Post Mortem: THE SILENT CITY

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Ridgecrest 2063

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

September 23, 2017 was the final day of Ridge Writers’ fifth annual Weird Weekend, and, by nightfall, we had moved the clock forward nearly fifty years to the year 2063.  The Indian Wells Valley, sealed off by a massive quarantine, razor-wire fences, blockades, and drone patrols, became the centerpiece of our fifteenth Master Mystery Production.  As a group of independent seekers of truth try to breach the quarantine around Ridgecrest, they’ll soon learn why The Silent City isn’t so silent after all.  Especially when the screaming starts.

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Set design

“The Silent City is famous among conspiracy theorists the world over. You and your fellows in The Group are the first in nearly a decade to do anything about it.”

The Silent City was a creative adventure for Master Mystery Productions, allowing (and sometimes forcing) us to be innovative and experimental in how we approached this show.  The story writer C. R. Rowenson re-imagined the traditional interactive “whodunnit” as a “whatdidit”–a mystery where the audience had to figure out what happened to the city instead of who caused it.  It was a new tone for MMP as well, a goal C. R. Rowenson wanted to achieve.  He wanted to see how far he could go.  After brainstorming with his writing colleagues on the Alive and Writing Podcast, he got to work envisioning his future world. The final product blended mystery, science fiction, and horror in a brilliant and inventive way.

Alive and Writing Podcast featuring C. R. Rowenson, Chautona Havig, and April Hayman

Cast List
Cast List

Another thing we got to do was bring back the art of voice acting in our shows.  Our super talented and multi-award-winning cast of actors took the challenge by the horns and worked extremely hard over a very brisk span of three weeks to perfect their performances.  We worked on sound effects from rustling plants to knives to crunching bones.  And, recording at a kitchen table, we brought the Indian Wells Valley of the future to life.

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Full house!

On the day of the show, all of our elements–set design, audio, documents, and games–came together for our full house of attentive and invested guests.  They were ready and willing to join in as The Group and hoped they would be able to solve the mystery.  The audience divided themselves into seven teams, each designated by a letter of the alphabet.  Surrounded by reclaimed and retro-fitted technology of bygone eras, The Group learned what they had to do: to analyze evidence and provide reconnaissance to the field team entering the city.  But there were a few twists.  They had to complete a series of themed challenges, almost like an escape room, to earn clues and timed advantages.  If they won their challenge, everyone in The Group received the clue immediately.  If they failed, they wouldn’t get it until the very end.  Time was of the essence, and time was the prize.

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Using light to unscramble a coded password

“This is a national emergency.  Important instructions will follow.”

After listening to ever-terrifying Emergency Alert System evacuation broadcasts detailing the abandonment of the valley and a rage-fueled podcast by someone wanting the world to pay attention to what was happening, the Group began their work.  There were four consoles: a communications console, a decryption console, a monitor console, and a chronology console.  Each was a different puzzle.  Could they repair a radio tower using simple blueprints?  Could they unscramble a coded password?  Could they discover a source of fresh water?  Interspersed throughout were messages from the field team about their progress, each transmission more horrifying than the last.  As the tension built, could our teams succeed in all their tests?

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Examining the withered skull

They did.  We had a wonderful audience who were raring to go.  Each team successfully solved their challenges, sometimes even down to the wire.  The room would burst into cheers when we announced that a team had won.  They knew each success brought them one step closer to the truth.  But as the situation of the field team went from scary to soul-searing terrifying, it lent a soft, sober atmosphere to the final challenges.  People were dying out there.  Why?

The audience had to figure that out.

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Cast Art by Devanne Fredette

At the end of the show, communication with the field team was sharply severed, leaving nothing but ghostly static and the memories of frightened screams.  There were no more clues to earn.  It was the audience versus the twisted imagination of C. R. Rowenson.  They had to figure out what happened to the Indian Wells Valley.  And did they?

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C. R. Rowenson delivering the solution

Three teams came agonizingly close to the truth.  It was down to a tie breaker to determine the winner of The Silent City.  Team B was finally declared the victors of our show and their table erupted in applause.

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Solving a puzzle

Lots more applause was to follow as we observed our MMP tradition of awards at curtain call.  The award we presented was our cherished Skeleton Key Award for Service Above and Beyond given to members of the production who have dedicated themselves and their hard work, energy, and passion to bringing a show to life.  It’s more than just showing up.  It’s exceeding expectations in every possible way.  It’s a difficult award to win, but is always most deserved by those who do win it.  Massive congratulations to Devanne Fredette for winning the Skeleton Key Award for The Silent City, her fourth Master Mystery Production!

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Award for The Silent City
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Congratulations Devanne!

Continuing to redefine and re-engineer what an interactive mystery can be is what Master Mystery Productions left behind that night.  It wasn’t an expected mystery, and that’s what made it fun to create and a blast to share.  The crowd had a fantastic time and the frantic energy of “let’s figure this out” and intelligent discussion and wonderful theories made the show even more special.  A huge thank you to C. R. Rowenson for imagining new possibilities for our company, to Ridge Writers for giving us this opportunity year after year, to our genius cast and crew, and to our lovely audience for joining us on this amazing journey.  Another shining success for Master Mystery Productions!  We’re having our best year yet!

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A little quarantine humor at the front door.  Everyone is welcome here!

But there’s still a few surprises left for 2017.  Very shortly, we’ll be announcing the release of our first at-home mystery, an interactive murder mystery you can play at home!  Now you can throw a party anywhere in the world and have Master Mystery Productions give you one heck of a mystery.  Stay tuned for that.

And shortly after that, we’ll present our final show of the year, a return to our first ever clients.  The Red Hat Ladies of Bakersfield are holding a Halloween fashion show and Master Mystery Productions is providing the body and the evidence in a murder mystery where both the fashion and the crime are killer in our sixteenth Master Mystery Production…

FEMME FATALES

We’ll be having a model casting on Saturday, September 30th from 2 to 4 p.m. at Red Rock Books in Ridgecrest.  We need a woman to play Willow, the fashion model, in several high fashion shots for the show.  Photographer, Michelle Stallings, will be leading the casting.  More information will be shared soon.

Thank you everyone!  We’re jazzed for the future!

–Master Mystery Productions

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