LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Penn State Fayette’s student theater group will present the play “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms” in a Zoom broadcast at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 and 12.
According to Concord Theatricals, “‘She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms’ tells the story of Agnes Evans as she leaves her childhood home in 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 Lion Players are advised by Daniel Krack, assistant teaching professor of English. Krack holds an undergraduate degree in theater performance and has produced 24 high school theater productions over the last 15 years. This will be his first production at Penn State Fayette.
The show must go on
“In the spring, our previous show was shut down after two rehearsals because of the pandemic,” said Krack. “No one thought of pursuing a virtual production. We were all just thinking about how to teach and work in a virtual world.”
But as the campus rapidly adapted to new limitations, Krack came upon the script, which Nguyen had adapted specifically for virtual production.
“I chose it because it features strong female characters, LGBTQ issues, mental health issues, and personal relationships,” he said. “Here we have women taking charge of the situations presented without a man’s help.”
The virtual production presented plenty of challenges. Some actors faced internet connectivity issues during rehearsals and filming. And then there’s the problem of simulating authentic human connection through a screen.
“This is a theatrical debut for some of our cast. As I say to all of my actors, you must really listen to each other and react naturally. You still have to make eye contact,” said Krack.
Zoom backgrounds were used to simulate sets, and sound effects were added to enhance the scenes.
There were parts of the play that simply couldn’t be done like they would be on stage, so we worked around that. I’m extremely excited for everyone to see it, and I’m so proud of everyone who has worked to make this production possible.”
-- Liz Brunelli, director and leading actor
Liz Brunelli, an electromechanical engineering technology student from Somerset, Pennsylvania, directed the production and plays the leading role of Agnes. She holds two associate degrees from Allegany College of Maryland.
“It was a really cool experience,” she said. “The play itself is going to feel like watching a television show or movie, but in order to get that feeling, we had to do a lot of improvisation. There were parts of the play that simply couldn’t be done like they would be on stage, so we worked around that. I’m extremely excited for everyone to see it, and I’m so proud of everyone who has worked to make this production possible.”
The next act
The Lion Players were established at Penn State Fayette in 1998 by former professor Dennis Brestensky. Lynn Petko, assistant teaching professor of English, advised the group until her retirement in 2019.
“Dennis and Lynn created a tradition of performing arts on our campus, and it’s an honor and privilege to help keep it alive,” said Krack.
“We’d like to invite community members to perform and contribute to future productions,” he added.
The virtual performances are free and open to the community. To receive the Zoom link and password for admission, or to inquire about the Lion Players, email Daniel Krack at [email protected].
Cast and crew
Joshua Brady, Torren Bricker, Liz Brunelli, Luke Capehart, Kate Cramer, Derek D’Annolfo, Brandy Donaldson, Nina Jeffries, Shannon Joy, George Jubin, Alysha Lessman, Jacob Levendosky, Emily McGowan, Sarabeth Miner, Autumn Phillips, Andrew Ream, Hayden Rhodes, Mikeyla Rivera, Zowie Skiles, Sean Snead, Grace Solomon, Justina Stratiff and Stephanie Taylor.
“She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms” is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French Inc. www.concordtheatricals.com