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.