High school theater doesn’t shy away from mature themes

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  • Clockwise from top, Luca Welle, Ella Greenberg, Sophie Tabor, Annie Robertson and Ethan Mercer rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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    From left, Luca Welle, Annie Robertson, Sophie Tabor and Stacia Tremper rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 2

    From left, Sophie Tabor, Luca Welle and Walter Pearson, top, rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 3

    From left, Sophie Tabor, Stacia Tremper, Luca Welle and Annie Robertson rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 4

    Rally Belcher, left, and Stacia Tremper rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 5

    Luca Welle, left, and Annie Robertson rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 6

    Ethan Mercer, Ella Greenberg, Luca Welle and Annie Robertson rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 7

    From left, Luca Welle, Sophie Tabor, Annie Robertson and Stacia Tremper rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • Clockwise from top, Luca Welle, Ella Greenberg, Sophie Tabor, Annie Robertson and Ethan Mercer rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 1

    From left, Luca Welle, Annie Robertson, Sophie Tabor and Stacia Tremper rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 2

    From left, Sophie Tabor, Luca Welle and Walter Pearson, top, rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 3

    From left, Sophie Tabor, Stacia Tremper, Luca Welle and Annie Robertson rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 4

    Rally Belcher, left, and Stacia Tremper rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 5

    Luca Welle, left, and Annie Robertson rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 6

    Ethan Mercer, Ella Greenberg, Luca Welle and Annie Robertson rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 7

    From left, Luca Welle, Sophie Tabor, Annie Robertson and Stacia Tremper rehearse a scene from “She Kills Monsters,” a play by Qui Nguyen, at Whitefish High School on Tuesday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

The Whitefish High School drama club doesn’t shy away from a challenge.

The high school cast will tackle themes of grief, sexuality and relationships with a dash of “Dungeons and Dragons” in their upcoming production of Qui Nguyen’s “She Kills Monsters.”

The play, to be performed Feb. 22-24, tells the story of twenty-something Agnes Evans as she grieves the loss of her younger sister, Tilly, who died in a car crash. With the help of a mysterious book Agnes uncovers in Tilly’s bedroom, she discovers her sister’s passion for the role-playing game “Dungeons and Dragons” — and much more. The storyline blends comedy and tenderness as Agnes gets to know her sister after her death through both the things she left behind and by waging war alongside her against bug-bears, demonic fairies and evil cheerleaders.

Whitefish High School drama coach Scarlett Schindler said her students were drawn to the off-beat production by its uniqueness — it features nostalgic games and a nerdy female lead, who also happens to be gay.

“My kids gravitate towards that because that’s the way they live — they have friends that are gay …. and they’re comfortable with it and they want it to be out in the open,” Schindler said. “They are such genuinely tolerant people, this generation, and not just that — they’re very loving. It blows me away how sweet they are. They get the parts that are written to be tender, you don’t have to tell them.”

Lead actress and Whitefish sophomore Eden Scrafford stars as the grieving sister, Agnes.

“Her comic timing is wonderful, her physicality is wonderful and just her emotional dedication to the material — she was the first one to read the play, she was the first one to memorize hers and everyone else’s lines,” Schindler said. Scrafford recently reprised her role as Agnes in a 45-minute version of “She Kills Monsters” at Missoula’s Montana Thespian Festival, which earned her the award for the Best Actor in a Lead Performance Comedy.

“She made people cry,” Schindler added.

Freshman Sophie Tabor will star alongside Scrafford as the late Tilly.

“This is her first major production where she’s had a lead role and she’s wonderful; she’s hilarious and confident,” Schindler said of Tabor.

Senior Ethan Mercer, who plays the cheerleader-monster Evil Tyson, said the club chose “She Kills Monsters” for its blend of comedy and seriousness.

“I think we selected this because this play had lot of really great comedic elements as well as some more mature elements, like dealing with grief and the loss of a sibling and the importance of not taking for granted the relationships you have when they’re around,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how the audience reacts. I’m just really curious how the full version resonates with the audience and how we can do better, maybe, and what they appreciate.”

Schindler said theater gives her students a place to explore, embrace creativity and be themselves, especially with the more mature productions.

“It’s amazing what it means to these kids — some of them are shy and introverted and this is an amazing arena for them to explore who they are. They’re role-playing as adults; they’re trying to figure out their way through life,” she said. “Actors and theater people are sometimes a little left-of-center. We talked about that at the beginning — this is a safe place, you can come in and be weird. We like weird.”

The cast will perform “She Kills Monsters” at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 22-24 at the Performing Arts Center at Whitefish Middle School. Tickets will be on sale at the door, priced at $5 for students and $8 for adults.

Reporter Mackenzie Reiss may be reached at 758-4433 or mreiss@dailyinterlake.com.

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