Post Mortem: WHAT HAPPENS AT SUNDOWN

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

Late September is the perfect time to start celebrating the weird and mysterious, so it must be time for Ridge Writers’ annual Weird Weekend. And when there’s a Weird Weekend, you’ll find a Master Mystery Production. But not just any MMP show this time around. This was our most ambitious Weird Weekend production yet. We entered our handy dandy time machines and whisked audiences back to fall 1963, to the cataclysmic changes happening in Hollywood, to the set of a doomed TV show. This was the shocking story of What Happens at Sundown.

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Cameramen see everything…

Master Mystery Productions and Ridge Writers have been longtime collaborators, a partnership that has seen the creation of seven interactive mysteries, the most of any partnership. Our longest collaboration has been with their Weird Weekend celebration which honors the stranger side of the Mojave Desert. We’ve tackled aliens and lost gold mines (Hello Out There), ghost stories (Pauper’s Grave), and even a post apocalyptic glimpse of the future (The Silent City). But we had yet to cover the rich tradition of Hollywood filming that happens in the desert. Hundreds of commercials, TV shows, movies, etc. were shot in our sliver of the planet, and What Happens at Sundown celebrated it. It was also our landmark twentieth production, making it a very important show in our company’s history.  We wanted it to be special.

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Audiences gathered on the evenings of Weird Weekend 2018 to take in a Hollywood story that would shake them to the core. A television crew has descended like a shadow upon the Mojave Desert to shoot an episode of the popular 1960’s horror anthology show, Sundown, written, directed, and produced by the mysterious Madam. On this episode, faded screen legends, Helena Rothschild and Kim Hyatt, are trying to return to relevancy after years out of the spotlight, but they are finding the journey back to be more difficult than they remember. Nostalgia about the Golden Age of Cinema, references to Goodbye Hollywood, and cheeky jokes about the history of filming in the area blend together with a darker tale of secrets and cover-ups that threaten to destroy the carefully-stacked houses of cards these characters have built of their Tinseltown lives. What are these rumors about a hit-and-run accident? What about a private adoption? Is there a vicious blackmailer among them? As the bodies fall and the tension rises, it isn’t long before the thin veneer of glamour cracks and madness steps in to fill the gaps. What happens at sundown? Only the very brave know for sure.

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We assembled one of the strongest design teams we’ve ever had. Skeleton Key Winners Margit Stallings and Beth Sparks-Jacques costumed the show with their critically-acclaimed work. Glamour makeup design was the domain of Skeleton Key Winner Leslie Blake, while talented special effects makeup artist Olivia Holm handled the facial hair, aging, wounds, and burns our characters needed. The cast themselves had a lot of input and helped design their looks and the show. It was team effort in every sense of the word. But more than that, we became a family. Backstage, everyone helped each other. Lots of laughs, hugs, and endless support for each other. We loved it.

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Behind the scenes: The Cast Group Hug

But even if it’s wonderful backstage, how was it onstage? We had a few lumps and bumps on the way to opening night: training understudies, new cast members, and all the attendant risks that come with mounting a production. For a moment there, we weren’t sure if we were going to make it to the actual show dates. We weren’t sure what condition the show would be in. But when opening night came, our cast and crew nailed it! They imbued the show with a ferocious energy unlike anything we have seen before. They were, pun intended, on fire those nights. We couldn’t be prouder of all of them.

But did the audience enjoy the energy our actors put into it?

Reviews

They did. In spades. We managed to shock, delight, and creep out everyone in the room. Just as we intended. Our actors gave it everything they had, and the crowds loved it. Those who had seen the original Goodbye Hollywood productions gasped and gaped in complete shock at the ultimate twist we gave them at the end. And two surprised, yet delighted guests went home with the prizes at the end for solving the mystery. Guests who had never attended an MMP show before discovered the magic and magnetism we bring to our popular shows, wondering where they had been all this time. And longtime fans learned we still have lots of surprises hidden up our sleeves.

Read The Daily Independent‘s review here.

Read The News Review‘s review here.

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Madam (Cat Kreidt) and Kim Hyatt (Leslie Blake) regard the murdered cameraman, Bob (Matthew Bradford).
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Victoria Camden (Rebecca Witherell) confronts Helena Rothschild (Monica Lorenz) in the latter’s dressing room.
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Madam belittles the directorial dreams of her assistant, Miss Lockwood (Amber Stull).
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The demon-like thoughts of Bob and Miss Lockwood haunt and tempt Kim with dangerous ideas.

