Danger in the Garden of Eden: The Making of Bury Me in Paris (Part 1)

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The artists of Montparnasse

“Life is dangerous.  Even in the Garden of Eden.”

Bury Me in Paris premieres on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at 7 p.m. at My Enchanted Cottage and Tea Room (214 W. Ridgecrest Blvd.).  Transforming the Enchanted Garden and its audience into the Left Bank of the Seine and its bohemian revelers is our goal for our 12th Master Mystery Production.  Where did writer/director, Daniel Stallings, find his muse for the show?  What elements from this theme made it into the final product?  What danger do we find in this painter’s paradise?  It’s time to dive into the story on the story in the first of our five-part blog series on the making of Bury Me in Paris.

DANGER IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN: THE MAKING OF BURY ME IN PARIS (PART 1)

The 1920’s saw an era in my genre known as The Golden Age of Detective Fiction.  Starring authors such as Dame Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, the decade and beyond where populated with ingenious detective stories where the crimes were intricate and the detectives were iconic.  It’s an era not only popular with audiences, but for us mystery writers too.  Somehow, the canvas of the Jazz Age is perfect for sleuths, suspects, and sinister happenings.

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Most of my inspirations begin with the venue.  We are returning to My Enchanted Cottage and Tea Room for our third partnership with them and our second time in their Enchanted Garden outdoor dining space.  It’s a beautiful and special venue that creates a perfect blank slate for interactive mysteries of all stripes.  It’s a space both classic and rock-and-roll, beauty with an edge to it, which lends itself to a huge variety of stories and experiences beyond the typical fluffy Victorian/Edwardian.  Why not a story about bohemian artists in Paris?

When the owner suggested a desire to host a gallery show of her art and the fact My Enchanted Cottage was the venue for the extremely popular Uncorked Acrylics, a night of wine and painting with your friends or sweethearts, it seemed the stars had aligned just right for a show about 1920’s Paris and the artists that lived there.

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Paris in the 20’s was full of fascinating personalities.  You had Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Peggy Guggenheim, Man Ray, Kiki de Montparnasse, Piet Mondrian, Salvador Dali, Ezra Pound, D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Marcel Duchamp, Samuel Beckett, Edgar Degas, Edith Wharton, Jean Cocteau, etc. etc. etc. all living in this neighborhood in the period after World War I. The sidewalk cafes were bursting with some of the most creative minds in the 20th century.  Writing about those personalities alone would have been brilliant, but I wanted to play with new characters (so as not to upset the estates of so many great artists).

Montparnasse was a melting pot of cultures, artistic media, and styles.  In designing characters to populate my Parisian neighborhood, I wanted to embrace the wide diversity of personality types available.  So each character began with a sort of role in Montparnasse they needed to fill, and their personalities and backgrounds were fleshed out from there.

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Creating imagery is one of my favorite things and is often a first step for me to really nail down a show concept.  The first image of Bury Me in Paris was a black mustache over a pair of red lips, suggesting a woman wearing a mustache.  Why?  And that’s when I know I have a good image.  It makes me ask questions.  I pictured an artistic and inspiring woman who flouts convention, a bohemian to the core.  The Muse of Montparnasse.  It fit.  Montparnasse was named after the home of the Greek muses in mythology.  Kiki de Montparnasse was a world-famous muse of the period.  So I created Chantal, the Madame Mustache, a muse for all the artists in my slice of Paris.

I had the “Muse” archetype.  Now I needed artists.  Two painters fighting over the genesis of a famous portrait.  “Painter” and “Rival Painter.”  Good.  But more than just painters lived in Paris.  Modernist writers and famous novelists, journalists, and columnists called the city home for a time.  So I added a writer to be a de facto detective of sorts.  Flapper heiresses are always a fun concept and have been found in stories such as Peril at End House by Agatha Christie.  So naturally I had to have one in my show.  It gives the audience a chance to dress up in their flapper finest too.  And since this is the Jazz Age, a jazz musician is par for the course.  To round out the cast, we needed an outsider, a fish out of water to be the audience’s eyes and ears to the strange and magical world of Montparnasse.

“Muse”

“Painter”

“Rival”

“Writer”

“Flapper”

“Musician”

“Outsider”

And there was the basic skeleton for our cast of bohemians.  When you work with such a fast turn-around from show to show, nailing down quick basics is best to finish within a deadline.  These simple character types are fleshed out and become more human and three-dimensional as I work through the writing stage, the editing stage, and the production stage.  Perhaps you can already visualize the sort of conflicts that will arise among these characters.

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With these bones, I can start fleshing out the characters and plot and relationships.  Designing the mystery is always the most important part, so I often start there when I start plotting.  Everything else is worked out through outlines, character briefs, synopses, summaries, and scripting.

Bury Me in Paris was designed to be filled with a sort of tempting danger.  It’s not an intense family drama like Goodbye Hollywood nor is it wacky and hilarious like The Last Garden Party.  It’s a sexier kind of drama, one designed to tempt you with luxury and glamour and decadence.  Set in one of the most fabulous decades known to modern man, Bury Me in Paris was written to exemplify an era of fun, frivolity, and festivity while maintaining a smooth, sharp edge that makes you feel like anything can happen.

And anything does.

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Swing, baby. Swing.

The Roaring Twenties were a landmark decade for women.  The interplay between the masculine and the feminine became more indistinct, and blending the two became not just a fashion statement, but a social revolution.  Find our how Bury Me in Paris visually plays with this notion to celebrate the bohemian life in Masculine vs. Feminine: The Making of Bury Me in Paris (Part 2).

Don’t forget to buy your tickets here!  We would love to see you at our show!

–Master Mystery Productions

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