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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Context - The Thin Line between Murder And Comedy

Originally published on 05/18/11

An interesting thought occurred to me the other day which was spawned by a "keyword" search phrase that pointed to my website Play-dead.com; the search term was "how do murder mystery and comedy differ?"

I have actually pondered a similar question myself which is: "How can I (and others) get away with writing Murder Mystery Comedies?" I mean, we are writing about someone being murdered and yet, the whole thing is steeped in the compound of the comedy genre and people actually laugh. Come on, if you think about it, there is no way that should work. Murder is a horrendous thing, right? Especially when not viewed through a comedic filter. How did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allen Poe, or Raymond Chandler make a living writing about murder in a serious fashion?

How do you explain it?


O.K. First of all, when it come to murder mystery comedies, it's not as if I'm writing something like "Abbot and Costello Meet The BTK Killer" or Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "On The Road to Jonestown".
That would be using something very serious and well known and trying to add comedy to it. That wouldn't really work.

Here's the deal:

The "Poetic License", if you will, for Murder Mystery Comedy has to do with "context". That is, in what "context" do you base something that on the surface is normally a "horrendous thing"?

We can watch cartoons, we know the Road Runner is not causing grave injuries to the Coyote in real life. We are quite certain that Moe is not poking out the eyes of Curley on the Three Stooges. We have a mental facility that distinguishes between real and unreal. Serious and not so serious.

Is everything in a play set up very seriously? A murder mystery play. Is the atmosphere and tone of the story very stark, dark and dramatic? Is the victim a very kind and caring person that the audience can identify and sympathize with? Is the crime tremendously brutal and violent? If so, the context of the piece is similar to "The Diary Of Anne Frank" or The Laramie Project. If so, the context is serious.

What would be correct context?

Well, how about moving the context 180 degrees. Set up the play in a "not so serious" mood. Establish a tone and atmosphere that is light and slightly satirical. Create a victim that no one has room to identify with or spend one iota of sympathy upon. A character that is perhaps pompous or shallow, or better yet, not very realistic. And when the "horrendous" act occurs - it has all the impact of Aunt Helen belching at the Dinner table. You are not shocked by it, but instead, want to laugh.

Speaking of food, I heard a quote attributed to Alfred Hitchcock - I don't know the exact quote so I will paraphrase: - A good suspense thriller should be like a Fruitcake, full of nuts - (again, it was something akin to this) The point is, right from the start of the story, you should get a good idea of what's about to be served. If the ingredients - that is the characters are not rich and developed as in a thick layer cake, but no, instead they're a bit nutty and there are bits of fruit thrown in. Once the brain registers this concept, (this is not an Angel food cake) -  the "serious" factor moves out. The context changes to "not" serious and when your context moves away from taking it seriously - this leaves room for humor.


The bottom line is that if the characters and the story are removed from reality - everything you see and hear is written and presented as being over the top, humorous fashion, tongue in cheek -  it is hard to react to the material in a somber manner.

Once the tone is established as superfluous or unreal;  you remove the reality from the audience's perception. You place their expectations in the correct context and give them permission to laugh. Even at the subject of "murder" or "death".

Context and tone are most important when walking the thin line between what appears on the surface to be a serious subject and allowing laughter to prevail. If done correctly, the horrendous can become hilarity. But the danger lies in taking the subject "out" of context. Yes, you may say that "Murder" in and of itself is not something to be made fun of or laughed at.  While this statement is true, the context of the subject is shifted and therefore creates an alternate conclusion.  That thin line can be crossed very quickly depending on how you look at it. The bottom line here is that I do not use my talent to belittle, disparage or ridicule the seriousness of murder or any crime, nor do I believe any famous artist who ever tackled the subject had intended to do. They only intended to put the subject matter into a certain context, using their craft to present it a different way.  If someone remains on the other side of the line and cannot look at it in a different way, while they certainly have that right to do so, the point of many things will be lost, and remain unseen in that narrow field of view.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Audition For A Murder" hit the boards again and again

When the theatrical tallies are posted at the end of the year for "Most Produced Play", per my records "An Audition For A Murder" has to be on top. Off the top of my head, I know its production this year and last year is way into the double digits. Of course, no one keeps track of produced work by independent playwrights except for the independent playwrights. At the end of the year, I'm sure a tired old musical of some type will be listed at the "most produced." 

