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Wilsonville High play, ‘She Kills Monsters,’ tackles bullying and empowers teens

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Samantha Katz, playing Tilly, fights off a Bugbear, played by Cormac Lister during rehearsal for "She Kills Monsters."Wilsonville High School's upcoming play, "She Kills Monsters," by Qui Nguyen, brings the fantasy role-playing game of Dungeons & Dragons to life during a comedic yet heartwarming adventure.

The play, set in the 1990s, takes place the year after the death of 15-year-old Tilly, a self-described geek infatuated with Dungeons & Dragons, who is played by junior Samantha Katz. Tilly's older sister, Agnes, played by senior Abi Edwards, is a cheerleader who looks down upon the game, and her sister.

But after her sister's death, Agnes spends the entirety of the play trying to understand and connect with her sister through a game where Tilly created fantasy Dungeons & Dragons characters who correlated with people in her life.

"The difference in the vibe between Agnes and Tilly is Agnes is a cheerleader and Agnes was kind of into the popularity games. She wrote off D&D and wrote off her little sister, which is one of the things that Agnes has to work through — understanding what it means to be a geek and why that's such a valuable part of our lives," Edwards said. "It's not about Agnes's quest to find someone else, it's about Agnes's quest to find herself and to understand who she is through everything she went through. I think it's a powerful sentiment to high schoolers."

Director Jason Katz chose "She Kills Monsters" for the last WHS play of the year because it's contemporary.

"It's a heartwarming thing, and it's really about vulnerability," he said. "I think it's a fun show. There's lots of '90s music in it. It's like a comedy that makes you cry with monsters in it and fighting. Who wouldn't want to do this show with a bunch of teens? ... It's very inclusive (and) it speaks to bullying."

Junior Noah Hansen — who's playing Orcas, former lord of the underworld in the game — is looking forward to playing a character he considers similar to himself.

"I've never been able to play a character that is super, super, super lazy like he is, and it's fun because I've never had the opportunity to eat food on stage and have snacks," said Hansen, adding that he values the show because it presents current societal issues. "It presents it in a way that's super digestible for a younger audience."

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - From left, Noah Hansen (playing Orcas), Abi Edwards (Agnes), Kaiya Shivers (Kaliope), Samantha Katz (Tilly) and Natalie Young (Lillith) star in "She Kills Monsters."Hansen added that the play's comedic touch allows the audience to understand serious issues more lightheartedly.

Sophomore Kaiya Shivers, playing the dark elf Kaliope, said the audience will enjoy the comedic elements of the show and is looking forward to performing a show with fighting elements.

Samantha Katz agrees.

"It's very interesting, especially now that we're starting to run the show, putting the fighting in also with dialogue and running the scenes," Samantha said. "It's strength training; it's cardio training; it's very physical, and it challenges us to focus on what's in front of us. ... Being aware requires to focus in on: What are your surroundings? Am I holding my weapon right? Because you don't want to accidently strike someone."

During auditions for the play, Jason Katz ended up having to cut almost 20 students — an unusually high number.

"I think they heard there was going to be fighting, heard about D&D and just really wanted to be involved," he said. "We did a little fight choreography in the auditions to kind of find the kids who were going to take it most seriously and be the safest."

And becoming accustomed to swinging heavy steel swords has been a challenge, Katz said.

"You don't learn how to fight, you basically learn fight safety. You have somebody duck and then swing the sword. There's a certain protocol you follow," he said. "These kids, they want to do a good job. They're not a bunch of wild high schoolers coming in, grabbing swords and swinging them at each other. They're there to listen, and they want to learn how to do it right."

The show opens with a performance at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the high school and is recommended for ages 13 and up.

"Some of the characters are grasping with gender identity and homosexuality and things like that — they're dealing with things that teens deal with," Katz said. "We felt like it's really for older kids, and teens would like the show."

Reporter Clara Howell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-479-2384.PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Abi Edwards, playing Agnes, and Samantha Katz, as Tilly, celebrate defeating the Bugbears during rehearsal for "She Kills Monsters."

If you go

What: "She Kills Monsters"

When: 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 16-18, 23-25

Where: Wilsonville High School auditorium

Tickets: $10 adults, $8 students, available at www.wildcatdrama.com and at the door

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