With its latest production, “She Kills Monsters,” Drama Dock will reach a milestone in its 43-year history of producing community theater on the island, presenting for the first time a work by a playwright of color.
The high-octane show, stuffed with comedy, puppetry and fight choreography, is by acclaimed Vietnamese-American playwright Qui Nguyen. It will open with a preview at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, with performances continuing through Nov. 24.
Nguyen — whom The Chicago Tribune has described as “refreshing, break-the-rules writer” with a “ready embrace of pop culture, high-school speak and ‘High Fidelity’ cool” — is known for his work as the artistic director of Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company in New York City, as well as at many other esteemed venues in New York. He also began writing for Marvel Studio in 2016.
“She Kills Monsters” tells the story of a young woman who, after a tragedy, embraces her inner warrior to find a community of like-minded outsiders within the mirrored halls of the role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. The play debuted in 2011, at the Flea Theatre in New York City, and has gone on to be widely produced at venues nationwide.
Chris Boscia, who is directing Drama Dock’s production of the show, said that he is proud to be working on the play, leading a cast filled with actors who are all 30 years old or younger through the physical, emotional and comedic rigors of the demanding production.
The play resonates with the issues facing many young people today, Boscia said, including messages about inclusivity, homophobia and the rights of the disabled.
“We rarely get a chance to experience these issues viscerally on stage, in a play that is humorous, adventurous and cutting- edge,” Boscia said. “In the end, the play is empowering to girls and people of color and gays and everybody who ever considered themselves an ‘other.’”
Boscia, who is Latino, also said that he was unaware that this was Drama Dock’s first offering by a non-white playwright, but was proud to be at the helm for the occasion.
Drama Dock, founded in 1976, has staged well over one hundred productions including, ranging from community theater chestnuts such as “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “Harvey,” to original works by local playwrights, to approximately 28 musicals including last summer’s edgy “Tommy.” All the productions are listed on a history page at dramadock.org — documenting a prodigious outpouring of work by the group, but also one that has not included shows by African-American, Asian-American, Indigenous or Latino playwrights.
“We didn’t go looking for it, but it just so happened that the best play we could have done at this time just so happened to have been written by someone of color,” Boscia said.
Originally from New York City, Boscia is a relative newcomer to Vashon but has worked in numerous Seattle venues including Seattle Rep, ACT Theatre, Intiman and The Empty Space. Boscia is also the founder and curator of Vashon’s Readers’ Theatre and has directed for Vashon’s 14/48 playwriting festival. “She Kills Monsters” marks his Drama Dock directorial debut.
For his production, Boscia has reached out to young island actors, casting Maya Krah, Lucy Rogers , David Katz, Sky D’Artell, Elrik Baker, Marion Ray, Desiree McIntryre, Elizabeth Schoen, Jasmine Hagerty, Orion Moss, Phoebe Ray, Brette Flora, Alina Brown, Emily Bruce, Nathan Campbell and Madonna Regis in the show.
Kate Tobie, a theater professional recruited by Boscia to be the show’s fight choreographer, shadow puppet director and movement director, had high praise for the cast, who have come to the play with varying degrees of experience onstage.
“Actors are becoming puppeteers, dancers, fighters, and warriors,” she said. “I think all of us involved in this play have stepped out of our comfort zone at least a few times during this process.”
Toby, too, had high praise for the play itself.
“At its heart, it is about the path to discovering who you are and finding the people who will help you along that path,” she said, adding that her hope is that “audiences leave the theater with a renewed sense of what is possible with theater, that it is alive and relevant.”
Producer Bonny Moss called the play “a joyful and tender romp through incredibly relevant and important issues,” particularly praising its insights into the vivid and complex lives of young gamers.
Other well-known island artists who have signed on to help with the play include Adam Ende and Martha Enson, who are contributing puppetry and mask designs.
The show will have a sneak preview at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, with performances continuing at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 15, 16, 22 and 23, and 1 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 17 to 24, at Open Space for Arts & Community. The play will also have a “pay what you can” performance on Thursday, Nov. 21. Regularly priced tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. Dungeons and Dragons parties get a special ticket price of $15 for groups of five or more. To purchase, visit openspacevashon.com.
Drama Dock suggests parental guidance audience for those younger than 14, due to mature themes that include violence, bullying, homophobia, language and frank sexual discussions.