Club Mystique…the Research!

(This was originally posted May 16, 2010. This spring ‘2014’ will be our 3rd time doing this amazing show)

As a 33 year old woman who grew up in Utah, I can’t say as I’ve had much experience with film noir.  I did study “Citizen Kane” in my Intro to Film class way back at the community college but unfortunately all I could really remember about the film was that the sound and dialogue were not balanced and as we all leaned in to hear who exactly Rosebud was…a shrill cockatoo made its loud squawk and my film professor quickly turned the volume down….so much for Citizen Kane.

When we decided to try our hand at a classic Who Done It mystery, it only seemed natural to set it in America in the classic film noir style of the 1940’s. As the production team sat around at our brainstorming meeting, tossing out ideas and scenarios of how the mystery should go down, I thought to myself, “Man…this is gonna be a tough one to write.” My experience is quite extensive when it comes to mystery novels and novellas but I tended to read more modern stories written by authors such as Janet Evanovich and Harlan Coben. I have, of course, read most of Agatha Christie with her Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, but old English settings are nothing like the seedy world in which film noir flourished. It was time to start the research…

Ah…the Internet…with its vast rolling hills of crimson red and it’s shimmering…wait…wrong script…sorry. The Internet…chock full of intrigue, mystery and ALOT of opinions. I just started reading…what is film noir?…what themes does film noir invoke?…how the film makers who made film noir didn’t classify it as film noir…how it helped calm a world troubled by war…all kinds of topics. I read and read and read and then I went to the library. I checked out a very good book entitled, “Somewhere In the Night: Film Noir and the American City,” by Nicholas Christopher. It soon became apparent that all film noir shared exciting and striking similarities. One was that the city itself is a character. The city breathes and takes lives.  The city is a maze of which the hero (who inevitable dies) cannot escape. I also came to realize that there is always a femme fatale who is doomed as a character that knows that all the men will love her but that she will destroy them in the end. She cannot help it…it is her plight. I also learned that the set of morals or values that control these characters exist outside the normal acceptance of society. Everyone is crooked…everyone.

Next, time to watch film noir. Back to the library…I watched “Laura”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “Murder, my Sweet”, “Casablanca”, “Marked Woman”, “The Big Sleep”, “The Other Woman”, “Force of Evil”, “Sunset Boulevard” and “Double Indemnity.”  I read another book…”Los Angeles Noir” which is a collection of short stories.

I began to dream in film noir. I was thinking in film noir. My sentances became fraught with depressing statements. I no longer just associated PI’s with Garrison Keller portraying Guy Noir on Prairie Home Companion or that Potato spud private eye on “Between the Lions.” I was breathing it and it was time to start writing.

Unfortunately, all of my preparation only gave me 48 hours to come up with a completed first draft script. Luckily, I have an amazing Production staff who was able to understand what I was trying to say in some places and were able to look at things from a perspective that wasn’t seen within the world of Film Noir. I was also challenged to add humor to the script, but I wasn’t striving for the cheesy, slapstick humor that finds its place in some parodies. I hope that the humor is subtle and enjoyable without making one groan. I guess time will tell.

We are in rehearsals and it is going well. I can never accurately judge a piece during its creation and the organic nature of the company makes it impossible to know what will work and what won’t. This is new territory for me but I am excited to see how it has pushed me and made me grow!

Show opens April 19th!

7 Tips on How to Effectively Mingle During Murder Mystery Dinner Theater

Mingling during murder mystery dinner theaterMurder mystery dinner theater begins with mingling. Mingling is when the actors talk to the audience before the show begins. The object of this is two fold. First, to help you understand the background of the characters and their relationships with each other. And, second, to bring you into the world that we have created. We have compiled a list of 7 tactics that will help you become part of our world, give you a leg up on the competition and make your friends believe that you moonlight as an amateur detective.

1. Be involved.

The actors will try to engage you. Talk back to them and make them perform for you. Interactive shows can be a little strange if you’ve never experienced one before, but they are a blast if you jump in with both feet. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by the actors. Almost anything you do will be received well, as long as you are not offensive. Pretend the actors are long lost friends and enjoy the ride.

2. Be receptive.

Respond naturally to the actors. The actors will talk to you longer if you are receptive to them.

3. Ask questions.

Ask QuestionsIf you want to solve the murder then you will need to start asking questions from the beginning. Ask the characters about their background. Why are they there? What is their opinion about the other characters? Who do they like? Who do they hate? What do they like to do in their spare time? This is a great chance for you to get insight into the characters and see what they are like so you can watch for more specific things during the performance (Hint: Don’t ask about the murder. The characters will have no idea that a murder will be happening and they won’t answer any question to that end until it actually happens in the progression of the show. So, just don’t do it.)

4. Dress up.

Come dressed up in a costume that fits the theme of the show. You don’t have to wear a whole costume, but perhaps a hat, shirt, dress or some additions that fit the theme. This will help you to become more involved.

5. Come with a group of friends.

murder mystery friendsWhen you are with a bunch of good friends you are able to relax a little more. You are more comfortable interacting and being involved.

6. Don’t take offense.

Remember that the actors will be flirty and try to involve you. Don’t take offense to this, but embrace it. If the actor feels you are timid about them they will likely move on to someone else as they do not want to offend.

7. Enjoy yourself.

Remember that we are here to entertain you. This is a show, enjoy it. Be a part of it.

Do these things and you will have a great time during mingling and maybe even win a prize when you solve the murder. Let us know some of the things that you have done during mingling in the comment section below.

*Special thanks to April Tritchler and Andrew Lenz for helping me put together this list*

3 Most Important Things to Watch for during a Murder Mystery

The three most important things to watch for during a murder mystery.

Do you have trouble solving the murder? Have you ever wondered why some people are able to solve the murder so effortlessly? Here are three activities that will take your murder mystery crime solving ability to the next level.

#1: Keep an eye on the props the actors use.

murder mystery weaponProps play a crucial role in helping the murderer commit his (or her) dirty deed. You need to pay attention to how the characters interact with the props they use. Watch for who comes into contact with items that might be used for the murder. Keep in mind who had access to the weapons and who touched them last.

#2: Pay attention to who is on stage when critical information is presented.

during murder mystery pay attentionThe characters will not have knowledge of everything that goes on during the show. If they are not on stage when certain events happen or when important information is given there is a good chance they will not be able to shed more light on that incident during the questioning period. The characters will also be influenced by the events they are witnesses to. The way they react can give you clues into what they might be thinking.

#3: Keep tabs on the relationships between the characters.

murder mystery relationshipsThroughout the show the relationships between the characters will change and develop. Be cognizant of this. Pay attention to who likes who. Who are enemies? What are the underlying reasons for their enmity? Who would benefit if suddenly one of the others were gone. The characters in our shows develop and change during the course of the evening which causes their relationships to change as well.

If you keep in mind these things as you watch the show and interact with the actors, then it will be easier for you to put the pieces of the mystery together and solve the crime.