Writing a mystery can be like a chess problem. You have all of these pieces–suspects, clues, crime scenes, etc.–waiting for your command to move them around the story. What will be your opening gambit? Who will you sacrifice for the goal of the story? How will you reach checkmate? It’s a tricky little puzzle that takes thought, inspiration, imagination, and a little bit of luck. Writing an interactive mystery amps up the chess problem. You have to create your strategy for play, and then come up with a skeleton strategy for audiences while still maintaining some flexibility. Because you never know what might happen. Reinventing how the audience plays the game is what keeps Master Mystery Productions interesting. No two shows are exactly alike. So what inspirations did we draw upon to make our latest interactive adventure? Writer/director, Daniel Stallings, will tell us how a board game turned TV show inspired a new form of gameplay.
OPENING GAMBIT: THE MAKING OF ODE TO AGATHA (Part 2)
Whenever we create a Master Mystery Production, we try to take what we’ve learned from our past mysteries and improve upon our original model. We try to innovate and re-imagine what a traditional interactive mystery is. This means coming up with new or reinventing old styles of gameplay.
One thing we hadn’t been able to do yet is have the guests interrogate the suspects. We had yet to find a system of questioning that allowed our characters to really shine, but still kept the flow of the story keep moving forward. We wanted our guests to experience the complexity of actors’ performances on an entirely new level. We wanted them to engage with the characters and ask them the questions we knew they wanted to ask.
What we found as an inspiration was a British game show from the 90’s called Cluedo. As in Cluedo the board game, first created in Great Britain in the 1950’s. In the United States, we would know this game as Clue. Cluedo, the TV series, was a game show where pairs, often celebrities, would essentially play a game of Clue and try to guess whodunnit, with what weapon, and where the murder took place. But the show added new details such as live actors, prerecorded scenes in a large country estate, character development, and different victims and weapons. But the basic goal of Cluedo was the same. Was it Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with the candlestick? That was for you to figure out.
Part One of Season 1, Episode 1 of Cluedo
For Ode to Agatha, all we used was the way they played the game, and we adapted and changed it to suit our show. Instead of pairs, we divided our whole audience into teams inspired by Agatha Christie stories. With totally original characters and an original story inspired by The Mysterious Affair at Styles, guests will watch a drama unfold about Simone Davenport and her greedy heirs and unexpected visitors. Afterwards, she will return from the dead to serve as the emcee for the game, crying out to the audience to avenge her murder. Then the suspects will emerge, ready for questioning. As the questions progress, additional evidence will be uncovered, more secrets and scenes of drama will unfold, and deductions will be made. But instead of who, with what, and where, it will be the standard MMP formula of Who, How, and Why? In the end, the truth will out, and one team will walk away victorious.
The real magic of Ode to Agatha will be in the improvised, yet imaginative responses of our suspects as they face the third degree from the guests and the snarky comments from their fellow characters. Our characters will trade insults with each other, expose scandals, and generally make hilarious references throughout the show . You never know what will come out of our actors’ mouths. We’re expecting laughs, oohs, ahhs, and plenty of great memories at Ode to Agatha. If you’re ready to win, sharpen those detective skills and get your questions ready. We’ll be ready for you. It’s all about how you play the game.
So just who are the suspects on this twisted little tale of murder, deceit, and quintessential British hospitality? Who will be grilled by our cunning detectives? Learn all about the characters of Ode to Agatha and what their actors have to say about them in our next behind-the-scenes post, Poisonous Personalities: The Making of Ode to Agatha (Part 3).
And don’t forget your tickets at Red Rock Books! Seating is limited, and we’d hate for you to miss out on all the fun!
–Master Mystery Productions