Monday, April 21, 2014

"Talk About A Murder" in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin

Rogue Theatre in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin will present "Talk About A Murder" May 1st - 4 and added show on the 9th

Not in Wisconsin or can't attend? Then read the play - Click Here for details in paperback and Kindle 

Monday, March 17, 2014

"I'm Getting Murdered In The Morning" Brandon Manitoba

Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School Dinner Theatre in Brandon Manitoba showcases the diverse talents of our students. The dinner theatre production of "I'm Getting Murdered In The Morning" by Lee Mueller.

It takes place at the 1970s wedding reception of a wealthy debutante who has just married her fourth husband. The groom is a young man with modest roots whose recently widowed mother has become rather wealthy. However, during the boisterous reception, things take a turn for the worse and the resulting action will keep guests both laughing and in suspense. 

To accompany the entertainment, the award-winning Culinary Arts Department at Crocus Plains will be preparing a delectable three-course meal. Please inform us of any special dietary concerns when purchasing tickets.
Seating is limited to 80 guests per evening so be sure to get your tickets as soon as possible. Tickets are $25 per person and are available at the front office of Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School. Advance sales only.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Upcoming "Getting Murdered In The Morning" in Chattanooga

Getting Murdered In The Morning
Closed Door Entertainment will present "I'm Getting Murdered In The Morning" on March 14th-15th, 2014 Dinner at 7pm, Show at 7:30pm at Abba's House Faith Building in Chattanooga Tennessee. 

What's the Story? - During the garter toss at Brenda and Eddie's Wedding Reception, a mysterious man falls dead on the dance floor from a gun shot. 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. None the less, with some persuasion of Mr. Parker, the reception continues as planned and the Murder Mystery takes a back seat. For a while. 
Dinner served will be Venetian-stuffed chicken, mushroom-cheddar orzo, roasted asparagus, Mediterranean salad, garlic rolls, and dessert with your choice of sweet tea, unsweet tea, and water to drink. A vegetarian option is available upon request at the time tickets are purchased.

Tickets are $22 per adult and $17 for students/seniors. Children 5 and under are free.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Upcoming Productions "Last Call At Chez Mort" Glens Falls

Glens Falls Community Theatre will be presenting “Last Call at Chez Mort,” a murder mystery dinner theater production, February 14-16 at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls New York.
The Friday and Saturday shows begin at 6 p.m. The Sunday matinees begin at 1 p.m.
Tickets are $45 per person and include dinner and the show. Tickets go on sale Monday, January 27, in the lobby of the Queensbury Hotel. Box office hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and up until show times on performance nights.

“Last Call at Chez Mort” tells the story, in flashback, of an as-yet unsolved murder years ago, when the glamorous and tres chic nightclub Chez Mort was the place to be. A detective who worked the case and the newspaper reporter who broke the story retrace their steps to determine who killed Sweet Sue, an up-and-coming performer with limited talent and unlimited ambition. The show is filled with unsavory characters and dazzling wordplay. The audience will see the action unfold through the eyes of several people, and the audience will have to determine just who is telling the truth and, ultimately, who perpetrated the dirty deed.
The cast and crew of “Last Call at Chez Mort” includes SueD’Angelico, Dave Deeb, Stacie Lucas, John Wayne Macri, GinaSidway, Shelby Rae Wellington, P. James Carrolan, and LizWinge.
The show is written by Lee Mueller and directed by Peter J.Carrolan. Glenn Dorman will serve as musical director.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snow Day again and again

Thought I would re-post this piece since we have had nothing but snow day after snow day here in the Midwest.  This was originally posted in 2011.

It was a major coincidence that January 10th was a Snow Day here in St. Louis and I launched a New Play called "The Snow Day Monologues". No really it was.

I had been working on this One Act play for a few months now. I had been thinking the excitement I underwent as kid upon learning my school was "closed" due to "snow" and the different stages of emotions I would experience such as: joy, boredom, intrigue, cabin fever, delusions of grandeur and finally exhaustion.

I began writing from the point of view of a few characters who are stuck at home on a snow day and explored their individual thoughts as short monologues in a one-act structure. The characters eventually grew into six separate individuals; three boys and three girls and what they did to pass the time. Some would face issues or problems they had at school, others would fight boredom and try to entertain themselves and while others would use the time to reflect. There is nothing like being stuck in a confined space for a long period of time to activate the imagination.

