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Friday, March 03, 2006

A Grand Time in Granville


I was recently invited to see one of my productions performed by Granville High School students. Here is the article:

Playwright's presence boosts GHS actors
by BRIAN MILLER
Sentinel Reporter


Playwright Lee Mueller had never been to a production of one of his plays outside of his hometown of St. Louis, Mo. So when the invitation came from Granville High School underclassman play director Samantha Mastrian Bell to attend the production she was directing of his play "Murder Me Always" last Saturday, he agreed.
Her cheeky invitation gave the cast the thrill of meeting a playwright. Cast member and freshman Moriah Parrish said during the first weeks of rehearsal the thought of the playwright being in the audience made her nervous. But by the time of the production, her reaction changed to excitement.

And after Mueller met her and other cast members after the show and told them a little about how he developed the characters, she had more reason to be positive.

"He was laid back and nice," she said.

Bell knew Mueller's work from having directed another of his plays while she was employed in the Zanesville School District. She said his plays are a good match for high-school actors.

"The writing is doable for high-school kids and the language is easy," she said.

Bell, an elementary-school music teacher, said she chose "Murder Me Always" because she liked the central idea in it -- a play within a play. A theater company's very bad performance comes to a sudden halt when the director is murdered. The second mystery takes over, and the entire cast become suspects. A gumshoe detective comes on the scene to investigate.

Though the play has a script to fall back on, Mueller's hope is for it to ride a lot on improvisation by the cast and the spontaneity of the audience, which is invited to help solve the mystery.

While improvising, freshman Tom Ream, who plays a suspect-turned-undercover cop, lists song titles for his upcoming musical. Mueller liked his ad lib addition and approached him after the show to ask if he could put it permanently in the script.

"Go for it," said Ream.

For Mueller, 45, writing plays is a night job he does for fun. His regular job is as a software trainer. He sells his two-act comedy murder mysteries through a Web site. A St. Louis theater, Affton Center Stage, regularly puts on his plays.

Mueller says he gets a kick out of seeing his thoughts, jokes and ideas interpreted by other people, and by an audience coming to see his work.

"People are taking the time from their lives to see my plays," he said.