Chamber readies for Mystery Theatre

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Between the recent Canebrake Players’ performance of “Cheaper by the Dozen” and the upcoming U.S. Jones production of “Annie,” it’s a good time for the theater in Demopolis. And soon, the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce will be getting in on the act.

The Chamber is joining forces with the Marengo County Historical Society to hold the third edition of Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre March 16 and April 6 at the Demopolis Civic Center. The mystery is entitled “Poetic Justice,” and from the description provided by Chamber Events and Tourism director Kelley Smith, it should prove to provide guests with plenty of excitement and fun.

“The characters are all personalities from 1922,” Smith said, “who have materialized in a modern-day London apartment thanks to H.G. Wells’s time machine. The characters are all famous people like Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, Rudolph Valentino, Dorothy Parker in the present day. And then somebody gets murdered.”

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The excitement of Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre, Smith said, comes as much from what happens off the stage, though, as from what happens on.

“The guests at a Mystery Dinner Theatre are interactive,” she said. “Everyone sits down at a table and receives a program with a brief overview that tells them the setting, the timeframe, details to look for, that sort of thing. During the performance the actors are sometimes on stage, they come out in the audience, they talk to guests…they do a little bit of everything. The audience can pick up clues, and at the end of the show they fill out a sheet saying who they thought was the murderer.”

Audience members who guess the murderer’s identity correctly can win prizes. An additional draw for this performance, Smith said, will be the opportunity to interact with approximately 30 out-of-town guests of the city.

“There is a group called Deep South Tours that run bus tours from Atlanta to New Orleans,” she said, “and stop at all the different large and small towns on the way…From what I understand, at first they just used Demopolis as a bathroom break on the way to Meridian. But then they discovered Bluff Hall and some of our other historical attractions, and started spending some time here. We pitched the idea to them of staying overnight here instead of Meridian, and now they do five times a year.”

With the need to both raise funds and entertain the city’s guests, Smith said the idea of doing another Murder Mystery Theatre came naturally. But that doesn’t mean the event’s execution comes as easily.

“We’re very thankful for our volunteers from the Chamber, the Historic Society, and the Canebrake Players, who play our main roles,” she said. “Finding volunteers and tracking down costumes are the main hurdles to putting on the show.”

“Poetic Justice” will begin at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are $20 each. The ticket price includes dinner and all proceeds will benefit the Chamber and the Historical Society. The current dates are rescheduled from the original date of March 4; anyone who had already purchased a ticket for March 4 can use their ticket for either new date. To purchase a ticket, contact the Chamber at 334-289-0270 or the Historical Society at 334-289-9644.