The International Thespian Festival 2021 showcases six main stage productions streamed during prime time. Plus, seven more productions available to view on demand. Get registered now to watch the shows!

Troupe 7268 at Hoboken High School in Hoboken, New Jersey, will present She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms as one of the top six productions adjudicated this year. Danielle Miller, Troupe Director and play director, talked with us after they learned they’d be on the Main Stage.


One challenge was obtaining all the equipment the students needed. They’d be making this theatre magic happen in their homes. The school gave each student a laptop and a WiFi hotspot pack to have high-speed internet access. Then we got ring lights, microphones, webcams, and green screens. Companies ran out of stock and our items were on backorder. This delayed our filming schedule.

Trying to balance 13 ring lights in 13 different locations, and film at a consistent time of day with natural sunlight was a nightmare! Even with the WiFi packs, many scenes had glitches. We had to refilm multiple times.    

No theatre educators had training in any of this remote production process. But we created meaningful and impactful art educational experiences for our students. Being named a top six main stage production for ITF 2021 is just an incredible way to end this journey! 


Seriously, in these dark times, I think this show saved us all. We were being creative and had a place to be together, even if that place was all of us being remote. Working on the play was something to look forward to each afternoon. 

We all became quick on our feet and learned an inventive way to create theatre magic. In a normal situation where we produce the play at the school theatre, I provide the students with the set, with a costume, with a hair and makeup artist, with professionally hung and focused lighting. Performing and filming remotely, the students had to put up their own green screen, set up their own light ring, balance the lighting in their own room, and put on their own wigs and makeup.

The students had to do a lot of their own troubleshooting, too. Even with all the challenges, the students never complained! I think the experience made these student actors more self-reliant. 

Also, just in terms of acting, the students were acting to nobody yet had to dig deep and still make personal connections to their scene partner on Zoom. That wasn’t easy, and the process made for some interesting acting exercises. 


For all the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) characters, the production team did rummage through costumes, fabric, and accessories that we’d forgotten we had. We wanted each character to have layers, with furs and patterns. We paired items that I never would’ve thought could be used. For example, Orcus wore a priest’s robe that was a hand-me-down from a retired teacher.

Our one mistake, which I feel like an idiot about yet laughed at myself for later, was that we put Farrah the Faerie in a green costume. Yep, green. In front of a green screen. We realized the mistake too late before we needed to film. We added white lace to the outfit where we could though. Live and learn! Farrah is extra magical, fading in and out of shots.  


The students were shocked when they learned they’d be among the top six on the main stage! Most of these students have never been to ITF in person. Most of them are freshmen. The senior in the cast was most shocked. She’s been to ITF in person and knows firsthand the meaning of being selected to perform on the Main Stage.

The entire cast was smiling from ear to ear when they heard the news. We all realize it’s a huge honor to have our show watched by theatre educators and students from around the world who share our passion. 

Also, in the history of ITF, no New Jersey schools have ever been chosen for the Main Stage. We’re honored to be the first New Jersey school to be listed among the top productions!


Dramaturgical Research
Our dramaturgical research was understanding the game Dungeons & Dragons. None of us knew much about the game except for a couple students. A student in our school is a Dungeon Master that runs games. He quickly became our expert. 

Starting in October, we played the game as a cast using the characters from the play. I gifted each cast member a copy of the D&D book. I’d quiz them on game terminology and monsters. In the end, our game playing brought out more realistic performances.

Virtual Backgrounds
I partnered with my friends at Broadway Media Distributions to get original designs for all the virtual D&D backgrounds and prop images to enhance the story. We spoke for hours each week going over storyboard ideas.

Even if the show had been live, we’d have needed a cyc or screen to project images onto. I feel like we took a play and made it a movie. Broadway Media Distributions made all the ideas in my head come to life. I highly recommend working with them.  

D.I.Y. Hair & Makeup
Each cast member had to create their own D&D hair and makeup look. This was part of their character analysis. They had to send me color boards of their inspiration. Then they presented their ideas to the cast before displaying their final choices. 

I’m proud of their work. They have more makeup skills than I do. This was the first show where they didn’t have help with getting into costume or access to a makeup artist. They were on their own with just minor adjustment notes from me. 

Additionally, they had to redo their hair and makeup as consistently as possible about 20 times for filming. I can’t take any credit for their efforts. It was all them!

Patty Craft is Content Manager for She lives and writes on 10 acres in southwestern Ohio where she also hikes to her heart’s content. If you have a story idea, share it here.

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