Dungeons, dragons and ‘Monsters’: City College celebrates geek culture
Director Adam Meredith rattles off the intriguing list of things that might draw people to his newest production at Fresno City College.
“If you like Marvel movies, 90s music, Cos-play, horror/fantasy/b-movies, large- than-life spectacle, silly jokes, cornball humor, video games, Dungeons and Dragons or kick ass ladies — ‘She Kills Monsters’ is for you,” he says.
Pictured at top: Alexis Macedo in ‘She Kills Monsters.’ Photo: Fresno City College
Marvel writer Qui Nguyen’s 2012 play, now in its opening weekend, celebrates such timeless themes as reconciliation and self-discovery in a period-specific context appealing to younger audience members.
I caught up with Meredith to ask a few questions.
Q: Why did you pick this play?
A: Chiefly for the students. “She Kills Monsters” gives the actors an opportunity to approach characters that are not too far from their own ages and experiences, while pushing them into circumstances and subject matter with deep, resonant, meaning to them. The student designers get to play in a wild sandbox with the actors bringing heightened fantasy character work to life from their own imaginations drawing from either the current video games they play, comics they read or their own time playing Dungeons and Dragons. And, yes this cast DOES play DnD. You know the old saying “A cast that D and D’s together …”
Q: Compare your students today in terms of the issues in the show to your own high school years.
A: Part of the play’s appeal to me was my familiarity with the playwright, the town that it’s set in (we are both alums of the same graduate school in sleepy, spooky Athens, Ohio), but going down mid-‘90s memory lane has been something else. There are the politics of the times and looking back into the music and film.
There is a major focus or a trend that I see now that I wasn’t aware of then: ruminating on self worth, nihilism, individuality, antiheroes and alienation — prime fodder for teen angst and maladjusted 20-year-olds. Using those elements with the rise of geek culture is the sugar for a bit of medicine as the pay looks at battles for inclusion, bullying and embracing yourself for who you are in spite of outside forces. Today this seems simpler than it was when I was in high school. There is more open dialogue concerning sexuality, gender, race, inclusion, and acceptance, but just because it seems that way, it doesn’t mean that is for anyone going through that struggle.
Q: Did you play fantasy role-playing games? (And did you ever use 36-sided dice or whatever crazy thing it was?)
A: In junior high I did try my hand at DnD. It was not for me. I didn’t have the patience for playing as much as I had an interest in looking at the books and reading about the stories. I remember having my own 20-some odd sided dice that I thought was pretty cool, but mostly I listened in as friends and their older siblings played, if it all. My connection with them was that overlap into RPG and Fantasy video games from the late 80s/early 90s that we shared (Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, The Legend of Zelda), and that is represented in this production.
Q: How does gender fit into this play? Lots of people assume that if you’re into fantasy, you’re probably a guy.
A: I would agree that the assumption has mostly been if you were into fantasy, from Tolkien to Conan, chances are you were a guy, but that isn’t really the case these days. We are at the pinnacle of nerd culture being embraced by mainstream culture, and many barriers have been broken down, probably by the internet. While I am not qualified to address the Female Geek experience adequately I have seen how friends and strangers alike have been confronted with judgment based on their geeky interests, whether that is being perceived as being the lowest of the low in all geekery and nerdom to being hyper-sexualized. “She Kills Monsters” and this production does address that bizarre, off putting, dichotomy.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: For all the silliness and spectacle that happens in “She Kills Monsters,” at its core is a very sweet story about two sisters and little lessons in cooperation, acceptance and embracing your inner warrior on this adventure called life.