The Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance begins its 2018 production season February 9 with a staging of She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition, performed by the teen theater and directed by Island native Joan Marie Cusick.
Madison Rodriguez, Georgia Bobo, Marcus Lopez (behind), Shaibya Neupane, and Joli Muller will be performing in Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance’s teen production of She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition, February 9-11.
The play, written by Qui Nguyen, offers a nostalgic romp through 1990s pop culture while also examining the still-too-relevant issues of bullying, outsider culture, and intolerance.
“It’s a comedy with a serious message,” says Cusick. “I think this show does a good job of showing how the cruelty so common in high school really affects people.”
After the death of her younger sister, an avid fan of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, high school cheerleader Agnes Evans, played by Madison Rodriguez, goes on a journey of discovery to learn more about her sister’s mysterious world and the friends she shared it with. The play transitions between real life in 1990’s Ohio, and the fantasy world her sister loved.
“It’s very fast and funny, but there are moments that bring out the reality of being young and being afraid to be who you really are,” says Cusick. “And how important it is to be there for each other.” She says the show speaks to both teen and adult audiences and includes a 90s soundtrack and plenty of fun references and jokes to the decade’s pop culture. “The nostalgia element is a lot of fun.”
This is the second play Cusick has directed at the Island theater. The 23-year-old is a graduate of the theater program at the State University of New York at Fredonia and grew up performing in the MST&DA program herself. Her mother Jackie Lucid-Cusick is currently directing a spring musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, with the teen theater.
Joan Marie Cusick
Cusick says she immediately thought of the young performers in her class when she read the play last summer. “I could see these kids specifically in it,” she says. “It feels really right for this group. I could see them bringing these characters to life.”
The play has also given the performers a chance to try out new skills; they’ve been working with fight choreographers Pablo Vazquez and Jonas Barranca to stage several scenes. “They are having a lot of fun with it,” says Cusick.
She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurers Edition will be performed at the Howe Theater in the Cultural Center at 548 Main Street. Performances take place Friday, Feb. 9 at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, Feb 10 at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 ($15 for seniors and students) and can be purchased at mstda.org/she-kills-monsters.html.
Madison Rodriguez, left, plays a girl from the in-crowd on a quest to better understand her outsider sister.