She Kills Monsters (a.k.a., Dungeons and Dragons, live!)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the cast and crew of She Kills Monsters: lead actor Natalie Backerman and lighting/projection designer Stefan Zubovic.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Stefan, under the Frederic Wood Theatre stage, where rehearsals were taking place.

Stefan: I’m a 4th year BFA theatre design student. I started working in entertainment when I was probably 14 or 15 years old. I was really interested in the big Disney Parks water shows and fireworks, so I started making my own DIY projects. One of my big break through projects was designing the lighting for BC Place stadium starting in 2013. Now I handle the majority of the programming for the stadium, and a number of other buildings downtown.

Natalie, with some D&D inspired set-pieces.

Natalie: I graduated from the musical theatre program at Capilano [University] and then I came here to do my BFA in acting – this is my final year. I just played an evil mother character in ‘Wives and Daughters’, and my character Agnes in She Kills Monsters is my first lead role, which has been very nerve-wracking and exciting.


Q: Stefan, how did you approach designing this play?

Stefan: I came up with the concept for this play a little bit under a year ago. I thought the Telus Studio Theatre would be an interesting place to try projection mapping, which is something that is being used more and more in theatre but not in the scale where you’re projecting all around the venue itself. When I read through the script the first day, I realized that it would be really fun to bring the Dungeons and Dragons world to life using video and lighting and space.


Q: How was this show different from past projects?

Natalie: [Agnes] is the first character that I’ve played that I am actually fully acknowledging my mixed-race background, which isn’t explicitly mentioned in the script. Because of where the director’s coming from, and because myself and my co-lead, Heidi Damayo, both come from mixed-race backgrounds, making that a part of our character arc really brought the relationship between Agnes and [her younger sister] Tilly to another level. For me, it is so magical that it is not once acknowledged that our family is biracial, but that we are still representing women of colour, and women who are mixed-race.

Stefan: What’s unique about this project is that I’m helping to establish the design and the world of the show through lighting the actors in a unique way, and creating elements that the actors can use to further the storytelling, rather than just having basic place-setting lighting.


Q: What was challenge that you faced in this project?

Stefan: The biggest challenge has been figuring out how to marry the technology with the storytelling. There are many technical limitations  we only have so many projectors, that are only so bright, and it’s difficult to mix that with what we need to establish with the storytelling, lighting, and video. We are constantly trying to find that balance between what’s possible, and what we want.


Q: Have you ever played Dungeons and Dragons?

Natalie: I love Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve only played a couple of times, but it’s super fun, and more widely accepted now. For Agnes in the show, there’s a fear that she might be ostracized for playing D&D, whereas now, nerdiness is so accepted. If someone said that they played something like Legend of Zelda now, I think that’s so cool!

If you’re into monsters, D&D, or just really great theatre, check out She Kills Monsters during its run from Thursday, January 18th, 2018 to Saturday, February 3rd, 2018.

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