I also wanted to create a funny yet insightful piece for young actors to interpret and explore. I've read enough grade school/high school scripts to realize there was a place for something a bit different. Many of my original Murder Mystery scripts are very popular with High School groups so why not create something funny and relevant they could relate to - that wasn't in the Murder Mystery genre?

Also instead of the standard "monologue" style where one character stands up and speaks at length for a while, why not break that convention up and spread it out? For example, as one character begins his or her monologue it then flows into another character who begins and on to another character. A common theme would tie them all together and we could jump around from one monologue to the next and experience each as a whole through various scenes. Perhaps a reflection of ever shortening attention span to which we humans are growing accustomed. Yea, anyway, I have to go shovel the driveway now.

Check out a short sample to play HERE

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Basic On Stage Survival Guide For Amateur Actors

Spending countless years on the amateur community theatre circuit, I have seen my share of  first time actors with sheer panic in their eyes. You see, one of the nice things about "Community Theatre" is that it is open to anyone and everyone. Experienced or not. Many times the case it not.

And since I had a plethora of productions under my belt, these acting noobies would seek me out with a multitude of questions ranging from; "What does 'Blocking' mean?", "Does stage right from my right or the audiences right?" "Why is it called upstage and where is upstage?" "How in the world do you memorize lines?" et al. Therefore, I would become the self appointed mentor to all first timers.

A few years ago the idea crossed my mind to document all the basic bits of information a first time actor would need to know to feel comfortable on the stage. A literal "Survival Guide" for the novice actor.
So I began writing what would become "The Basic On Stage Survival Guide For Amateur Actors".
As I began writing down items such as what to expect at an audition and how the rehearsal process can be a very tedious event as well putting a halt to any social life you may have had - it also occurred to me that there are many "rules" of theatre an actor must learn a long the way. Yes rules. I must say that I as an evolving stage actor learned many of the rules the hard way. Example, I recall getting a 15 minute lecture from a director because in a particular scene, a pencil rolled off a desk and remained on the stage until the act break. "If it falls, pick it up!"  There is a strange psychological dynamic with audiences - if something falls on the stage, a button pops off an actors coat and lays there, a feather from a boa floats to the floor, a pencil rolls off a desk, the eyes of the audience will focus on the thing laying on the floor until someone picks it up. Many virgin actors believe it they don't acknowledge or look at something laying on the stage, no one else will see it. Not true! Trust me. Save yourself the 15 minute lecture. If something falls, it is perfectly natural to pick it up. Don't ignore it.

There are also rules about upstaging your fellow actors; literally by standing in front of them or metaphorically by stealing focus by waving to your mom from the stage. There are rules about not turning your back and not standing in a straight line and so on and so forth. As I said, I learned these rules the hard way. When you are a brand new participant in a stage production, there isn't a rule book handed to you nor is there much time to go over everything you should know. Many directors will assume you have some basic knowledge since you are showing at the auditions but that is not always the case.

I wrote this book with all of this mind. I have to provide the most basic nuggets of information any first timer would need to know if they choose to venture into theatre. In some cases, I have worked with so called season professionals that could use some of this information. Anyway, if you are interested trying out for a local production and would like a head start in the theatre essentials - check out my book. And remember if you purchase and drop it on the floor. Pick it up!

Here is the link on Amazon Basic On Stage Survival Guide

Friday, October 18, 2013

Meeting The People Who Create The Characters

Lee with cast of Murder Me Always
Had a wonderful few days driving up to Napoleon Ohio and visiting  Katie Meyers and the students of Liberty Center High School Drama Department. They will be presenting "Murder Me Always" next month and invited me up to sit in on a rehearsal, meet the cast, answer some questions and have fun (introduced a improvisational game).
 Of course, anytime I have a chance to attend a rehearsal and meet the cast there is some nervousness involved (on both sides- myself and the actors ) - but mostly for the actors. Normally after I have answered a few questions about the play and how  yes, even I started out by acting on the high school stage, just like them -- the nerves start to fade (on both sides).

I think it's important to allow actors both young and old to see the human side the name below the title of their script. The person that wrote the words they are memorizing and first imagined the characters they are creating -  the playwright or the man behind the curtain.  As an actor, I had a chance to meet a few playwrights whose work I was performing and there something very satisfying in the meeting and greeting. For one, having a face to go with the name on your script and an opportunity to glimpse the personality that created the world you are trying to re-create. Can you see a hint of the characters in the playwright own personality? Did they base the character on anyone they knew personally? Where did the inspiration or idea come from? How did they envision the character or plot? And so forth and so on.

