Written By: Angelie Roche
Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed theater productions worldwide; due to concerns about social distancing, lack of audiences, and a myriad of other problems, many small theater companies have ceased productions altogether. However, some have found creative solutions; from online showings to Zoom performances, the theater industry has slowly learned to adapt to the ongoing pandemic. St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) theater department is no exception, as they have been working tirelessly through the pandemic to find a production style that would follow the College’s guidelines. Beginning on Oct. 16, they will be streaming a three-episode production of Qui Nyugen’s comedy-drama “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms,” a play designed specifically for online performance.
“She Kills Monsters” will be performed by an ensemble of 16 SMCM students, and tells the story of a high school cheerleader, Agnes, following the death of her younger sister Tilly. Agnes finds Tilly’s “Dungeons and Dragons” notebook, and through it she discovers the world her sister loved: one that was full of mythical creatures and tons of imaginary play. According to the production’s page on the St. Mary’s website, this story offers a “heart-pounding and heart-wrenching homage to the geek and warrior within us all,” and is fit for anyone looking to escape to a fantasy world and embark on an adventure without even having to leave their room.
According to Alyssa Heintzelman, who plays the character Lillith, the production was a completely new experience for everyone in the St. Mary’s theater department. To record, the actors went to Montgomery hall, where they were each assigned a space fitted with a green screen and sound and lighting equipment. With this setup, there were challenges unique to digital performance; it was difficult to obtain professional recording technology and figure out how to make the production work for all actors, even those who were not on campus. Despite these, Heintzelman says that she was surprised by how close the cast became despite not being in person — in her words, they “stayed connected through Discord, participated in socially-distanced hangouts, and even started [their] own D&D campaign.”Though it is not possible to go to a theater and see this performance in person, St. Mary’s theater department has made sure this production will be available to all students online. The three episodes, which are about 30-35 minutes long, will be streaming on four dates: Oct. 16, 20, 23 and 24, available to view anytime from 12:00 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. On the first three dates, the performance will be split into sections, but on Oct. 24, it will be shown in its entirety. In order to make reservations, students must email the Theater Box Office at firstname.lastname@example.org, specifying which episodes they would like to view on which dates, and the Box Office will respond with a time sensitive Vimeo passcode with which they can access the show. While there is not one set ticket price for students, the Theater Department asks that each person “pays what [they] can” at the Theater Box Office in Montgomery Hall.