Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre

Originally published on November 9, 2018 in The Holcad Student Newspaper. 

On Saturday, November 10, Theatre Westminster will host its first ever Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre in Berlin Lounge. Mystery dinners have become increasingly popular within the last decade. Essentially, they are plays at which diners are invited to help solve a mystery, usually involving a murder, as they eat dinner and watch the show. Actors usually interact with the audience and often improvise certain parts of the show. Theatre professor Karen Dabney explained that when she asked theatre students at the end of last semester what type of special event programming they might want, “many students threw out the idea of a dinner theatre geared towards Westminster students.”

This murder mystery will focus on a small group of people involved in a community theatre group. The play will be set a few days before the opening of their new show, and the production will not be fully prepared. “People won’t have their lines or blocking down, and some will be distracted by new love while others by marital trouble” Dabney continued. The audience will get to watch these scenes unfold while enjoying a three-course dinner. Towards the end of the evening, audience members will be able to ask characters different questions in order to help solve the mystery of who was murdered.

Dabney explained that there are five student actors in the main cast: three student actors giving eyewitness accounts of the murder to the audience, and two students running the technical aspects of the show.

Theatre Westminster will also be partnering with Sodexo during this event to provide the dining services, but also to fundraise for the Stop Hunger foundation. Dabney and the other theatre faculty were already planning the dinner theatre when Sodexo reached out to them inquiring about creating a fundraiser to run alongside the dinner. Dabney explained that the group met early in the semester to work out the details and to find a way to make sure the dinner fundraiser was “accessible for students to attend and afford while also providing ways to collect money for the Stop Hunger foundation.”

The group achieved this goal by allowing students to use their dine dollars to pay for the dinner and by planning several raffles for the event in order to raise extra money. Some of the raffle prizes include a movie night basket, a gourmet basket, and a Bath and Body Works prize, but their flyers list that there are more raffles to win.

The menu for the night includes a fresh market house salad with ranch or Italian dressings as the first course, penne with house marinara and Italian meatballs, a side of California blend vegetables, and fresh-baked rolls as the second course, and a choice of either Dutch crumb apple pie or pumpkin pie for the third course. There will also be iced tea, ice water and coffee as refreshments.

When asked what part of the dinner theatre she was most excited for, Dabney exclaimed, “All of it! I think interactive theatre is an exciting experience, even if it means simply having actors weave in and around the tables while performing and letting the audience engage the actors with questions at the end. Watching people delight in live theatre in a non-traditional setting is so amazing to experience. We’re also taking a different approach to the rehearsal of the performance, focusing more on the overall experience and less about refining blocking or intense character analysis. It’s more about the fun of an evening of theatre.”

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