In the world of crime fiction, there are lots of suspects and witnesses, hostile or otherwise. And the witnesses in Famous Last Words are a bit testier than most. Filled fire, grief, and scathing opinions on other suspects, these characters will hold no punches when it comes to their fellow witnesses. What does our talented cast think of these hostile witnesses? And how did they create these original characters to make sure they resonate to an audience? We let them do the talking as we explore the characters of our nineteenth Master Mystery Production.
HOSTILE WITNESSES: The Making of Famous Last Words (Part 3)
Famous Last Words was designed to make use of the idea of six very different characters talking about the same events and how even the same information is twisted and conformed to the personality of the witness. So each character had to have a distinct personality and way of delivering their version of the facts. Part of that comes from the script, but it isn’t finished until its performed by the actor. So let’s let the actors tell us their side of the story. Special thanks to Brianne Hardwick for letting us use her car headlights as the lighting on these amazing character posters.
Sabrina Watts, one of the murder victims in our story, is a celebrated true crime author whose bestselling work includes Code Name Anonymous: The True Story of the Artifact Retrieval Agency and Stars in Their Eyes: The Stardust City Slaying. Calm, cool, and always in control, Sabrina’s upcoming revelations about the McGregor homicide case ruffled some feathers. She is killed in a hit-and-run before the play, and it is her dictated notes which form part of the story. Her voice role will be performed by the amazing Cat Kusznir. A veteran performer as well as a veteran of Master Mystery Productions, Cat returns for her second show with us after her Diamond Mask winning performance as “Massimo” D’Amato in Bury Me in Paris (Spring 2017). Some of her other wonderful credits include The Witch from Into the Woods, Mrs. MacAfee in Bye Bye Birdie, Addaperle in The Wiz, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew, and many more. Here are Cat’s thoughts on Sabrina:
“As an author, Sabrina has a tendency to get tunnel vision. She can get obsessed with her projects at the expense of her relationships. Her husband, Marcus, as a fellow author, understands this tendency. But her daughter, Chloe, can feel neglected at times. Sabrina truly loves her daughter, but her work gets in the way of her showing it sometimes. But success has a cost, and she’s willing to pay it.”
Detective fiction author of a newly released title and prone to theatricality, Marcus Watts, Sabrina’s second husband, likes to ensure the biggest bang for his buck, waiting until the perfect dramatic moment to make announcements or revelations. His tastes tend to skew toward the extravagant, which drives his stepdaughter crazy. Marcus is played by the talented Thomas Cozine. Thomas first appeared in a Master Mystery Production as the voice of Ash Coreman in C. R. Rowenson’s The Silent City (September 2017), but he’s been performing for a long time in shows such as Picnic, Little Shop of Horrors, Rhinoceros, The Taming of the Shrew, and so on. He will voice the character Alvin Wright in the upcoming Sheila Montgomery Radio Mysteries. Here are Thomas’ thoughts on his character:
“Marcus Watts is the perfect example of a narcissist, so self-absorbed in his own world. It makes him the perfect character for me to play because he’s my opposite.Not only is it more fun to play this kind of character, it’s also more of a challenge as it takes me out of my comfort zone. Most of I’ve played in the past can be generally called “good.” This is the first time I can really stretch my acting chops and perform as someone I can’t really identify with. This is the kind of person that, if you were asking him directions, he’d give you his autograph. Then charge you $10. So devilishly fun.”
Chloe Landis is the daughter of Sabrina from a previous marriage and stepdaughter of Marcus. Stubborn, strong-willed, sharp, and smart, Chloe is an outstanding student, but a tough personality who is quick to anger and isn’t prone to forgiveness. A quick and often shrewd judge of character, she loathes her stepfather above anyone else. Chloe will be portrayed by MMP veteran Devanne Fredette. Our most prolific performer, Devanne makes this show number six after being Phoebe Walliscroft in The Last Garden Party, Zoe Fox in Bury Me in Paris, Caroline Shaw in Ode to Agatha, the voice of Kyra Ganley in The Silent City, and a Chorus member in Exit Prima Donna. A standout member of the company, she won the Skeleton Key Award for her work on The Silent City in September 2017. Chloe’s Understudy is MMP newcomer Audrey Hardwick, whose work in theatre include a performer in the BHS Drama Department’s student-directed One Act Play Festival and various tech positions at CLOTA. Audrey also won the 2017 Florence Green Production Award from CLOTA. Both ladies share their thoughts on Chloe:
Devanne: “Forming Chloe Landis’ character has been a rather interesting plight. While there is still much more to explore and practice about her as a character, I have learned much about her. So starting out, while it hasn’t been long since I was a teenager, I still found myself looking for things to research to bring more life and sass to her as a character. Most of this is formed from a reverse of my own life, because she is the pure opposite of me when I was a teenager. I also found through watching Lift Me Up that the character, Emma, was an excellent motivation to finding how a teenager may react in a situation when you have to live with your stepfather after a mother’s death. Chloe herself is a very emotional character that has bottled up her emotions and frustrations and uses that as a protection factor to act out against Marcus.”
Audrey: “Chloe is just like me. An angsty teen who no one seems to listen to until it’s too late. She is smart and very determined to what she knows is right. I admire that about her, because it shows she doesn’t care what other people think of her, which is important in this world. Hopefully, when Chloe grows up, she holds the same determined attitude, but maybe not be as mean with everything.”
