If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Check out our February author interviews: 2/7-debut author Keenan Powell (Alaskan lawyer), 2/14-Leslie Wheeler (Rattlesnake Hill), 2/21-bestselling author Krista Davis, who unveils a new series, 2/28-Diane Vallere answers my questions about Pajama Frame. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our February Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 2/3-Saralyn Richard, 2/10-Kathryn Lane. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 2/17, and Kait Carson on 2/24.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Play's the Thing!

Last week, I treated an out of town guest to a performance of the play, Shear Madness, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It is the longest running non-musical play in American theater, winning numerous awards including the Mystery Writers of America Raven Award. I debated about seeing this play since my friend doesn’t enjoy reading books and probably has never read a mystery. (Truly horrifying!) But I took a chance that she would enjoy a comedy-whodunit that lets the audience interact with the actors to solve a murder.

The stage set was a contemporary unisex hair salon decorated in neon pink and blue. In the beginning the music was peppy and loud, foreshadowing the frenetic pace of the performance that followed. Then six characters--two hair stylists and four clients in need of their services—entered the salon at various times. Being a comedy, there were several scenes of distracted stylists cutting hair and shaving (nicking) a client’s cheek. At one point I was splattered with water since we were sitting in the front row near the salon sink.

Toward the end of the first half, a female concert pianist living over the salon was found stabbed to death with hair scissors. We never saw the victim but through conversation snippets learned how her life intertwined with people in the hair salon--who all had strong motives for killing the woman. So, whodunit?

At this point, the detective/actor questioned each suspect then asked the audience to yell out inconsistencies in their stories. I was very surprised when my friend pointed out a number of misstatements by the suspects as well as overlooked clues. During intermission, one couple asked if we were actors planted in the audience since my friend was just like “Nancy Drew.” (Perhaps playing an amateur detective will inspire her to actually read a mystery. I can only hope.)

During the second half, the detective asked the suspects to reconstruct their actions leading up to the crime. Since the first half was a series of chaotic scenes, I admit that it was difficult for me to remember in what order events occurred. Not so with my friend. She nailed what each person did and when. Not to be outdone, I pointed out that the detective missed a pair of discarded gloves with red (perhaps blood) on the fingertips. In the end, the murderer was caught and it was nicely wrapped up with a twist.
After the play finished, I mulled…after thirty years, why does this play continue to be popular in the U.S. and cities around the world? Clearly, my non-reading, non-mystery loving friend enjoyed watching and actively participating. I think part of the winning formula is the somewhat improvised dialogue and fluid storyline ensuring no performances are exactly alike. Yet, it’s more than that. Maybe it's successful because people truly enjoy a challenge? Or, perhaps it’s because they become an integral part of a process to bring about a satisfying ending?  I don’t know the answer, but I’d like to know their secret and use it in my writing.

What do you think is the best way to keep a reading audience engaged? Have you attended a murder mystery party or play?


E. B. Davis said...

I also took a friend to see Shear Madness when she came into visit me in NOVA, outside of D. C. Not only is the play a wonderful whodunnit, but seeing a play at the Kennedy Center is always a pleasure. At intermission, there are drink vendors in the lobby. You can stroll on the large balcony, which overlooks the Potomac River. Upstream, the lights of Georgetown are visible. It's a stunning sight and one of the best to take out-of-town guests to see. I hope you had a spectacular evening, Kara. I know Sallie and I had a blast!

Kara Cerise said...

Thank you, E.B., we had a terrific time. The Kennedy Center truly is a gem and a wonderful place to take guests. The evening was particularly memorable because my friend enjoyed a mystery!

Warren Bull said...

I've seen the play also. The actors were great at picking up suggestive questions from the audience that they wove into the resolution.

Gloria Alden said...

I've never seen that play. I wish I could. I do go to a lot of community theater plays and many of them are mysteries. I always enjoy them. I've also attended a half dozen dinner/mystery events, too. I love those especially since I'm usually able to pick out the guilty person. I even won a weekend with dinner and breakfast at a local inn once.

LD Masterson said...

I've not seen this play but we have a mystery dinner theater near here and I love going. The audience fills out little forms on whodunit, how, and why, and some of the guesses (read by the cast after the play) are even better than the play.

Kara Cerise said...

Warren, I was also impressed how quickly the actors were able to improvise and weave comments into the resolution. That’s a useful skill for an actor or writer.

Kara Cerise said...

Gloria, it must have been fun to win a weekend at an inn because you figured it out whodunit. The perks of being a mystery writer! Your friends probably knew you would pick out the guilty person.

Kara Cerise said...

LD, I wish we had a mystery dinner theater near my house like the one in your area. I would love going, too.

People can be so creative. A couple members in our audience came up with some outstanding theories.