Thursday, December 03, 2009

Murder Mystery Double Feature - Twice

Recently I have had the honor of being a double feature, twice. What I mean, is that one theatre group has staged two of my plays at the same time. Last month, Lawrence High School in Lawrence Kansas ran Some Show (about a Murder) and Dead Air. One play takes place during a low budget cable TV show and the other takes place during a Radio broadcast. Charles Goolsby, theatre director at Lawrence High talked to me about the concept of doing both plays on the same set. I thought it was a great idea. Each show ran alternating nights. In essence, a double feature.

This month (December) it is happening again. West Valley High School in Hemet,California is featuring Death Of A Doornail and To Wake The Dead using the same basic set.

Here is a news article about the event:

Special to The Press-Enterprise

Murder and mayhem are not typical dinner table topics, unless you are a guest at the West Valley High School Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre.

As part of the event, guests will dine on roast turkey, mashed potatoes and vegetables from Greg's Catering in the banquet hall, which is the temporarily transformed band room.

Then, they will be escorted to the theater to watch the first half of an interactive murder mystery. During intermission, guests return to the banquet hall for dessert and coffee and a chance to discuss all the clues they have witnessed. After returning to the theater, they will be able to question the suspects and try to name the killer. Prizes will be given for correct guesses based on a random drawing from a basket of all correct answers.

"This production was the idea of band and technical director TJ Hepburn," said Stacey Bailey, who is directing the program.

"He will be turning his band room into a mysterious banqueting hall reminiscent of the Haunted Mansion."

"Wake the Dead" is set at an Irish wake and "Death of a Doornail" takes place in a British drawing room setting.

Each play has about 12 characters and will be presented on alternating nights.

Christopher Malandrinos is dual cast and said his characters are pretty different.

"You have to really know your role and stay in character with accents and everything," said Christopher, 15. His role of Edward requires a British accent and Chief Wambaugh is Irish.

Students had to learn improvisation skills along with their lines so they can stay in character while answering audience questions and casting suspicion on their fellow actors.

"I've never done dinner theater before but I like it because it's straight up drama -- singing is not my strong suit," said Sarah Pettis, 15, who plays Inspector Bukowski in "Death of a Doornail."

Sara Barnes plays the exotic dancer and suspected killer Peaches Crabtree in "Wake."

"I'm a big fan of mysteries," said Sara, 15. "I like musicals a lot but with my passion for acting I just couldn't pass this up. It's a lot of work but it's worth it."

"I did a lot of research to find two plays that allowed me to use the same basic set," said Bailey. She said Hepburn, with help from Joe Hameister and Patty Chavez, designed a set for the banquet hall that is "over the top" and can seat 180 people.

Bailey hopes local businesses and organizations will use the whodunit as a holiday celebration -- a way to reward their staff and have fun together. A 10 percent discount is given for 10 or more tickets.

Cost is $25 per person or $45 for two people. All guests receive a complimentary copy of the production's memory book, which is a $15 value.

Performances are at 6 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the school's theater at 3401 Mustang Way in Hemet.

Information and reservations: 951-765-6420.

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