So let me once again plug another production of "An Audition For A Murder". 


For Vacaville’s Gaslighters Theatrical Company, their stock in trade has always been ... well, stock characters played for laughs.
As it has for years, delivery of their product, melodramas to whodunits, wrapped in period costumes and often overworked English phrases to comedic effect, is what consumes the troupe today, as they prepare and rehearse their latest effort: “An Audition for a Murder.”
“We’re happy to be presenting another Lee Mueller murder-mystery,” Mary Cornelison Muehlenbruch, the Gaslighters’ president and producer of the show, said in a press release. 

“We’ve done a number of his plays over the years. They’re smartly written, funny, and our audiences have always enjoyed his storylines, and we always add our own comedy touches to make the story even funnier!”



Performances are at 8 p.m. March 31, April 1 and 7; at 7:30 p.m. April 8 (a dinner show); and at 3 p.m. April 2 and 9. All shows will be in Harbor Theater’s Nove Cabaret Theatre, 720 Main St., in downtown Suisun City.
Tickets for non-dinner shows are $20, and $39.50 for the dinner show, available by calling 628-3737 or by visiting www.vacavillegaslighters.com.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

" A Murder Has Been Renounced" - LaGrange Ohio

A Murder Has Been Renounced by Lee Mueller
"A Murder Has Been Renounced” by Lee Mueller will be presented at the Carlisle Visitor Center in LaGrange Ohio.
Performances will be May 12-13, and May 19-20. Seating will be at 6:30 p.m. with dinner at 7.
Friends of Metro Parks of Lorain County  will sponsor the production and this Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre.
The Carlisle Visitor Center is located at 12882 Diagonal Road in LaGrange. 
Tickets are $30 per person or $58 per couple. Group rates are also available.
For more information or to order tickets, call 216-544-3865
Unable to attend? 
Read the Play available at Amazon

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Newburgh Community Theater is 'Getting Murdered in the Morning' dinner theater

Newburgh Community Theater's next event will be a night of firsts.
The productions will be the group’s first attempt at hosting a murder mystery event, which will be the first in memory for the community as well.
Newburgh Community Theater will be bringing to life “I’m Getting Murdered in the Morning,” by playwright Lee Mueller. The play brings in the audience as members of a wedding reception gone tragically and comically wrong.
There will be a public performance at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 at Preservation Hall at 200 State St. in Newburgh Indiana, but the cast will also be taking the show to a private performance the next day at Rolling Hills Country Club.
After watching their daughter tie the knot, the wealthy Montagues receive an unwelcome surprise when a mysterious man drops dead on the dance floor at the reception. Public relations panic ensues as family secrets come to light and a nosey and obtrusive society columnist looks forward to writing the scandal of the season.
The rehearsals over the last month have kept the cast belly laughing almost continuously.
For tickets and information, visit newburghcommunitytheater.org. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"An Audition For A Murder" will Benefit Leeds Center For The Arts

An Audition For A Murder by Lee Mueller
An Audition for a Murder” takes you to The Westchester Community Theatre, where open auditions are being held for its next production, ‘Death of a Disco Dancer,’ written by a locally known playwright. 
As local actors show up for cold readings, it becomes evident that there is some animosity among those who have worked together before.  Over the course of auditions, someone dies!  The audience will be asked to try to determine who the killer(s) is and how they did it.
This event on February 25th at the Winchester Opera House is one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the local arts center in Winchester.  The evening will include dinner, the show, as well as live and silent auctions.  A cash bar will also be available.
Doors open for the event at 5:30 p.m., with the dinner and show beginning at 6:30 p.m.  Tickets are $50 each.
For more information, head to leedscenter.org, check out their Facebook page or call (859) 744-6437.
The Winchester Opera House is located at 10 East Lexington Avenue, in Winchester KY
Unable to attend or not in the area? No problem. You can read the play!


