Alameda, CA

How Alameda High Performance of "She Kills Monsters" Explores Identity and Loss

Karin K Jensen

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Alameda High School students in She Kills MonstersMaya Wooten

Drama teacher, Zachary Morris, was casting about for a play to direct for Alameda High School (AHS) when a student recommended one he wasn’t familiar with -- She Kills Monsters. The play is a drama-comedy by Qui Nguyen that debuted in 2011. It tells the story of Agnes Evans, an average woman who loses her parents and little sister Tilly in a car accident.

Having been distant from her sister when she was alive, Agnes embarks on an adventure to better know her by playing a Dungeons and Dragons module that Tilly wrote, discovering things she never imagined. The plot takes place in reality and the imaginary game world. While in the game world, Agnes learns about Tilly’s real exploration and struggle with her sexuality.

“I feel that students get more from their experience and put more effort into the production process when they have a voice,” says Mr. Morris. “Such has been the case for She Kills Monsters, which deals with contemporary issues important to teens, such as discovering sexual orientation and identity, overcoming adversity and loss, and building resilience against feelings of anxiety and alienation. I see students have connected with the story because these themes speak to them. For that reason, there’s a lot of life in this play.”

Over 40 AHS students, including cast and crew, contribute to the play, including 24 actors and 18 crew members. The show is highly technical, so Mr. Morris is pleased that students are getting to learn about those aspects of play production.

Play History

Nguyen intentionally wrote the characters to allow actors of any race to be cast into every role, saying, “We wanted to see the diversity you would find on the New York subway onstage.”

Following a 2013 American Alliance for Theater and Education award, as of July 2020, the play has been staged close to 800 times, primarily by high schools and colleges. In October 2021, after weeks of rehearsal, a school superintendent canceled the She Kills Monsters production at Hillsboro High School in Highland County, Ohio, allegedly on the ground that “one of its characters might be gay.”

Students subsequently started a GoFundMe campaign to mount the production independently of their school. Within a week of its launch, the campaign more than tripled its goal.

How to Go

The AHS drama program presents the play at the Fred Chacon Little Theater at 2200 Central Avenue, Alameda on March 24th, 25th, 31st, and April 1st at 7 pm and March 26th at 2 pm and 7 pm.

If purchased in advance, tickets are $12 for adults or $15 at the door. Discount tickets for students and faculty ($5) and seniors ($10) are also available. The show runs for 90 minutes with a ten-minute intermission. The event requests that audience members be masked during the performance so that performers may perform unmasked. Purchase tickets in advance through Eventbrite.

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Writing About Asian American history, arts, and culture. Author: The Strength of Water, an Asian American memoir due out 2022. linktr.ee/karinkjensen

Alameda, CA
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