Saturday, April 30, 2016

What Slays in Vegas: Mystery Dinner Theatre
by and for Episcopalians

Director/Author’s Note for the Program of What Slays in Vegas
Talk about gambling!  Six years ago, St. James’ Episcopal Church Women bet their biggest fund-raiser on my assurance that amateurs could create a murder – mystery – comedy from foibles in our own church and community.  It worked once, and again two years later.

But every writer fears that the lucky streak will end.  When the actors for tonight’s show met with me in August, we had little to work with, aside from  Suzanne Swann’s notion that the choir might get a gig in Las Vegas.  We had news of spats over sports arenas going up around Atlanta. We had closings of venerable theatres in Marietta.  We had an actress from Brooklyn.

That was enough.    The actors anted up, placing on the table their characters’ backgrounds, hopes, and reactions to anyone who gets in the way.   From those we built a play up to the discovery of the body.  We unanimously elected DeeGee Reisinger “victim” for the third time.  (Congratulations, DeeGee!)   In December, actors fanned out across the campus looking for clues:  during the time of the crime, who saw whom, doing what?  We figured out “whodunit” and finished the script just in time for rehearsals in March.

The ladies of the ECW have indulged our every whim, turning the Parish Hall into a casino, obtaining a sound system, getting us a great technical director in Bill Eubanks.  It’s been my pleasure to work with these characters, and with the actors who created them.  Whatever happens tonight, I know I’ve hit the jackpot.

See my photo collage of the show. 

Promotional Slides for the Show
Synopsis of What Slays in Vegas
It’s casino night at St. Martin’s-by-the-Chicken to fund the choir’s trip to Las Vegas. But an ex-chorister crashes the party to promote sale of the church to build a sports arena. Minutes later, she’s pegged through the heart with a croquet mallet. Who did it? Her resentful boy toy? His jealous ex? The diva? The socialite? The domineering Verger? The scheming former flower child? The Yankee with a sketchy past? When police are detained, it’s up to the Kindergarten teacher, with audience help, to discover whodunit!
Is there a conflict between Christian mission and doing comedies based on murder?
Links to more in-depth reflections on the previous two plays:
Church and Theatre: Laughing Matters?
Mystery Dinner Theatre for Episcopalians: Post-Mortem.

Photos by Kevin Triebsch, from top:
Trio sings "Onward Christian Soldiers" in my Las Vegas arrangement, l-r Tonya Grimmke, Mary Nimsgern, Suzanne Swann, and, barely visible, understudy Deb Kemp.

Scott Smoot as "Percival Darcy III" discovering his old 7th grade girl friend.

DeeGee Reisinger as "Gabby Krueger, real estate developer."

Mother and daughter Tonya and Emma Grimmke before the show posed in character as "Addie Haden" the choir-and-kitchen director and "Duh" the teen volunteer.  Decorations provided by the Episcopal Church Women of St. James' Marietta.

Mary Nimsgern as "Marilyn DuVain Gross," enacting a speech from her one-woman musical about Queen Elizabeth I, "Hello Raleigh."

The role of "Serena Nightingale" was created four years ago by Leslie Thompson, and reprised triumphantly on Friday.  Leslie fell ill on Saturday, and theatre student Deb Kemp took on the role with fifty minutes' notice, reading from the script and sight-singing the trio.

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