U of U Theatre crafts original puppets for "She Kills Monsters"

December 12 2019
Photo | Todd Collins Photo | Todd Collins

The University of Utah Department of Theatre is busy preparing for their upcoming production of “She Kills Monsters,” coming to Kingsbury Hall January 16 -19. A story of friendship, loss and acceptance, “She Kills Monsters” follows young woman Agnes Evans who, in the process of grieving, discovers that her late sister Tilly was a well-known Dungeons & Dragons player. Learning through loss, Agnes delves into this fantastical world.

In a special course in the Department of Theatre, guest artist Matt Sorensen worked with students to bring Dungeons & Dragons creatures to life through crafting original puppets. “The students working on this project are from several different areas of study; theatrical design, stage management, computer science, and writing programs, so they are all bringing and taking away a wide array of skills and experiences from this class” Sorenson explained.

Using ethafoam (a type of polyethylene foam commonly used for packing materials or floatation devices) and PVC pipe, Sorensen and the students made a range of creatures from the D&D universe. “The script specifically calls for creatures from that world, including Kobolds, Bugbears, a Gelatinous Cube, a Beholder, and the five-headed dragon called Tiamat,” Sorensen said. “ There are other generic monsters in the script that Director Jamie Rocha Allen, Peter Terry, and I worked together to flesh out, like zombies, a Kraken, and a Mind Flayer.  It was important to Jamie and the artistic team to remain as authentic to the source material as possible.” White dragonPhoto | Todd Collins

Contemporary puppetry extends way beyond the boundaries of most mainstream associations. From a design and fabrication standpoint, creating puppets for theatre poses creative challenges that lead to innovative solutions. “When most people hear they will be building puppets, they are likely thinking about foam and fabric hand puppets like the Muppets; small, cute, and manageable. I think many of the students were surprised to find how unique and widely varied each of the puppets for this production are,” Sorensen said. 

Used in integration with other theatrical tools, the puppets in "She Kills Monsters" allows the audience imagination to go further. As Sorensen describes, “Puppets are wonderful, and can enhance a production in many ways that other elements of live theatre can't, but we still utilize the same time-honored theatrical storytelling techniques. Using puppets still relies on the audience to use their active imagination and to suspend their disbelief in the moments being created onstage, as theatre practitioners have done for centuries.”

Get your tickets now for “She Kills Monsters” at Kingsbury Hall.
January 16 - 19 @ 7:30 PM, plus 2:00pm matinee on 18th and 19th
Don’t forget U of U students get in free with ArtsPass!