Without words, we would have no stories to tell. But words are sometimes dangerous. In out nineteenth Master Mystery Production, Famous Last Words, the words are everything. They are story. They are testimony. They are evidence. They are convictions. Words are powerful tools in our arsenal, and at Famous Last Words, we use them to our advantage. Writer/director, Daniel Stallings, will talk to us all about how he dreamed up the story behind this new mystery from MMP.
BUT WORDS WILL NEVER HURT ME: The Making of Famous Last Words (Part 1)
Coming up with a story for Famous Last Words was a bit tricky as we wanted it to blend with the book signing being held for Sunny Side Up in a way that didn’t feel out of place. So the choice was to set the story in the present day in a bookstore at a signing to make sure it all worked together. But as to the story itself, that took a lot more thinking.
A key inspiration that popped in my head when writing the play was the ancient story of the six blind men and the elephant. Each would assess a different part of the elephant and assume it was an entirely different object. A tail became a rope. A leg was a tree trunk. Its side was a wall. It was a story about perspectives, and it made me wonder about how a group of suspects would tell the same story over and over with different net results. How their characters, prejudices, preconceived notions, emotions would affect their telling of substantially the same story. What facts would they know that others wouldn’t? How would they view the same people? It was an intriguing idea. Another muse for the story was Agatha Christie’s Five Little Pigs, which employed a similar idea of five suspects sharing their version of the exact same event.
So that became the basic structure of the story: a group of suspects would provide their own testimony regarding a crime, each providing their own color to the retelling. Each would try and convince the audience of their innocence and of the guilt of others. But a murder mystery needs a crime, and it’s not easy to stage one for a show meant to travel without live actors someday. In that view, a cold case is the best solution. That also gave us a unique opportunity to create a real kind of famous last words: the voice of the victim speaking out to us. I created the character of Sabrina Watts, a writer dictating her notes into a tape recorder for her new true crime book, not long before being killed in a hit-and-run. There was my story and my vehicle for performance. Sabrina’s dictation became the first piece I wrote for the show. It all blended together under the banner we call Famous Last Words.
But all our shows need a little bit of danger thrown in to help get audiences invested in the performance and motivate the characters beyond just saying “Here’s my story.” So we’ve designed a special effect thrown in for a big surprise with the help of amazing MMP veterans Michelle Stallings and Devanne Fredette.
So that’s the creation of the actual story of the show. We didn’t want to give away too much, as there are plenty of surprises, secrets, and more to discover at the premiere performance. Reservations are on sale right now at Red Rock Books.
But the story is only half of a show. How it’s performed is so important. And the game design of Famous Last Words is one of our most unique as we plan to take this live show on the road in a whole new way. Learn more about in our next behind-the-scenes post, Third Degree: The Making of Famous Last Words (Part 2).
And we’ll see you at the show on July 21st!
–Master Mystery Productions