The Connecticut Repertory Theater kicks off its fall program with three live productions: “She Kills Monsters”, “The 39 Steps” and “Food for the Gods”. Finally, returning to in-person performances, the producing arm of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut will employ student comedians and puppeteers to bring the characters to life on stage.
The first production, “She Kills Monsters”, will take place outside behind the Student Union from September 30 to October 2. Directed by Beth Gardiner, who has over 20 years of experience under her belt, the show follows a grieving girl after losing her family in a car crash. In an attempt to find out more about her younger sister, she decides to play through her unfinished Dungeons and Dragons campaign – visualized with help from Puppet Arts.
âIt’s part of a coming-of-age story, part of heartfelt drama, and part of fantasy adventure extravaganza,â Gardiner said.
Being an outdoor production, âShe Kills Monstersâ requires more preparation than normal. The people involved in the production process have thought about all the possible problems that might arise. Costumes and equipment are all adaptable to various weather conditions. Even the elements of the stage can be adjusted to ensure the safety of the performers. Beyond the weather, some uncontrollable factors Gardiner has faced in the past include flocks of birds, bystanders, and even a train dragging behind a show. The unpredictable nature of these elements keeps everyone on their toes, but also adds a lot of fun to the experience.
âI love working at the center of this giant, complicated company, connecting people, their ideas, and working to make sure it all comes together at the end to serve our event,â Gardiner said.
âThe 39 Stepsâ is next in the lineup, October 28 through November 7. Directed by former UConn Helen Clark, the show is mystery at its best. âThe 39 Stepsâ brings elements of the noir genre seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s directing of the 1935 film, as well as an added sense of theatrical fun with the CRT production run by a cast of four.
Due to the small cast, Clark is in charge of a lot of detail, especially in a scene where two actors play a total of eight characters. Although it is no small task, she takes up the challenge.
âLeaning into chaos is what makes the magic of the theater happen,â says Clark.
As someone who started her acting career, Clark is able to see beyond her vision as a director. Her favorite part of the process is seeing the students contribute to the work.
âA lot of times it ends up being better than I could have imagined,â she adds.
CRT’s latest fall production comes in the form of an interactive multimedia piece. Written and directed by Nehprii Amenii, âFood for the Godsâ will take place December 2-12 at the Nafe Katter Theater.
Amenii was speaking on a Ballard panel on African American puppetry when she was approached by Michael Bradford, former artistic director of CRT, about the production of his show.
Inspired by the murders of black men, “Food for the Gods” expresses rage, indifference and heavenly knowledge to explore the idea of ââhuman worth. Like âShe Kills Monsters,â the play incorporates puppets to tell a story. The puppeteers act as the ensemble, while the actors deliver monologues, all of which are equally important to the show.
The audience is just as important.
âIn my mind, the audience is the main character. The play will end, but the audience will live on, âsays Amenii.
If you want to join the public, âShe Kills Monstersâ is free for the UConn community and does not require a ticket reservation! All you have to do is introduce yourself! If you want to catch performances of âThe 39 Stepsâ and âFood for the Gods,â stay tuned for updates on the CRT website.