Welcome to Post Mortem!  This is where Master Mystery Productions looks back on the performance of its most recent show.

Weird Weekend 2016, a two-day celebration of the strange and surreal sponsored by Ridge Writers, provided the backdrop for the ninth Master Mystery Production, Pauper’s Grave, a Gothic adventure set in the haunted English village of Crow’s Killing.  Written and designed by Daniel Stallings and C. R. Rowenson, the show transformed a humble church meeting room one September night into a Gothic landscape with tombstone-lined walls, gorgeous black-and-white decor, a Gibbet Tree offering chocolates, and four powerful families vying for power in the village.  But a murdered gravedigger, a missing corpse, and a defiled pauper’s grave turned this power struggle into a fight for survival.

Big, happy “families”

What a night!  What a blast!  In a beautifully designed space both Gothic and glamorous, guests became members of these four families–the Masons, the Smiths, the Fletchers, and the Carpenters.  Working within their families, they had to shield their secrets while attempting to ferret out the secrets of the other families to try and dig up the truth of the mystery.  We wanted a bit of improv as the families embraced their identities and closed ranks while choosing carefully what information to barter with the others.

Smiths trying to negotiate with Carpenters.

Secrets were currency.  All information came with a price.  Quid pro quo.  We wanted our audience to embrace their family identity and work to add to the drama and excitement by keeping secrets at bay, forging alliances, and crafting deals with other families.  We wanted accusations, rebuttals, defenses, etc.  Did we accomplish this?

Full house

It was better than we could have dreamed.  Our audience fully embraced the show.  Within moments, they lived up to their family identity–Masons lording over the proceedings, Smiths (their right-hand family) forging an alliance, Carpenters at odds with the Masons. They traded accusations and suspicions and conspiracies, but all with a twinkle in the eye and a sense of humor.  No one got hurt and no one went too far.  They had fun with their roles, and the room was filled with excited, fervent conversation.

The Test of Moral Strength
The Test of True Love
The Test of Blind Faith (Photo courtesy of Janis Kunz)

Over three Gothic-themed challenges, family members got to compete in puzzles for important clues to solve the mystery.   Could they figure out the correct price of family secrets to learn more about the crime scene?  Could they organize a lover’s letters without any time clues to guide them?  Could they reach into an open grave and divine the secrets within?  They did, and their success added to the joy and fun in the room that night.  Way to go, teams!

Tombstone wall


After claiming the innocence of several teams (with a few surprises), our four families placed their theories about whodunnit, how, and why.  In the end, it was the Smith family who emerged triumphant as the winners of Pauper’s Grave.

And to reward an amazing volunteer who designed and executed the fabulous decorations and buffet and really helped upscale the show beyond all expectations, Julie Bradford took home the Skeleton Key Award for all her fantastic work.  Thank you so much, Julie!  You were superb!

Congratulations, Julie!

So what can you expect from our next mystery adventure?  We take on the Internet in our first ever online interactive mystery. From the comfort of your own home, you can solve the mystery of six colorful friends who are wrapped up in a deadly parlor game for the chance to win a wonderful prize package.  Instagram becomes our new performance platform in October in…


The game begins October 10th at manneliesemedia on Instagram.  Spread the word!

–Master Mystery Productions

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