Friday, February 10, 2017

El Paseo Arts present "Murder Me Always"

On February 21st and 22nd, El Paseo Arts Foundation transforms the ballroom at the Isla Grand Beach Resort into a Mystery Dinner Theatre for a production of the comedy mystery spoof, Murder Me Always by Lee Mueller. 

Doors to the Ballroom open for sponsor seating at 6:20 p.m. and for general seating at 6:30 p.m. Complimentary light hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will be open from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. when the curtain goes up on the play. The actors will be circulating among the audience during the cocktail hour, providing some information about themselves and possibly some clues about the Murder that will occur during the play. 

Tickets for M**der Me Always are $30 per person, $25 for El Paseo Arts members. Tickets are available for purchase at Paragraphs Book Store, SOS, PadreRitaGrill, the Art Gallery in Lighthouse Square, and online at www.elpaseoarts.org. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"I'm Getting Murdered In The Morning" at Beaverton High School Oct 28 & 29th

Beaverton Jr./Sr. High Drama in Beaverton Michigan will host its annual Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, “I’m Getting Murdered in the Morning” by Lee Mueller, on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016 and Saturday, Oct. 29 at the at the Beaverton Activity Center (BAC). Performances start at 6 p.m. and the doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

During the garter toss at Brenda and Eddie's Wedding Reception, a mysterious man falls dead on the dance floor. Luckily the bride's father -the wealthy Harold Montague -invited Damage control expert Mr. Parker to the event. Parker tries "spinning" the murder as "nothing to worry about" but Society columnist Mary Berger insists "something be done". 

Something like - hold the presses because this could be the "Society Scandal" of the year. Not only was a man shot during the garter toss but it seems the mysterious Dead Man has ties to both the Groom and Bride's family. Secrets that both sides do not wish to reveal. Nonetheless, with some persuasion of Mr. Parker, the reception continues as planned and the Murder Mystery takes a back seat. For a while.

Tickets are being sold in advance for food preparation reasons with no refunds available. The public is welcome and the cost is $15 per adult and $10 for children (10 and under with an adult). 
For ticket/dinner information contact Becky Miller at 989-246-3341 or 989-329-8348. Sorry, no ticket sales at the door. Come join the fun, and enjoy dinner out with family and friends. Tickets are on sale until Saturday, Oct. 22.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Alden Christian Theatre in Alden NY Presents "Murder Me Always" in October

ACTS - The Alden Christian Theatre Society, 1470 Church St. in the Village of Alden, will present a dinner theater production of “Murder Me Always” by Lee Muller, a comedy murder mystery show, on Fridays and Saturdays October 7 & 8 and 14 & 15.

The dinner will begin the evening at 6pm. Tickets are $25 for the dinner and the show and must be purchased in advanced to reserve seating. The dinner entrĂ©e choices of pork tenderloin or chicken cordon bleu will be served with salad, potato, vegetable, or vegetable lasagna and salad. All meals include desserts and drinks. The comedy murder mystery will begin at 7:30.


During a very bad performance of "Murder Me Always", an actual murder takes place off stage. The director is shot. The "fake" play comes to a screeching halt and a "real" murder mystery begins. It seems a "Murder Mystery Murderer" is on the loose and has struck again. Luckily, a 1940s pulp fiction type gumshoe has staked out the audience and rises to the occasion to begin an investigation. Could it be that one of these very bad actors is really a very bad person? Will this "real" murder mystery be any better than the fake one? Is art imitating life? Is the play really the thing? Don’t miss your chance to figure out who the murderer is while laughing all evening.


Limited tickets are also available to those who cannot make the dinner but still wish to see the show. Tickets must be purchased in advance for the 7:30 show $12 general admission and $10 for seniors/students. Call ACTS to purchase tickets for dinner and to reserve tables or for tickets to see the show at 937-7770.

