Washougal High presents first play of 2022-23: ‘She Kills Monsters,’ a tale of discovery

Drama production runs next two weekends, Nov. 11-12 and Nov. 18-19, at Washburn Performing Arts Center

Claire Siefert (left) talks to Kati Gilbert (right) on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2022, during the Washougal High School drama department's rehearsal for its upcoming production of "She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition."

Washougal High students Daisha Paz-Mendoza (left), Kati Gilbert (right) and Juliet Collins rehearse for their upcoming production of "She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition," the drama department's first production of 2022-23, inside Washougal High School on Nov. 2, 2022.

Claire Siefert (left) talks to PJ Hopmeier Mitchell during the Washougal High School drama department's rehearsal session for its upcoming production of "She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition" on Thursday, Nov. 2. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

The Washougal High School drama department’s first production of the 2022-23 school year tells a story about grief, acceptance, and self-discovery, set in a fantasy world laden with homicidal monsters and 1990s pop-culture references.

The department will present “She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition” at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11-12 and on Friday, Nov. 18, and again at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Washburn Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $5 and will be available at the door.

“This play was brought to me by one of my former students who directed ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ last year,” Washougal High drama teacher Kelly Gregersen said. “I read it and really liked it. Then the students brought me several other plays they were interested in, so over the summer, I read several plays and then put out an online vote for the kids (asking) what they wanted to do, and this, hands down, was the show they were interested in.”

American playwright Qui Nguyen wrote “She Kills Monsters,” which debuted at the Flea Theater in New York City in 2011. It has been staged more than 800 times, mostly by high school and college drama departments. Nguyen later wrote a “New Adventures Edition,” which omits some explicit language and ages down some of the characters.

The play is a “heartwarming comedy about loss, bullies and dragons,” according to Nguyen’s website. It tells the story of a young woman named Agnes Evans, who leaves her childhood home in Ohio following the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. After Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, she “embarks on an action-packed adventure to discover more about her geeky sibling than she previously cared to know.”

“They never saw eye-to-eye. Agnes is a popular cheerleader and Tilly was a geek,” Gregersen said. “But Agnes finds a Dungeons & Dragons module that Tilly had written and takes it down to the local game shop and asks to play through it so she can get to know her sister. In the game, she meets her sister, meets her sister’s friends, really gets to know who her sister was, and gets to make that connection that she didn’t have the time to make in life. It addresses loss and forgiveness and acceptance.”

Many of the students have personally identified with those themes, according to Gregersen.

“There’s some elements that really have led to some good discussions,” he said. “There’s some bullying that’s brought up. There’s some self-acceptance. There’s some (themes of) accepting each other. And some of our kids have experienced loss, so some of that has really come through in discussions as we’ve been putting the show together.”

Despite the presence of heavier themes, the play is “very funny” at times, according to Gregersen.

“There’s tons of 1990s pop-culture references, lots of humor, lots of action,” he said. “There are many sword fights, and there may be a dragon at the end. So even though there’s kind of a serious core to it, a lot of the show is just an absolute blast. It’s funny and fast-paced, and there’s lots going on.”

“The kids have worked so hard on their choreography, because there’s a lot of fight choreography in the show,” he continued. “(We have) a pretty simple set so that they’ve got room to move on the stage. We’ve got some nice elements that are going to pop out and some great costuming, so we will definitely try to build that fantasy world in those pieces. We’ve been having so much fun putting all this together.”