Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Murder Mystery Dinner Theater

I go to a strange church with a long name: Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community. It is crazy, vibrant, and awesome. It is often disorganized and chaotic. It doesn't shy away from controversy. It is constantly changing. It is full of people who love each other, even when they don't agree. Sometimes especially when they don't agree. It took me a while to get used to how loose and spontaneous things can be there, but now I  am proud to say Hot Metal is my home.

I spent a good chunk of time there at the end of February preparing for a special annual fundraiser. In 2008 we started a relationship with a community in the Chiapas region of Mexico. Every year, we send a group South for an intense mission trip. I will never have the chutzpah to join them. Lucky for me, just about every year we support them by hosting a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. That I can do. Our pastors met at acting school, so theatrics are a part of our church's heritage. Also, we don't take ourselves too seriously. I think that's important if you're going to joke about death over food.

This year's setting was a circus freak show. Here is our writer/director/sound engineer Rv. Jim Walker explaining to the audience what's about to happen:

Photo by Tammy Weins (Swiped from Facebook)

Check out those set flats! They were all painted by artist, church handy-man, expert do-gooder (and my neighbor): Dylan Rooke. I joked with my housemates about having him paint the living room like that. I was only half-kidding.

The first act of the show was all about establishing the setting and meeting the quirky characters. Here's my mug-shot:

Photo by Jim Walker
I played Tulip Marcella; wife of the ring-master. She was sort of like Miss Piggy, but without any redeeming qualities. And here's the whole cast in that unavoidable mush-together pose:

Photo by Jim Walker

At intermission, the audience was fed a delicious Pittsburgh-style dinner made from scratch. After the plates were cleared way, the second act began. That's where the fun really started. Pretty much everyone on stage spent the second act finding a reason to want to "off" the main character:

Photo by Jim Walker

Dennis Bateman took up the mantle of pretend murder victim this year as Georgio Marcella, the ring-leader of a failing freak show. He delivered the demanding role with pizzazz despite a nasty head-cold. The show ended with a literal "bang" as Georgio staggered onto the stage covered in soot from the explosion of four cartoon-style bombs.

After the show, dessert was served while murder suspects wandered from table to table giving their defense. The audience used these statements to track Georgio's final moments on a paper map. The first table to correctly guess the murder was awarded gift certificates to a local restaurant. To avoid temptation, only Pastor Jim knew who the real culprit was. I was surprised (mostly) to find that the first night's murderer was little old me. That was momentarily terrifying, but ultimately a blast.

My house came to see the second performance, and I'm proud to say I didn't let slip that it had been me before. It's never the same murderer twice. I'm even prouder to say that they came in second-place even without insider tips. That time, the mermaid did it. (By the way, major props to the costume volunteers for pulling off a mermaid costume. Holy heck, folks.) I'm sorry I don't have a good picture of the mermaid costume right now. I'll search my camera later to be sure I didn't get one myself.

After the second, and final performance; I went out to karaoke at a local bar with the house, the mermaid, a magician, a dancing bear, her keeper, the spectre of death, and conjoined twin bank-robbers. It was the perfect way to unwind after a crazy time at my crazy church.

Photo by Carrie Oakley (Swiped from Facebook)

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