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Company One’s Skype Session with playwright Qui Nguyen after “She Kills Monsters”

So, as I said in my last post, I LOVED She Kills Monsters (now playing at the BCA Plaza Theatre until May 11th). But, that isn’t how the tale ends! It was just my luck that there also happened to be an awesome talk-back with the playwright, Qui Nguyen, afterwards. The talk-back alone was so thought-provoking that I thought it’d be best to split my experience last Sunday into two posts. (P.S. I’m the audience member at the beginning of the video that’s like “it’s the most fun I’ve had in the theatre in a long time!”… if it isn’t clear yet that I enjoyed the show.)

Okay, so besides Qui being an absolute riot, there were so many interesting and really important topics that were brought up in the post-show discussion. These are a few of the things that stood out to me.

It was really cool to hear about Qui’s background as a fight director and how that influences his writing. He says he tells stories “through punching people really hard”. As funny as that sounds, it isn’t that far-fetched as it may seem. Taking stage combat classes in both armed and unarmed combat with Adam McLean and Robert Najarian at BU (Rob was the fight director on SKM), I worked on non-verbal scenes with just fight choreography and learned that that kind of work can sometimes have clearer storytelling than scenes with words. The characters’ needs and intentions are undeniably clear. Plus, it’s inherently dramatic and exciting. For example, as seen in SKM, as the play progresses, Agnes becomes braver and stronger and we see that through the combat; her character wants to protect and save her sister, so she will fight the monsters in order to do so. He also relates actors who do fight choreography together as a sort of sports team and the unique bond that comes as a result of that. As Qui puts it, you are able to say “you just saw me throw up a little bit!” to one another (hahaha). I never thought of it that way, but that’s true! Fight choreography forces actors to be vulnerable and intimate with one another.

Qui talking about cinema and the theatre was really interesting as well. Last week, we read Blood and Gifts by JT Rogers and had a discussion about the relationship between its cinematic qualities and the stage, so this has been on my mind. Qui described how his scripts may have “cut to” all over the place instead of clear transitions, but how they are still written for the stage. One of the reasons is that everything is automatically hysterical. This is particularly true with SKM where the audience watches adults run around and slay puppet dragons. It makes me think of the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World which is also based in gaming, and I realize that SKM would not nearly be as hysterical if it was a movie where everything is perfect and real. Qui also acknowledges that the theatre has more immediacy with producing scripts. Movies need major budgets for them to look anything other than amateur. In theatre, one can produce a script with little to no budget and it can still work. Qui said, “The only limitation is the audience’s imagination … which is infinite” which is a really awesome way to think about the theatre.

Then, this whole idea that SKM and other shows like it are “low-brow”. In response, Qui says that sometimes the whole point of his work isn’t something deep and serious, but just “did you have fun?”, which is really refreshing. I also have to say that I can’t help but think of children’s theatre: the shows are fun, but the kids still learn something. If you do it right, I don’t think it’s any different for adults (and if it is, they have to find the inner Peter Pan in them again). He then goes on to say that sometimes people don’t understand how difficult it is to entertain people. He relates it to Netflix: when we want to watch a movie, do we always watch the Oscar-nominated ones? Definitely not.

Finally, it was really touching when the actors themselves went up to the computer to thank Qui for his work. Paige and Jordan Clark thanked Qui for writing characters that were as diverse as they are, which I personally connected to because I am a multi-ethnic actor like them. Kaitee Tredway and Jacqui Dupré also thanked Qui for how his play dealt with bullying.

So much for “low-brow”.

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