Sweet Briar honors student delves into fantasy with senior directing project

Shannon McCarthy
Shannon McCarthy ’16. Photo by Kylene Hayslett.

It’s been a busy year for musical theatre major Shannon McCarthy, whose cabaret performance in December fulfilled her major requirements. To also receive departmental honors in theatre, McCarthy will stage the fantasy play “She Kills Monsters” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23, in Babcock’s studio theater. Both performances are free and open to the public.

An award-winning play by young playwright Qui Nguyen, “She Kills Monsters” tells the story of sisters Agnes and Tilly Evans, who find themselves — and each other — in the world of fantasy role-playing games. The play begins after Tilly’s death, an event Agnes tries to process by immersing herself in a Dungeons & Dragons game her teenage sister “left behind” in a notebook. Tilly’s imaginary world now becomes Agnes’s refuge, as well.

A dramatic comedy “laden with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres and ’90s pop culture,” writes Nguyen’s publisher, “She Kills Monsters” is “a heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior within us all.”

The New York Times called the play “deceptively breezy and rather ingenious. The whole enterprise is kind of dopey and kind of invigorating and kind of remarkable. It will slash and shapeshift its way into your heart.”

McCarthy, a graduate of Carlisle High School in Pennsylvania who minors in gender studies, says she was drawn to the play’s sense of humor and its “gorgeous” fantasy setting.

She Kills Monsters poster
Design by Sarah White

“I figured that I could have a lot of fun creating this DnD universe and all the creatures and personalities that exist within it.”

Set design and construction, however, will be sparse.

“Due to the elaborate nature of the costumes and special effects make-up within the DnD realm, we decided to go for a very minimalist set,” McCarthy explains. “While actors may carry or pull out prop items to help set the scene, the set itself is made up primarily of various platforms and acting blocks. We are planning to have some fun with UV-responsive paint and black lights, however, to play up the fantasy element of the show.”

Her cast includes 12 Sweet Briar students and three men from the area, with some actors taking on various roles. Katy Drews ’16 will play the part of Tilly; Agnes will be portrayed by fellow senior Leah Haes.

Other students in the cast include Amber Boyer ’17 (Narrator/The Beholder), Emelie Wurster ’17 (Lilith), Corin Diaz ’19 (Kaliope), Brigette Parker ’16 (Vera/Farrah), Victoria Jemmett ’19 (Steve), Madeline Widjaja ’19 (Evil Gabbi), Milea Webb ’16 (Evil Tina) and Ashley Federico ’16, Katie Torretti ’16 and Vanessa Finnegan ’17 in multiple combat roles.

Lynchburg College actors Chris Merritt (Chuck), Logan Wagoner (Orcus) and Ryan Pryor Spears (Miles) round out the cast.

“Quite a big undertaking — especially for a first-time director — but I’ve been quite lucky, having a cast that makes rehearsal time fly by,” McCarthy says.

For more information, email McCarthy at mccarthy16@sbc.edu.