Monday, December 31, 2012

A Year of Playing Dead 2012

A look back on a handful of productions of Play Dead comedy mysteries presented across the globe.

The year started off with the premier of my new play called "Last Call At Chez Mort" by my home group Affton Center Stage.
Set in the 1940's at European style Supper Club "Chez Mort". It recounts the tale of an unusual crime in the Swing Era time.

Later the same year, "Last Call At Chez Mort" was produced by my old friends at FACT Players in Freedom, Wisconsin. / Vacaville Gaslighters in Vacaville, California and then it traveled way down south to the Hotel Magnolia, Casco Viejo, Panama city, Panama.
The Panama production was directed by Gerry Roy, who at one time owned his own theatre in Montreal and has acted and directed professionally and took on the role of the nervous french master of ceremony, Jeal-Paul Truffaut. The production also featured the wonderful acting/singing talents of Claritza Basabe-Corvaia.

"Murder Me Always" once again made the rounds this year,(which was my first penned and most popular comedy murder mystery) - it kicked off March of 2012 by the Thunderbolt Players, a troupe of student actors at Evansville’s New Tech Institute.

In July of 2012 -
"Murder Me Always" was given the Bollywood treatment by director Mala Pasha and her group Torn Curtains. It was showcased in several location in and around Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. Director Mala Pasha is one of the founding members of the Torn Curtains over in India, and Torn Curtains one of the oldest English speaking theatre groups in Hyperabad.

"Murder Me Always" also made a trip up to Canada in November to Carlton Place Ontario and was presented by the Mississippi MUDDS in the Town Hall of Carlton Place in partnership with Ballygiblin's restaurant.

Saltshaker Theatre took "Murder Me Always" on a tour in October to various restaurants around Carmel and Salinas California giving dinners some laughs and mystery along with their entrees.

Speaking of dinner and murder,
Marin Murder Mysteries hosted the comedy "Remains To Be Seen" in the Spring of 2012 at San Rafael Joe's over a 5 course dinner. The production was directed by Adrianne Goff who also appeared as the lovely and talentless character "Edie Buffet".

"Remains To Be Seen" also made another stop in California, in November at River Valley High School Drama in Yuba City.

Closer to home, (my home I should say, well.. O.K. about 2 hours away) down into the magnificent Ozark mountain region of southern Missouri to Camdenton High School for a production of "I'm Getting Murdered In The Morning" in March. I had a chance to visit the school and the production. It's always a treat for me to see the production and meet the actors, of course, it's not always a treat for the actors to know I am in the audience. If they don't all ready have performance jitters, knowing the playwright is in the crowd can send some over the edge.
"Getting Murdered In The Morning" was also produced by Rural Area Theater in Madison, Florida in June. I did not give the actors a double case of nerves by visiting this production, so I made up for it when my home town of Wentzville Missouri staged a production of "Some Show (about a murder") in November, and yes I did go to this one. I'm not so certain I caused the actors much grief, if I did, they exacted revenge by seating me at a table 1 foot from the stage. They also announced to the public who I was and where I was sitting. If they didn't enjoy the play, well, here was the person responsible for writing it.

"Death Of A Doornail", another one of my popular scripts also made the rounds. In October and November it appeared in Dalton Georgia by Dalton Little Theatre.
And earlier in August, "Death of a Doornail" made an appearance at Murdoch Theatre Company in Perth, Western Australia.

Playwright Toby Otero who came on board play-dead this year had his script The Science Of Murder produced in November and December by Mission: Improv in East Wenatchee, Washington as well as a premier in hometown of West Monroe, Louisiana. His new play called "MURD-ARRR!!!" - a pirate play will be here in 2013!

Again this was just a handful of productions, there were many many more productions all over the place. It's incredible to look back and see where all these plays have played. Pieces of my imagination, put down on paper and then go out into the world to be given life by talented actors all over the world. I am grateful to all of them.