Adam O’Neill is Chloe’s on/off, sort-of boyfriend depending on her mood. He is an earnest, friendly kid with a natural concern for Chloe, although he is a little afraid of her temper. His rational, level-headed, devil’s advocate demeanor balances Chloe’s more aggressive personality. He has a passion for old sci-fi and horror movies. Adam will be portrayed by Sam Johnson in his third Master Mystery Production. A dazzling young talent, Sam made his MMP debut in Anonymous (August 2017) with his performance as the wily Agent Sly, which earned him a Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in Performance. His second show, C. R. Rowenson’s The Silent City (September 2017), had him play a fiery Podcaster from the future and an unknown, monstrous Creature. He will return to be Assistant Director in our upcoming fall show, Mutiny on the Sea Witch, a pirate’s treasure mystery. Here, Sam talks about what makes Adam tick:
“Adam O’Neill is the nervous boyfriend of Chloe. Shy, quiet, and called ‘weird,’ it’s fair to say Chloe wears the pants in that relationship. While things at the beginning were probably more equal in their relationship, the stress of the death of Chloe’s mother and all the chaos surrounding Chloe’s stepfather, Marcus, Adam has grown even quieter, leading Marcus to call him ‘weird.’ Nobody says that, but I’m sure they’re all thinking it! I drew on my own experiences in stressful situations to bring Adam to life, and, like Adam, I have also been called weird, though I prefer the terms strange and unusual.”
Author of the Doc Dogooder children’s mysteries and sister to Leah McGregor, one of the victims in the McGregor murder case, Brooke Simon is a colleague and friend to both Sabrina and Marcus Watts, being in similar genres. Gentle, kind, and soft-spoken, Brooke would rather hide in the safety of her children’s books rather than face the harsh realities of true crime. Brooke will be played by veteran actress Brianne Hardwick. One of the superstars of the Goodbye Hollywood franchise, Brianne originated the role of tyrannical mother June Schulz in both the tea shop original (Spring 2015) and the stage expansion, Rainbow’s End (July 2015), in addition to serving as Assistant Director to both shows, earning her the Skeleton Key Award for Goodbye Hollywood. A consistent performer, you will have also seen her in Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve, A Christmas Carol–The Musical, The Secret Garden, The 39 Steps, Little Women–The Musical, and so on. Famous Last Words is her third Master Mystery Production. Brianne shares her thoughts on the character of Brooke:
“Brooke Simon is one of the most complex characters I have played. As a writer of children’s mystery novels, she has to have a unique imagination and perspective on things. She is very calm most of the time, which is the complete opposite of my personality. It has been an interesting challenge bringing Brooke to life.”
Sister to Shawn McGregor, a victim in the McGregor murder case, Vera McGregor has been an impassioned nuisance to Marcus ever since Sabrina book was first being shopped around the industry. Vehement and furious, she has been sending angry letters to Marcus Watts to try and dissuade him from publishing anything about her family’s tragedy. She has been following him for a while, intent on keeping her eye on him. Vera will be portrayed by superstar Rah Herrington. A true wunderkind, Rah burst onto the stage in her Master Mystery Productions debut as Leonardo and the Shadow in our murder mystery opera, Exit Prima Donna (Spring 2018), which earned her a Diamond Mask Award for her performance. With twelve years of acting experience behind her, she is a definite performer to watch as she makes this Master Mystery Production number two. Here are Rah’s thoughts on her character:
“Vera seems like a woman who’s constantly in the fast lane and often turns molehills into mountains. Because she’s so high strung, I imagine that normal people bore her to tears. I aimed to make her character like this–as someone who’s very passionate about what’s important to her and isn’t afraid to let anyone know. Her ability to walk into any room and command attention is something I almost admire.”
Brother to Shawn McGregor, a victim in the McGregor murder case, Chance McGregor is the calm yin to Vera’s fiery yang. Pensive and controlled, he is the picture of total composure, a man you would never see out of sorts. He is not one to parade around any violent or strong emotion, confining himself to facts and logic. He is the most even-tempered, even despite the scandalous stories in his life. Chance will be portrayed by MMP newcomer Nick Murray. Nick makes his Master Mystery Productions debut with Famous Last Words, but he’s no stranger to theatre as he is involved the Burroughs High School Drama Dept. He performed in the BHS Drama Production of You Can’t Take It with You as G-Man #1, worked Tech on their recent production of Big River, and was a part of their student-directed One Act Festival in 2017 and 2018. Nick gives us his take on the character of Chance:
“Chance McGregor is a very calm, cool, and collected gentleman. He likes to keep his thoughts and emotions contained within himself, not wanting the outside world to see his feelings. He is the opposite of his sister, Vera, tending to compile his expressions into logic rather than lashing out with fiery intent. Despite some past demons within his life, he has moved forward throughout it all with a clear and level head. He loves his sister, but hates seeing her outbursts toward Marcus. Being able to be a part of this production has been an amazing experience. Having only been a part of school productions previously, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’m very happy with how welcoming and accepting the rest of my cast has been.”
We’re only a week out from this unique book signing, and we don’t want you to miss out on these amazing performances. Who could be the one turning their famous last words into an epitaph? Only YOU, our audience, can close the final chapter on this cold case on July 21st. We hope to see you there at Famous Last Words!
–Master Mystery Productions