This weekend in Milford, a couple of teens celebrate their directorial debut with She Kills Monsters at the Amato Center for the Arts.
Milford High School 16-year-olds Grace Bonner, director, and Kalli Bogdzewic, assistant director, put their “blood, sweat and tears” into this play, having spent late nights blocking, making costumes, designing sets and laying out their vision. Showtimes span Aug. 25 through Aug. 27.
There aren’t a lot of local theaters where teens are allowed to direct plays, which is one of the reasons Robin LaCroix, Boys & Girls Club director of theater arts, likes to offer those opportunities. Sometimes a student-directed play is a great success. Sometimes it isn’t.
“But you can’t learn unless you’ve made mistakes, and these guys are really open to learning and listening,” LaCroix said.
Bonner had been wanting to direct a show herself for a while and was inspired by one produced by the Granite State Arts Academy in Derry — She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen, which hit Off-Broadway in 2011.
Bonner told Bogdzewic about the idea during an a cappella rehearsal for a student-run group, Vocally Yours, at the Boys & Girls Club last fall. Then they told LaCroix. To their surprise — because it’s a pretty mature show — she loved the idea.
“[The play] deals with a lot of issues that are common to teens living right now. It’s a really relevant piece, and it takes place within the realm of Dungeons & Dragons,” LaCroix said.
She Kills Monsters follows recent college grad Agnes, who returns home when her family’s killed in a car crash. She especially regrets never having been close with her nerdy younger sister, Tilly, so when she stumbles upon a Dungeons & Dragons quest while looking through her sister’s things, she uses it as a way to get to know her better. The result is like opening a diary; she learns about Tilly’s friendships, conflicts, sexuality and feelings about her family.
The show is aimed at teens and adults, and the duo did some light editing to make it more suitable for the Boys & Girls Club.
Directing has resulted in a roller coaster of emotions for Bogdzewic and Bonner. The cast is made up of 22 teens, and it’s been difficult at times, getting people to respect their vision.
“People just overlook us so much because we’re student directors,” Bogdzewic said.
But they said it’s been coming together, piece by piece. The little moments make it worth it.
“It’s crazy hard work, but then you come to rehearsal and you watch people laughing, or you watch them finally getting that note,” Bonner said.
“Or finally finding the emotion in their monologue,” Bogdzewic added. “I don’t think they get how important they are to us.”
Difficulty also stems from their miniscule budget and the fact that She Kills Monsters isn’t done a lot. They’re making props and costumes with the help of a hot glue gun, cardboard and fabric dye, plus frequent trips to Goodwill and Mother & Child. Their take, they said, is interpretive but full of ’90s flashbacks. The set will be covered with posters of Seinfeld, Friends and MC Hammer.
“We went around to all of our teachers at school and asked what they remember about the ’90s. We got people’s perspectives of what the clothes were like and TV shows they watched,” Bonner said.
Both Bonner and Bogdzewic hope to continue with theater after high school.
“I think theater is really important and a little overlooked. There’s singing and dancing and acting — you have to have so many skills to do it,” Bonner said. “It’s the culmination of every art form. … And it sends a lot of important messages.”
It takes a certain amount of bravery, too.
“Going up onstage in front of hundreds of people isn’t easy. Even for professionals. It’s still nerve-racking and scary. But being up onstage — it’s just the best feeling ever,” Bogdzewic said.