"An Audition For A Murder" in October in Iowa and Wisconsin

"AN AUDITION FOR A MURDER" will start off October in Waupun Wisconsin October 7th and 8th, presented by the Waupun Community Players on the Waupun City Hall Stage.

So tell us about this Audition show thing. OK  The thing is  (the plot)   A Theatre group is holding auditions for a Murder Mystery called "Death of A Disco Dancer". 

Hey, isn't that a song by The Smiths?  Yes. Yes it is. 

Anyway,  

All of the typical actors show up to audition. There is Mia Monahan - the militant method actress, Amber Frost- the ditzy Drama queen, Chad - the energetic actor who never seems to get a part in anything, Alan- the accomplished Theatre Major who works at a fast food place in the mean time. Troy May - the ego-centric actor who always gets a role and his gorgeous assistant Tantanya who holds his imported bottled water and carries his Portfolio. And last but not least, Mrs. Needleman and her precious daughter Julie , fresh from the Little Miss Pumpkin Pageant finals.


The auditions get underway without too many problems, well a few.. Well, all right, you see, the thing is.. the Director Vivian Vinderlou and assistant director Reed Moore have a bit of the problem with "script". The problem is they don't have enough copies for everyone. And the bigger problem is they don't actually have a finished script. 
Jim Culter- the playwright arrives in the nick of time with a few more copies and a few more finished pages just as one of the actors mysteriously dies. As luck would have it, Jim has brought Inspector Bonnie Brauvera along to the auditions to serve as Technical advisor for the play. Perhaps the investigation into this "mysterious death" will inspire the playwright and help him finish the play. After all, there is a read-through on Monday.

 On October 28th and 29th  The Carousel Theatre of Indianola will also present the play at the  La Vida Loca Winery 
  • Address: 7852 Jesup Street, Indianola, IA 50125
Doors open at 5:00 with the show to begin at 6:30
Oct 28th Menu $45.00 per person

Oct 29th Murder Mystery Appetizer Show $38.00 per person 


But I don't live anywhere near the upper midwest region. Couldn't I just... I don't know... Read it or something?
Why yes, Yes you can.

Click HERE to find it on Amazon. 






Monday, August 22, 2016

Monaghan Pink Ladies "Audition For A Murder" and a Wonderful Charity


At the Garage Theatre  in Monaghan Ireland, not to be confused with Monaghan somewhere else, the Monaghan Pink Ladies will be presenting "An Audition For A Murder" on Sept 29th and 30th.  

Cast Member Julie-Ann sent a message to me letting me know the Pink Ladies do a play every year to raise money for charity. This is their 3rd year. 

" This year our chosen charity is a group that helps Irish families to repatriate their loved ones who die abroad. In our small town we have had a few families who have had to avail of this service and last year when the Irish students got killed in the California balcony collapse, the Kevin Bell Repatriation fund really helped with all the costs and red tape."
It's always nice to hear from groups that your play went over well and the audiences loved it. It's even better to hear that your work is being used to help in a worthy manner or cause. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Peninsula Players Present "Murder Me Always" at Ocean Park Lutheran

Ocean Park Lutheran Church and the Peninsula Players announce another Mystery Dinner Theater scheduled for July 20, 21 and 22 at 24002 U Street, Ocean Park WA. 



Rob Lindberg will direct “Murder Me Always,” a play written by the prolific mystery writer, Lee Mueller. Peninsula Players invites everyone to enjoy a fabulous meal, while being entertained by some of the most enthusiastic actors you will find anywhere in the world!

As the story unfolds, it may soon become clear to the audience that this play has a mysterious quirk. And, in the midst of all this alleged murdering going on, suddenly the play pivots 180 degrees and morphs into another play! Come see how strangely twisted and mysteriously sinuous a mystery play can become!

Tickets are available by reservation only and can be obtained at the box office at Ocean Park Lutheran Church, open Monday through Thursday between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.,