For the new year I am developing a new murder mystery set in the 1890's, a western themed comedy called "Murder In Meridosa", that will take the stage in March. Where will it end up in the coming year? Here's to all your imaginations, works, words,music,visions,crafts and stories. May they travel far for you.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

'Remains to be Seen' at River Valley High In Yuba City, CA

River Valley High School Drama presents "Remains to be Seen," written by Lee Mueller and directed by Dave Harris, Friday through Sunday at the River Valley High School multipurpose room.
The interactive comedic murder-mystery show includes dessert for the audience, which will be served during intermission.
"We decided to do a dessert show for our winter play this year because it was something new, and also have an interactive type of show where the audience actually can interact with the characters. It's something we've never done before, so we thought that would be a fun thing to do," Harris said.
At a certain point in the whodunit play, Harris said, "audience members are allowed to ask questions of the 'suspects' to help them guess who did it."
"The question-and-answer portion will definitely involve some improvisation because the actors don't know what questions they're going to get," Harris said, adding that these students are members of his advanced drama class. "So they've got to answer the questions as best they can in character."
Several of the beginning drama students will be the ones serving desserts to the tables, Harris said.
"'Remains to be Seen' starts off with a body being found in a steamer trunk left on a rental truck of a U-Haul type of truck rental company," Harris said. "As the investigators get called in, they trace where this trunk has been and who has been in contact with this truck to try to piece together exactly what happened."
Harris said the investigation moves from place to place as police Officers Goodman (Michael Ramirez) and Badham (Kiran Sahota) interview the wide range of characters who have recently been in contact with the rental truck, including a lackluster nightclub singer, Edie (Tiffany Calabrese), and her protégé, Nick (Andrew Tinajero); a washed-up actress, Madame DuBoys (Natasha Lauria), who has dreams of a big comeback, and her assistant, Noelle (Simran Mahil); seedy bar owners Iggy (Saidy Iraiqat) and Trixie (Raelynn Mortensen); and several truck rental company proprietors (Logan Brooks, Shawna Flack, Tyler Hight and Bill Williams).
FBI Agents Sullen (Alejandra Cervantes) and Muledeer (Geanum Sarki) also join in the investigation. The cast includes Journey Granados, Franklin Hart and Alex Samay.
"There are lots of pop cultural references throughout the show: TV, movies, music that get thrown in there and are fun things that the audience can pick up on," Harris said.
He added that although the play is contemporary, it isn't set in a particular time. "A lot of the things that are thrown into the script are from the last 40 years or so. We have props that encompass the last few decades, but the play is very nebulous for exactly when it is set because of the references that are made. Some of the props you will see are sort of older, such as a rotary-dial phone," Harris said.
"It will be a highly entertaining evening. You can come watch a funny play and high school students having fun on stage being some interesting characters — and as an extra bonus, it's going to come with a nice dessert. Come as you are," he said.
"The play is a lot of fun, and when the students first read it, they really liked it."
CONTACT Susan Benitez at sbenitez@appealdemocrat.com or 749-4773

Read more: http://www.appeal-democrat.com/articles/harris-121091-truck-remains.html#ixzz2CKrHF7Z7

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Murder Mystery Comedy in Dalton Georgia

“Death of a Doornail” will perform on the Dalton Little Theatre stage this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Performances will continue Oct. 26-27 and Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. There will be a Sunday matinee Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. For more information visit www.daltonlittletheatre.com

“Death of a Doornail,” a murder mystery/comedy written by Lee Mueller, will be presented on the stage at the Dalton Little Theatre beginning this weekend.

Susan Ridley directs this whodunit with a zany cast of characters and describes the play as her “notion of film noir meets the Carol Burnette Show.”

“It’s high comedy,” says Ridley, “and audience members will have an opportunity to join in questioning the cast in Act II. Further, they get to vote on their choice of the murderer and one of those ballots will be chosen for a prize at each show.”

“It’s a success if it makes you laugh, cry and think ... This show might make you cry from laughing so much — it’s pure entertainment, although you will ‘think’ if you try to solve the mystery as the plot unfolds.” She adds, “At the show’s end I hope our audiences have been entertained and have left the real world behind for a couple of hours — we all need an escape to laughter!”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Upcoming Productions -"Murder Me Always" in Carmel and Salinas

Saltshaker Theater has announced it will perform its newest comedy/mystery dinner theater production, "Murder Me Always,” at various venues in Salinas and Carmel California, starting Saturday. Written by comedian/actor Lee Mueller and directed by Ken Cusson, “Murder Me Always” features a handful of potential culprits (and local actors) in a unique, humorous play-within-a-play format. Make reservations to attend by calling each venue. Reservations are required. Here is the schedule:

• Sunday: All Saints Episcopal Church, Carmel-By-The-Sea. Reservations: 831-384-6323.

• Oct. 24: Gino’s Italian Restaurant, Salinas. Reservations: 831-422-1814.

• Oct. 25 and 26: The Penny Farthing Tavern, Salinas. Reservations: 831-422-5652.

