of monsters, devils and evil fairies. Yet through this realm, Agnes — whose world was once entirely “too average” —  is able to discover the truths of Tilly’s life through a game that she left behind in a notebook. By exploring the world of D&D, Agnes learns of Tilly’s struggles with bullies, high school and life in the closet.

In one impactful scene, Agnes realizes that she never got to know her sister as a teenager — she knew Tilly when they were kids, and hoped to become close friends again in adulthood. But after a fatal car crash, this future could never be possible. Agnes expresses great remorse about not truly knowing who her sister was, who her friends were, or the fact that she identified as a lesbian. Yet, through the world of D&D, Agnes is able to connect with her sister and help her spirit and memory live past her untimely death. In this world, Tilly is able to take control of her fate and destroy her own demons — of course, alongside her own team of misfits who find their place in this fantasy world. 

In the University of Utah Theatre Department’s production of “She Kills Monsters,” dragons and other monster props, silhouetted scenes and 1990s rock music interludes all transport the audience alongside the fantastical journeys of Agnes, Tilly and their friends. The prop work of the monsters is incredibly creative, and they offer a more “video game”-like air to the production. Then, through occasional scenes where only silhouettes can be seen, the play introduces elements of traditional storytelling which allow the audience to utilize their own imagination. Finally, as the play is set in 1995, the ‘90s music and costumes — including one brief reference to Cher from “Clueless,” released that same year — further drives the transformative work that the play conducts. 

Yet, despite the amazing production work, enthralling storytelling and captivating performances by the actors, this production was not promoted by the Utah Theatre Association, a conference of high school theater students hosted at the U. In an email interview, Jessica Graham, an assistant director for “She Kills Monsters,” expressed her own surprise at this lack of promotion: “UTA had decided to not promote ‘SKM’ this year. I believe it is officially because of vulgarity and perhaps some mature jokes? However, homosexuality is a prominent issue in the play, and there is a feeling that UTA has pulled their support in part because of there being gay themes.” 

Although this is just speculation, if the UTA did withdraw their promotion of “She Kills Monsters” for its content, then they are simply denying their audience from an incredible production. As Graham also noted, “She Kills Monsters” accurately reflects the language and character of high schoolers, along with the necessary representation of diverse characters. 

While the UTA might not have chosen to promote this play, I highly recommend attending “She Kills Monsters” to experience Agnes and Tilly’s journeys through reconciliation, grief and friendship.

“She Kills Monsters” is running from through Jan. 19 at Kingsbury Hall. General Admission tickets are $18, U faculty and staff are $15, U students are free with UCard and all other students with valid student ID are $8.50. For more information, visit their website.

 

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@kateannebutton