Queer Kids, Nerds and Sword Fights: It’s the Hot School Play


There was more fine-tuning to come as the show, like a shape-shifter with a high constitution score, has kept on changing.

When stay-at-home orders went up in the spring, directors with planned productions had to scramble. David Marconi of Cranford High School, in New Jersey, started working on an audio version for a podcast.

As Marconi was editing the sound files, Nguyen came up with “She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms,” a version for streaming platforms that the teacher, changing tack again, ended up doing instead.

“Virtual Realms” retrofits the script and stage directions to maximize online formats in clever ways. At the end, for example, Agnes’s battle with a dragon isn’t represented physically anymore, but by her rolling D&D dice as the beast’s multiple heads appear in different Zoom windows. (Connoisseurs will wince in empathy as the game-master character repeatedly calls “no damage.”)

Lisa Nathans, who co-directed the recent University of Maryland virtual production, was taken with Nguyen’s flexibility. “Our students were very attached to the original,” she said, “and when ‘Virtual Realms’ became available, Qui very generously allowed the cast to be part of a devising process to blend elements of both stories together.”

The Maryland show, done on Zoom, made particularly impressive use of filters, with characters suddenly sporting digital horns or elf ears. Its audience also testified to the play’s popularity: The livestream had twice as many viewers as a simultaneous YouTube reading of the David Mamet political comedy “November” starring John Malkovich and Patti LuPone.

In “She Kills Monsters,” role-playing helps the sisters finally bond with each other. For many of those staging it, the play serves a similar purpose, especially in a time of social distancing.

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