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The Show Must 'Zoom' On

May 07, 2020 School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

Zoom rehearsal of She Kills Monsters

Students mount production of 'She Kills Monsters'—from their homes.

By Sala Levin ’10 | Maryland Today

Tonight, a daring experiment will be Zoomed into living rooms, bedrooms or whatever corner of the house you’ve claimed from prying roommates or needy children. There won’t be beakers or Bunsen burners, but a broom handle will be repurposed as a mighty staff.

With COVID-19 making in-person audiences impossible, the team behind the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies’ already-scheduled production of Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters” decided to approach it from a research perspective: What could live theater look like in the age of stay-at-home orders? They’ll find out when “She Kills Monsters” goes live, with each actor performing from home.

“There’s a gap of knowledge in our industry about how to perform live theater when social distancing needs to be enforced, and so our rehearsal process has been very much a laboratory,” said Lisa Nathans, assistant professor of theatre performance and co-director of the production along with Jared Mezzocchi, assistant professor of dance and theatre design and production.

“She Kills Monsters” turned out to be a fortuitous choice for such an undertaking. The play—multimedia-heavy to begin with—tells the story of Agnes Evans’ exploration into the life of her late younger sister Tilly, a mega-fan of all things fantasy, role-playing and Dungeons and Dragons. The online space made a perfect setting for the make-believe world of New Landia, where much of the show’s action takes place. “Because of Zoom and our online platform, we’re actually able to feel transported,” said Nathans.

The 28 student designers and actors have also been working to make their living spaces into sets that might help send audiences on that journey. Jasmine Mitchell ’20, who plays Agnes, uses different lamps to adjust the lighting and has placed her props—like that broom handle and a butter knife for a dagger—so that they’re easily accessible. (First things first: “I have to make sure my room is clean,” Mitchell said.)

Read more in Maryland Today.

Photo courtesy of David Andrews.