Plus for me, I have an opportunity to see and hear how my words and ideas are translating to actors. Do they get the jokes or the subtleties?  Are the characters well defined so they understand how to portray them? -  It gives all of us an opportunity to learn and grow.  I have questions for the actors as well.

So the bottom line, (the line you don't have to memorize), is that I jump at the chance to visit productions of my work and allow the actors to question/analyse/talk (to) me and I  will question/analyse/talk (to) them. It is a large part of why I do what I do - that is the opportunity to interact with actors and theatre students. To get up from the computer and go forth and meet the people who give my words life. To check in once in a while and make sure we're all on the same page.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Best Original Script

Follow up to my previous post about entering a short script (12 min) into a competition in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh India.  Well through social media and Skype I talked to the actors to find out how it was going - and then learned that our play did not make it to the Finals. Oh well....

But apparently that was not the end of the road. The scripts themselves had a second life - yes, some were chosen to be judged simply on writing and were submitted to a category for best Original script.  I received a message from one of the actors in the play, Shashank Karmarkar : 

 " I just returned from watching the Finals and am writing to tell you that you just WON FOR BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT!!! Congratulations!! I knew it was a winner when I first read it agreed to do the part!! Apparently, all 22 participating scripts were sent for judging to various writers in Bombay and Bangalore, none of whom actually watched the shows in Hyderabad, so their verdict was unbiased, and based purely on the merit of the scripts!! "

There is a variation of Luke 4:24 (" And he said, Truly I say to you, No prophet is accepted in his own country." ) - that states an artist is never recognized (for talent etc.. ) in his/her own town and must travel away from home to be discovered. E.G. - T.S Eliot, Tennessee Williams, William Burroughs etc.. all had to leave Saint Louis to be recognized for something - OK I am not lumping myself in that crowd, I am just saying that the old twisting of Luke is correct. In this case, I had to go to India. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Short Play Makes It All Happen Again

The Past

Long before I became known (if I am known - who knows?) for comedy murder mystery plays-   I wrote music reviews for a local entertainment newspaper (under the pseudonym Jim Cult) and later I wrote sketches for a local improv/comedy group. - Which of course only leads to the harder stuff...

I tried something a little stronger and a bit longer - a one act play. I tinkered around with it for a few months and cranked out something called " In Between Days" - which was about a few arty college grads who realized they have useless degrees.  Through the generous guidance of college professor who taught playwriting - my one act was produced and staged for a writing conference. What a better way to learn than to see and hear your play in front of a live audience.

Fast forward a year, I got ambitious entered a One Act Play contest in St Louis with  "The Favor" - about a suicidal man seeking his own demise and death in a bad neighborhood. The Favor was picked as the one the finalist - hence produced and staged in front of a live audience. I also received a nice review in the local paper.

Here is where -  I somehow jumped the shark as it were -  on a whim or a bet - I wrote a murder mystery for a local group and well - the rest is a cliche.  I became known as a murder mystery playwright. (In some eyes this is NOT a real playwright. The kind that Adam Szymkowicz  would never even ask to interview for his "I interview Playwrights thing. Whatever. It's fine. )

Present Day

Rahul Reddy - an actor from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh in India -( who had appeared in one of my Murder Mysteries over there) - contacted me and asked if I would like to submit a work into short play contest held by Dramanon Hyderabad .

 A short work? You mean a Real work  Not a murder mystery?
An honest to goodness real play - the sort of play I started out writing? You know, before the shark jump?


Ok. Yes, I would very much like to submit something. I did. It was accepted into the competition and will go through the preliminary performances this weekend. If it makes it there - it will be onto the finals.
The play is called "The Thing That Happened."   And really the thing that happened is someone from halfway around the globe snapped me back on the play path. We will see what happens.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Duncan Little Theatre wins with "I'm Getting Murdered In The Morning"

As reported in the Duncan Banner (Duncan Oklahoma) :

Darrel Ashford has a few reasons to celebrate. Not only was he and his wife, Tana, named the outstanding  Duncan Little Theatre  volunteers for the 2012-13 season during Saturday’s Limelight Awards, he won Best Director for "I'm Getting Murdered In The Morning" which also won Best Production.
And as he received the awards, Ashford gave credit to his cast instead of himself. This was his first attempt at directing, and “Murdered” was a rare dinner theater for DLT.
“This doesn’t belong to me,” Ashford said, as he accepted the Best Production award. “This belongs to my cast. It was a great production.”