Dungeons & Dragons Live! Qui Nguyen Discusses His New Play She Kills Monsters

Tom Murrin

I'm a long-time fan of the Obie Award-winning Vampire Cowboys troupe.  Writer Qui Nguyen and director Robert Ross Parker always deliver an entertaining show, with original stage craft, great fight scenes and plenty of hip humor.  And invariably, in shows like Fight Girls, Battle World and Alice in Slasherland, the female characters turn out to be the stronger in the plots. She Kills Monsters, Nguyen's latest, was commissioned by The Flea Theater, with Parker directing, utilizing the Flea's very energetic and capable in-house actors, The Bats.
Hi Qui.  Tell me about this new show.
It's about two young girls; one's the older sister, Agnes, and one's the younger sister, Tilly, who is a geek girl.  The younger sister has passed away as the play has begun, and the older sister is dealing with it, because she didn't know her younger sister very well.  Agnes was more popular, and in with the popular kids. Tilly was more into geek culture, comic books and Dungeons & Dragons.
So the play is set two years after Tilly has passed.  Agnes is moving and she is packing up things, and she runs across an old journal of her younger sister.  What's in it is a Dungeons & Dragons Adventure that Tilly has written.  These adventures are called "modules," and they are built for people who play D & D.  This is the last adventure her younger sister wrote, and Agnes decides to play the adventure; and through playing it, she gets to know her younger sister better.
 Agnes gets dropped into the world of dragons and monsters.  It's equally a story about two sisters, an older sister re-connects with her little sister; as well as an adventure about killing a few dragons.
In your shows, the women are really strong, and often the protagonists.  I remember one where you had three heroines.
This is very much a part of the Vampire Cowboys canon of plays; one of the things is a strong female lead.  It's not about sitting around and crying about not having a boyfriend, but about women saving the world, and getting to know each other.  And a huge element here is about women in Geek Culture.  We so often have boys' energy, and these things are about boys and men.  This is about girl geeks, and girls being a part of that world.
Your shows are always very funny.  You have the knock-down, drag-out fights, but even those scenes get a lot of laughs.
I don't know how to not write funny.  Maybe that's my fatal flaw, I make fun of everything.  In this show the humor isn't as much as in a Vampire Cowboys script, but there's still very much there; fast-moving, foul-mouthed cussing moments; pop-culture humor and a lot of fights.
What's it like working with The Bats?
It's been a blast.  They are a fun group of actors.  They're really young, have a lot of energy and are super-enthusiastic.  That's all you can ask for.  It's been fun showing these guys my way of doing theater, which is a little more uncommon than what usual theater is.
And Robert Ross Parker is directing.
If you want to experience my plays, you need a director that really knows how to do them.
This is a nice jump for you, being commissioned to write a play.
I'd love to work with other companies, and spread my wings.
The Flea Theater, 41 White St., (212) 352-3101. Nov. 17-Dec. 3. Tues.-Sat., 7 p.m., mats Sat. & Sun., 3 p.m., $25.  (Note: Tues is pay as you wish, and the Sat. mat is $10).

Photos by Joan Marcus

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