Students in VCU’s Theatre Department are doing something they’ve never done before by presenting a virtual hybrid production of She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms that combines theatre and film.
After the pandemic started and it became clear theatre would have to be continued online via software such as Zoom, playwright Qui Nguyen released a new adaptation of his play “His play is one of the few things that has been written for a hybrid model,” says Dorie Barton, adjunct professor at VCU and co-director of this production.
The hybrid model being used combines practices from theatre and film. “It’s fun bringing in both elements,” says Barton who is a filmmaker as well as theatre practitioner. “We had some rehearsals in the theatre while we were shooting the film.”
VCU senior Trinitee Pearson, is playing the role of Tilly/Tillius the Paladin in the production (shown above). At first she thought it was going to be filmed primarily over Zoom, working with other actors virtually. “As we got deeper into the process, they set up a green screen studio at the Singleton Center where we could film (following safety protocols and social distancing.) I wasn’t expecting it to be so elaborate.”
Senior Sofia Malin’s role as production stage manager morphed into the role of first assistant director, a job usually allotted to film.
“One of our stage managers is taking on the role of script supervisor, writing down blocking, acting and directing notes, etc.,” she says. “I coordinate between different departments in the production, working with directors, actors, scenic designers, props, sound designers, etc.”
Malin sends out a daily report that keeps designers and technicians in the loop. “That’s one of the main ways I am communicating with people,” she says. “There is a lot more coordination because everything is being done virtually. We’re not seeing people face-to-face. We have our production meetings on Zoom.”
One of the biggest differences in mounting a hybrid production is the amount of coordination required. “It takes a lot of coordination,” Malin says. “This is the most difficult production I have done at VCU because it’s an area that no one has done before.”
A Relationship Between Sisters
She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms follows Agnes Evans, a high schooler in Ohio who thinks of herself as the world’s most average teenager until her little sister Tilly suddenly dies. Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons and Dragons notebook and decides to play the campaign her sister created. During the process Agnes learns more about her sister than she could have in real teenage life.
There are some concepts in the drama-comedy that will be “good for conversation starters,” says Barton. “The sister that passed away was possibly gay and had not come out to her sister. The play is like a grand fairytale, where you are going on a hero’s journey to battle a dragon. It has a familiar structure with lovely new ideas built on top of that.”
Barton and her team have been able to create a magical world using a virtual background. Going into the process Pearson had little knowledge of the game Dungeons and Dragons. “It’s an easy story to grasp,” she says.
The play will have its premiere on October 28 to coincide with an event for the Virginia Theatre Association that brings high school students together. The hope is that high schools and high school students across Virginia will watch the 75-minute production.
“Because the production is virtual we are not limited to an audience that can fit in a theatre,” Barton says, noting that the play will have specific start times like a theatre. “We can have a much broader reach. I’m excited about the opportunity.”
She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms
All performances are virtual. After tickets are purchased, you will receive a streaming link and access code the day of the event so you can watch in your own home.
Tickets, ranging from $4.99 to $25, are available at vcutheatre.showclix.com and can be purchased until an hour before each showtime. The show contains mild adult themes, recommended for ages 13+. For more information on the show, visit arts.vcu.edu. Last showing will be Friday, Nov. 6.
Student discounts and special packages for teachers interested in sharing with their classrooms can be obtained. For more information, reach out to Sarah Moore at email@example.com.