EWU theater gears up for an all-Zoom fall performance

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Ryan Hatten

The early stages of a Silent Sky. Silent Sky came to EWU in March, 2020.

By Ben Blakney, Technology Director

“She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms” is the theatrical experiment EWU Director Jeff Sanders has decided upon for our new socially-distanced-learning fall quarter.

This year, alongside many new theater performers, Sanders has elected to perform “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms”, a story Sanders feels many students can appreciate in our current day-to-day.

“It’s a pretty straightforward story,” says Sanders. “It centers around a high school senior named Agnes, and in the year prior leading up to the play, her younger sister Tilly tragically died in a car accident…”

The play’s main storytelling device is the use of the popular game Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D: a tabletop fantasy role-playing game where players use polyhedral dice to traverse a cooperative narrative.

Agnes and Tilly are polar opposites; Agnes is a very popular, very preppy, very unaware with the magic nuances of D&D, whereas Tilly was very reserved, quiet, and used D&D as an escape. Once Agnes finds one of Tilly’s homemade D&D campaigns (otherwise known as ‘modules’ or ‘adventures’) postmortem, she begins to understand her sister’s place in the worlds, both the physical and the fantastical.

“[The play] really deals a lot with issues of sexuality, gender, friendship and family things … things college students can relate to” –Jeff Sanders, Director

Show dates are November 13th, 14th, 20th, and 21st, a Friday and a Saturday two consecutive weeks. Show times are all 7:30pm, and will be hosted as a Zoom webinar. The show is only 90 minutes.

“We’re still working out the ticketing process, as this is unlike anything we’ve ever done.” said Sanders. Essentially, the Theater Dept. is looking into the purchasing of a link to the show, but the process is still up in the air.

Despite the hurdles, Sanders and his time are excited to still even be able to present a show this fall.

“I think it’s kinda fun, students are playing such important roles, not just as the characters but in the production side of things.” said Sanders.

Sanders then explained that, on top of playing their roles, actors must also be their own technician as well or “techie” as Sanders affectionately referred.

Rehearsals have been occurring exclusively over Zoom, an election by Sanders and crew to keep the actors in a home-field advantage during Opening and all following Nights.

“Our new normal that runs parallel to the main character Agnes’s journey where she really is isolated in her world of reality, and through fantasy, she can find her escape,” –Jeff Sanders, Director

Sanders also described his appreciation for the interactivity Zoom holds, as maintaining the environment of the stage is crucial to his actors. Options such as open mics for applause (when appropriate) and after show Q&A sessions are all projected ideas.

At the end of the interview, The Easterner asked Sanders for any closing thoughts:

“Something that’s resonating with us is that there’s this kind of perfect parallel with this play that was unintentional when we selected it, but was this parallel of so much of our existence now is a little bit more isolated,” said Sanders “and our new normal that runs parallel to the main character Agnes’s journey where she really is isolated in her world of reality, and through fantasy, she can find her escape, find, you know, indulge in her imagination [and] shake off the boundaries of everyday living and it really finally live.”

Sanders also put out a call at the end of our interview: “[The Theatre Dept.] is always in search of and interested in students in particular with a great deal of knowledge or proficiency in computer technology… [and to] feel free to reach out if you want to be part of something creative, give yourself a little escape, this is a good time to do it.”

Jeff Sanders can be reached at [email protected].

This is a preview story for The Easterner. Coverage for “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms” will continue throughout the quarter.