Dungeons & Dragons comes to life on Dana Hall’s stage

What game allows you to travel to far off magical lands, become an elf, human, or dwarf, and has been accused of being linked to satanic cults? Dungeons and Dragons, more commonly known as D&D by its diehard players. On Friday and Saturday, November 13 and 14, Dana Hall students will bring the game to life in the play She Kills Monsters.

She Kills Monsters is about Agnes Evans, a 25 year-old English teacher who has lost her little sister, Tilly, in a car crash. Her little sister was a Dungeons and Dragons fanatic, so in order to remember her, Agnes reads Tilly’s notebook, and soon finds herself in a world of adventure.

Blair Bogle ’15, who will be playing Agnes on the stage this weekend, says she connects with her character because she and Agnes are both “rather sarcastic and done with [their] average lives.” Bogle says she aspires to leave the little town of Wellesley and move on to “some acting school in England.”

Bogle says she has “dabbled” in D&D before, but by doing this play she feels that the game is “a good way for people to get out of their normal life and just escape for a little while and become a powerful person.”

Although the characters in this play go to different dimensions and have supernatural powers, the audience can connect with them because they are also people with regular hopes and dreams. This idea is what prompted Qui Nguyen to write She Kills Monsters. In an interview quoted in the program from last year’s production of the play by Company One in Boston, he says that although these characters are in such different circumstances, he relates to them because of their “aspirations.”

The game itself was created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson as a board game. The Dungeon Master creates a magical world of monsters, treasure, and spells for the players. The players can create their own characters of any race, occupation, and ability. You can be an elf assassin of medium intelligence, but with immense strength and endurance, or a regular human with heightened abilities, and so much more.

In the late twentieth century, D&D became widely popular among college students, particularly males who fulfilled the stereotype of a “geek.” Gygax reflects on this in an interview, also in Company One’s play program, saying, “gaming in general is a male thing.” However, women these days are also playing D&D in increasing numbers.

Breaking the mold is exactly why Kevin Groppe, Head of the Department of Performing Arts, decided to bring She Kills Monsters to Dana Hall. He says, “I chose the play because it depicts a fantasy world that a young woman, Tilly Evans, uses to help her deal with the fact that she is different from the norm and is bullied in real life. She gets to be the hero in this world.”

Sophie Myers ’17 says she enjoys the game because “you roll the dice and get to choose intelligence or hotness. In life, it really does not work that way, so I guess that’s why so many people play it.”

The option of creating a new identity allows D&D players to explore their own personal characteristics. In the play, Agnes discovers that her sister Tilly has played a lesbian role in the game of D&D, which leads to other discoveries about sexuality and identity. Bridge, Dana Hall’s gay-straight alliance student group, will be hosting a discussion next Wednesday, November 12, during second lunch in Beveridge Hall to discuss some of these issues in the play.

Information about Dungeons and Dragons is from the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Photo: Dana Hall students embody D&D roles in the play She Kills Monsters. Photo credit: John Bogle, Jr.

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