Friday, April 25, 2014

ARRRRGH! A Pirate Murder Mystery … and Dinner

As writers, we each have a favorite genre or two, and maybe one or two comfortable formats we gravitate to. I tend to lean toward Thrillers and Mysteries for the novel and short story formats, and I generally reserve essays for Humor. Now, as far as formats go, I didn't really think about them all that much, but a week or so ago, a friend of mine said:
“Hey! You’re a writer….”
I looked around to see who he was talking to.
“Think you’d like a pirate murder-mystery?”

Turns out he was talking about a dinner play. Now I've been to exactly one play, not counting the ones forced on me in high school. I've never written a play because plays aren't really my thing, but Mark went on to tell me that the play was being put on by the Brewmaster/Owner of The Heavy Seas Brewery here in Baltimore. Mark is a beer aficionado and knows a good beer when he drinks one … or two … or….

... as I was saying....

Come to find out they were having the play in the Heavy Seas Alehouse downtown on Bank St., a brand new watering hole touting Baltimore’s rich nautical history. The play was themed around—you guessed it—pirates. It sounded like fun, so Maggie and I joined Mark and Debbie for a mid-week night out.

We arrived a little early, so we moseyed up to the bar and caught up on stuff. The interior was immaculate and maintained a Caribbean ambiance with rich dark wood, sturdy furniture, and a metal front door so heavy that it took a fair amount of strength to open. It boasted the brewery’s flagship beverage on tap, and for my money, I found the venue pleasant, fresh, and comfortable.

Debbie and Mark are beta reading my next novel, and we discussed writing and other mundane things over a couple beers as we waited for things to get started. The play, Huge Done It? A Pirate Murder Mystery, was written by Adam Mack, produce by The Murder Mystery Company, and performed by local actors, who just happened to be milling about in costume minutes before we were ushered into the Captain’s Lounge for the play. Little did we suspect that some of us would have roles as well.

Anne Bonnie
According to Maggie, who loves researching just about everything, the actors scrutinize the audience for specific qualities before the show begins to see who they can shanghai to fill out “audience” character roles. No sooner than we were seated, the cast—Capt’n One-Eyed Willie (Steven Foote), Capt’n Long Jane Silver (Jess Rivera (Yes, Jane. This gal was a hoot!)) and Lady Pirate Anne Bonnie (Alexandra Goldstein)—began roaming through the small audience assigning roles to the unsuspecting. 

Steven Foote
Capt'n One-Eyed Willie
Jess Rivera
Capt'n Long Jane Silver
Alexandra Goldstein
Lady Pirate Anne Bonnie 

Doctor A.R. & Capt'n Kidd

They zeroed in on Mark and me right away, gave us name-tags and hats to identify who we were, and a dossier with everything we'd need to become characters in the play. Mark starred as Captain Kidd (the first murder victim), and I played Doctor A.R., pronounced ARRRRGH! In fact, there was so much ARRRRGH going on that night, I woke up this morning still ARRRRGH-ing and agitating the dogs to no end.

Each character had a bio, and secrets … lots of secrets … and the rule was that if someone asked a question during the investigation of these heinous crimes, we couldn't lie. But we could say nothing … unless bribed with Buccaneer Bucks. 

In actuality, the cast, staying in character, functioned more as actor/directors, setting the tone and directing the play where they wanted it to go, keeping it on track while guiding the audience/players. Out of about thirty people, ten were recruited” for roles and no one declined—it just looked like too much fun.

Doctor A.R., Anne Bonnie, One-Eye'd Willy,
and Capt'n Kidd (deceased).
As I mentioned earlier, each character had a bio and lots of secrets known only to them. Mine, for example, was a fear of touching dead people and “winging it” when it came to Cause of Death. Not a good phobia for a doctor to have. I was a bilge rat, a scallywag, a scoundrel, and the two actresses referred to me as a scurvy dog the whole night. At first, I thought they actually knew me from my single days. Then, somewhere around the main entrée, it dawned on me that each of these roles had rich and complex characteristics and foibles that entwined with each other. Every character was connected to every other character in some manner, and usually not in a good way.

This little play contained all the necessary elements a good story must have: plot, setting, conflict, character flaws, motivation, opportunity, infidelity (implied), betrayal, and all that goes with them. The writer could easily replace last night’s murderer (Blind Hugh, who wasn't blind at all, by the way) and replace him with any other character without a lot of re-writing. Each character was created with reasons to want to kill another character.

Aye! ... Brilliant!  

So there ye have it, matey! I won’t be gettin’ into the rest of it, other than to say that if ye ever get the chance to see one of these intimate little dinner plays, ye should. Aye, they be good clean wholesome fun for your entire crew, and something most out of the ordinary.

Oh, I totally forgot to mention … I took home the Best Actor award as well.


Best Regards,

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