• Oct. 29: Element Tasting Bar & Bistro, Salinas. Reservations: 831- 998-7045.

• Oct. 30: The Grower’s Pub Steakhouse, Salinas. Reservations: 831-754-1488.

• Nov. 1: Rotary Club of Carmel Valley, at Rancho Cañada, Carmel Valley. Reservations: Ryan McCormick (Rotary), 831-233-2628.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Play-dead Comedy Mysteries playing way up North and way down south

Up North

Just west of Ottawa Ontario (up North in Canada) is Carlton Place. And in Carlton place dwells the wonderful Mississippi Mudds or (M.U.D.D.S) which breaks down as MUsic Dance and Drama on Stage. The Mudds are a community theatre group in Carlton Place since 1974.
I am honored to have the M.U.D.D.S. perform another one of my plays, Murder Me Always. It will unfold it's mystery comedy stylings in the Town Hall of Carlton Place in partnership with Ballygiblin's restaurant on Nov. 2 and 3. Here is their Link

Down South

At the Hotel Magnolia, Casco Viejo, Panama city, Panama a theatre troupe will be performing my newest work Last Call At Chez Mort - a 1940's style screwball murder mystery. It will be performed in English. (Although I would be curious to hear it done in Spanish. Comprende?)
The show will be directed by Gerry Roy, who at one time owned his own theatre in Montreal and has acted and directed professionally The producer is Lourdes Quijada.Each of the three evening performances, running from September 17-19 will offer a different menu.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Murder Mystery Play - What is that?

As precise as we all try to be about what we do and the services/products we provide, it can still be a bit fuzzy to some people. It's not our fault and it's not their fault. Take for example, Murder Mystery Plays which I feature over on Play-Dead.com, now in my mind it's pretty clear that these are "plays" that happen to be "Murder Mysteries", simple right?

Well, actually... no. Not so much.

Why? Well, you see there are other branches of "Murder Mystery" that blur the whole tree, or perhaps the whole forest.
In the Murder Mystery Forest, many of the trees are so-called Mansion Murder Mysteries or Murder Mysstery events. What are those?

Murder Mysteries Events - are predominantly Murder Mystery Dinner theatre performed in a specific location such as an old Mansion or historic building that doubles a a restaurant or bed and breakfast. Example: in St. Louis we have the Lemp Mansion which is a historic residence from the late 1800's.
A good friend of mine Randy Manning provides Murder Mystery "Entertainment Events" at the mansion.
Randy's "Murder Mysteries Events" are largely audience participation. They may consist of 2 or 3 actors who interact with the dinners following a basic script or outline.
In some these dinner mysteries events, the audience is drafted into the story. They are assigned roles to to perform and become part of the entertainment. Everyone is essentially involved in propelling the mystery along. In some cases, the actors only have minimal control of the event itself.

Also in the Murder Mystery forest are branches which we call "Murder Mystery Party Games".

Murder mystery Party Games are just as the name implies; "games" you play at a party. Imagine the board game "Clue" on a larger scale. Acted out by the guests. Games also come in various sizes and shapes.
My friend Leigh Clements runs Shot In The Dark Mysteries which is a "mingle" type of party game where you walk around and question other people.
My pal Mo Holkar runs Free Form games which provides each guest with a character description, goals and contacts for a particular themed murder mystery. In both cases there are no actors or scripts involved in games.

And finally, on my side of the forest, I provide plays. You know.... plays. Murder mystery plays.

The fallback example I often use is - imagine "Death of a Salesman", now imagine that it is a murder mystery. You would go to see this play at a theatre. Actors would come on stage and act. They have lines to say and action to carry out. There are lights and scenery because it's you know... a play.
As you enter the theatre, you are not handed a script and told "Here, you will be Willy Loman. And you are Biff. Now get up on that stage and move us to tears."
A play is not a party game. You would not go see a production of "The Music Man" and expect them to hand out trombones as party treats and expect you to blow a high C every time someone says the secret word.

Murder Mystery plays are controlled by the actors, not by the audience. In my case, I do have segments where the audience is allowed to participate, such as questioning the actors and some instances, the actors interact with the audience. But since it is, for intents and purposes, a "play", it has a structure that is determined by the script.

I realize I will still have inquiries wanting to know if my script would be appropriate for a birthday party or Tupperware social, but hopefully this will clear up a bit of the forest and allow some to actually see the trees. Or in the case, the branches.