by Joyce Wang ’22
Published Jan. 11th, 2021
On December 4th 2020, Montgomery High School held its first-ever fully virtual theatrical production. Helmed by director Mr. Gordon, MHS’s Drama Department smoothly streamed three live performances of She Kills Monsters over the course of three days.
She Kills Monsters is a play written by Qui Nguyen, an Emmy Award-winning playwright and screenwriter. The play follows Agnes (Sophia Sapienza) as she reflects on her tumultuous relationship with her sister Tilly (Lanie Hymowitz) following Tilly’s untimely death. The production uses the popular game Dungeons and Dragons as a metaphor for Tilly’s life, and Agnes treks through fantastical situations that allude to Tilly’s life experiences.
The play’s fully virtual nature generated some doubts about its success: an actor’s ability to convey a complex range of emotions through a screen and the effectiveness of theatre without a stage were some concerns that were called into question.
However, for me, all doubts disappeared about twenty minutes into the production.
The first impression I got was intimacy. Alone in my room, I was fully immersed in the show. The music was clear and I could see everything up close.
In addition to this intimacy was a feeling of intrusiveness that persisted throughout the play. The segments of online gameplay and Zoom-esque conversations made me feel as though I was invading something private, making the experience unique.
Lanie Hymowitz (Tilly) was optimistic about the new experience despite the difficulties of acting from the shoulders up. While Lanie describes acting as a “full body study,” all eyes were on her face in this production, which she admits was nerve-wracking. Still, she said that the novel challenge of focusing all her energy on making convincing facial expressions provided the “needed pressure an actor thrives on.”
As for other groups involved in the production, Ellie Engleka, an experienced stage crew member, said the traditional stage crew experience did partially disappear, as physical sets weren’t being built (except for some small props). She admitted that there weren’t as many things the crew could do, and she personally “really missed the camaraderie that comes from working together.” However, Ellie also pointed out that the remote stage crew tasks allowed for personal projects to shine, since many backgrounds were pieces of original art.
One crucial aspect missing from the virtual production was applause. This year, that applause came in the form of Padlet, a website that allows people to post comments on a page for the cast and crew to see. Lanie said she enjoyed this kind of feedback, saying, “[P]eople are much more comfortable giving their full thoughts through a screen.” This was indeed true, as the Padlet for MHS’s She Kills Monsters was flooded with funny and heartwarming comments.
A novelty and a trailblazer, it is clear that MHS’s production of She Kills Monsters was an undeniable force despite being virtual. This production holds the potential to change the future of the MHS Drama Department, as virtual shows like She Kills Monsters are more affordable to put on and more accessible to a larger group of people. Undoubtedly, this show was a success in the face of the adversity presented by COVID-19.