She Kills Monsters

by Qui Nguyen
Directed by Glynis Rigbsy
Scenic Design by Michael Minahan
Costume Design by Seth Bodie
Lighting Design by Miriam Crowe

She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans as she move out of her childhood home in Athens, Ohio following the death of her teenage sister, Tilly. When Agnes finds Tilly’s Dungeons & Dragons notebook, however, she stumbles into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was Tilly’s refuge. In this high-octane dramatic comedy laden with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres, and 90s pop culture, acclaimed young playwright Qui Nguyen offers a heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior within us all (

The design of She Kills Monsters was intended to blur the lines of Agnes' reality with the imagined world of Tilly's adventure.  Popular music set the tone for the reality, while epic orchestrations underscored the world of the game. Guided by an ethereal Narrator, the audience is introduced to the two sisters, learns their story, and journey's into the sister's very different lives.  As the show progresses, their two worlds melded together creating a new reality for Agnes.  My goal was to create a distinctive soundscape for the Dungeons and Dragon's world contrasting with a bleak, silent world for Agnes.  While in the game the ambience would be subtle, constant reminder of location, but  would also overtake the action to support the wondrous fights (choreographed by Jason Paul Tate). Agnes' journey brings her to fight demons both metaphorical and imaginary.  The saga culminates with a battle with the Taimat, a five headed dragon, representing Agnes' grief.  

The most prominent inspiration for the show was that of the cult TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She wanted to create a mundane high school classroom that could suddenly change into a dramatic battle with a mythic creature, and then back again.  As a design team, we decided that the juxtaposition of the two worlds needed to be seamless and simple.  The ability to flash between worlds visually was incredibly important, particularly given challenges of the space. The scenic design was minimal, platforms that could transform into multiple locations with the a lighting shift. Costumes for the large ensemble were fantastical and would transport Agnes into the Dungeon's and Dragon's world instantly.  

In order to achieve a seamless transition between worlds with the sounds design, I used two approaches.  One was a quick cut with music, and the other was subtly creeping in a new environment.  My inspiration for this was video game sound design.  The ability to travel from location to location without a cut in music, or ambience was the driving force.  I wanted to create a game world in which there was a constant soundtrack dictating the mood of the moment.   

Please listen to selections from the show below. 

Little Man

Directed by Celine Rosenthal

Photo credit:
Scenic Design: Christopher Heilman
Lighting Design: Kate Ashton
Costume Design: Hunter Kaczorowski

Little Man centers on Howie, a successful businessman who comes to terms his high school past at a ten year reunion.  He comes face to face with the jock who teased him, the best friend he rarely sees, and the girl who had a crush on him.

The design was entirely composed of period, popular music. The music settled into the background of each scene, coming to the forefront as needed.  

The Ladder

by Matthew Herzfeld
Directed by Paul Takacs

Photo credit: Scott Wynn  Scenic Design: Anshuman Batia Lighting Design: Dante Olivia Smith Costume Design: Caitlin Cisek

Photo credit: Scott Wynn

Scenic Design: Anshuman Batia
Lighting Design: Dante Olivia Smith
Costume Design: Caitlin Cisek

The Ladder follows Jill, a new transfer student at Tate University on her first day of the annual Phonathon, a fundraising campaign that requires students to call alumni seeking donations.  Jill is confronted with disgruntled co-workers, an over the top, pushy boss, and a far too perky colleague in her attempts to attain the ultimate donation.  This satirical comedy takes a closer look into the lives of students, both past and present.

Sound played a prominent role in The Ladder. The Preshow sound was an ever increasing maelstrom of phone rings, typewriters and office related noises.  It grew over the course of 20 minutes into an overwhelming cacophony. The sound of phones, whether ringing, or being hung up was a constant vocabulary of the show.  Transitions between scenes were a phone picking up, or slamming down on the receiver.  In the sequence leading up to Jill's phone call, we hear a series of missed calls and voicemails, as the automated calling system refreshes.  The calls get more and more absurd, leading to the eventual answering of a real person. 

Standard Aptitude

by Sam Byron
Directed by Suzanne Karpinski

Photo credit: Scott Wynn  Scenic Design: Anshuman Batia Lighting Design: Dante Olivia Smith Costume Design: Caitlin Cisek

Photo credit: Scott Wynn

Scenic Design: Anshuman Batia
Lighting Design: Dante Olivia Smith
Costume Design: Caitlin Cisek

Standard Aptitude follows Zach, a young man too smart for his own good.  In high school, he found that he was able to use his intellect to take the SAT for other students, thus ensuring their way into college.  The play shows how his indictment and subsequent fall out have shaped his present life.  With flashbacks to the nationally televised interview that smeared his reputation, we see how his reactions to a cold journalist affected the outcome of the entire ordeal. 

Sonically, subtle ambiances were used to distinguish between varying times of day, on the same section of Lake Michigan. In addition, the flashback moments were underscored with a surreal tone to highlight it's place in Zach's memory. Original music was composed by Sam Byron and Suzanne Karpinski.

 All music is used as a dramatic tool, and not owned by Beth Lake.