The Last Garden Party, the eighth production from Master Mystery Productions, will debut this July at My Enchanted Cottage, and, contrary to the title, will actually be the first garden party murder mystery for MMP and My Enchanted Cottage’s brand-new Enchanted Garden space. But how did writer/director, Daniel Stallings, envision this Victorian tale of gaffs, guffaws, and greed? What were his inspirations? And how will these lords and ladies come to life? Enjoy our unfolding four-part series on The Making of The Last Garden Party.
END OF AN EMPIRE: THE MAKING OF THE LAST GARDEN PARTY (PART 1)
The Last Garden Party will take my audiences further into history than I have ever done before–from the modern day Mojave Desert to the English Countryside at the turn of the twentieth century, the end of Victoria’s empire.
I like to take inspiration from the venue I work in. My Enchanted Cottage is a charming tea shop, complete with a tea room that serves high tea. Their brand-new Enchanted Garden space will provide outdoor seating in a beautiful patio setting. This space made an exciting venue for a new interactive mystery. And I drew the theme–with the client’s approval–straight from this new venue.
When I think classy garden parties and high tea, I dream up the Victorian and Edwardian eras. A time of peace, prosperity, and propriety. Where etiquette was king and the aristocracy was the social high point, ripe for riffing by cheeky writers of the popular press. And I am no exception.
Another inspiration was The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. An extremely popular play of the Victorian age. I wanted to write a lighthearted, funny mystery that poked fun of the fussiness and fustiness of the British aristocrats of the age. Wild wit and tongue-teaser lines that rattled off the most ridiculous rules of polite society.
All of this had to balance out with modern audiences and still tell the story (and sprinkle clues) about this mystery of a skeleton popping up like a toadstool in Lady Walliscroft’s croquet lawn. Audiences had to be able to solve the mystery at the end of the play. So creating the balance between the drama of a murder and the hilarity of these eccentric characters was crucial to the success of the script.
Another inspiration–although not of the same period–is the mystery novel Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie. Her mystery was a crime of psychology. There are very few physical clues and all the suspects have the same opportunity to commit the murder. With the script being a standard play and the difficulty of reproducing a full croquet lawn crime scene in our venue, I set out to design a mystery that depended on knowing who these characters were, something naturally gauged from the performance. Solving the crime will rely heavily on understanding the natures of all the characters and who they are in the play.
Want a free tip on solving The Last Garden Party? Read Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie. Understanding how Hercule Poirot handled his mystery can be a great boon to discovering how to handle my twisted little tale.
The Last Garden Party has given me a lot of joy to write and direct as the summertime air is filled with laughter and good vibes. I can’t wait to share it with all of you and see just who’s clever enough to catch the killer before the teapots are empty.
That’s the story on the birth of the show. But what sort of surprises does the author have in store for his audience? Let’s just say you’ll be seeing double in the second part of The Making of The Last Garden Party: Good vs. Evil.
–Master Mystery Productions