But the surprises didn’t stop there as it was time for the Master Mystery Productions awards, which we give out at the curtain call of closing night. Per tradition, we gave out the Skeleton Key and the Diamond Mask Awards. The Skeleton Key for Service Above and Beyond is an individual show’s highest honor. It honors an individual’s dedication and hard work above our expectations and beyond just what we’ve asked them to do. Each award is themed after the show it’s for. Not every show gets a Skeleton Key, so those who win stand out as something really special. Congratulations to our Skeleton Key Winner for What Happens at Sundown, Olivia Holm! She served as our brilliant Head of SFX makeup including Bob’s age makeup and facial hair, Kim’s burn makeup, and Miss Lockwood’s wound makeup. She has been a dresser, stage crew, a stand-in certain days, and even helped light up our rehearsal space. Her commitment to the show was unquestionable, so we honored her with our Skeleton Key Award. Congratulations again!

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Award for What Happens at Sundown
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Congratulations Olivia!

The surprises continued as we announced the Diamond Mask Award winners. The Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in Performance is voted by the audiences of our shows. Think of it as our own Oscar for Best Actor or Actress. Audiences vote for their favorite performances, and those actors are forever honored as Diamond Mask champions and their roles venerated as award-winning roles. Performers can win the Diamond Mask as many times as possible with the first win being honored by a specially designed diamond pin and subsequent wins receiving a diamond chain to add to it, eventually creating a “cascade of diamonds.”  The acting in What Happens at Sundown was top notch, and it was a back and forth exchange for who would come out on top. In the end, three winners were selected. Bravo to Cat Kreidt, Leslie Blake, and Rebecca Witherell for your stellar, award-winning performances!

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Cat Kreidt’s witty, snarky, chic, and sinister portrayal of Madam was a sure audience favorite. Beginning with a chilling opening narration that called to mind the great Rod Serling, Cat’s performance as Madam only enriched from there, giving us one of the best and most memorable (and quotable) characters in MMP history. It’s no surprise why Cat Kreidt adds a SECOND Diamond Mask win to her list of credits for Master Mystery Productions after winning her first in Bury Me in Paris as “Massimo” D’Amato. Bravo!
Leslie
Perhaps the most surprised of the bunch, Leslie Blake was almost moved to tears at the announcement that her fiery, yet fragile portrayal of the emotionally unstable Kim Hyatt won a Diamond Mask Award. Originally a part of the ensemble, Leslie showed true spirit and dedication to the show when she was asked to fill the role of Kim after the original actress left the show. She made the torment and hazy memories of this shattered star come to life onstage, chilling everyone to the bone with her creepy rendition of “I’ve Written a Letter to Mommy.” Leslie has been a brilliant performer and has taken this opportunity and made it an award-winning one. Congrats on your first Diamond Mask win! We couldn’t be happier for you!
Rebecca
A standout and a star from her very first audition, Rebecca Witherell proved she was an actress to her core when she took on the difficult role of Victoria Camden, the emotional heart of the story. And heart she gave it with a stellar performance full of energy, commitment, and drive. It is perhaps one of the most spectacular debuts we have ever witnessed. Audience members remarked that she was a talent to keep and to watch. Rebecca is sure to go far as she adds her first Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in Performance to her list of credits. Brava! Brava! Bellisima!

What Happens at Sundown remains one of our favorite scripts we’ve ever produced, and, thanks to this brilliant cast and crew, it will stay one of our favorite productions too. The work they put into this story of, as Elijah would put it, “pain, bitterness, regret, insecurity, intense jealousy, and feuds that last for fifty years” is nothing short of inspired and stunning. Magic was made here at Master Mystery Productions. And we want to thank and congratulate each and every single one of these artists for putting their hearts into this show. They are stars that will shine forever to us.  Forever and always.

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Better the devil you know…

Miss your opportunity to see What Happens at Sundown? Well, there’s always another show coming up, and this next one’s quite an adventure. Take a ship, a mutiny, a hunt for fabled treasure, and a talking parrot, and what do you get? A pirate’s mystery! For our first family-friendly offering and the final show of MMP’s 2018 season, we are hitting the high seas for a swashbuckling seas voyage aboard The Sea Witch as one little girl tells us a tale about her ancestor, a fearsome pirate queen named Cutlass Kate. What happens when mutiny threatens the greatest treasure hunt of their lives? It be up to our lucky audience to unravel this knotty problem in…

MUTINY ON THE SEA WITCH

Mutiny on the Sea Witch, presented by MMP and Ridgecrest Community Theatre Troupe, performs November 9, 10, 16, and 17, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at The Old Town Theater (215 W. Ridgecrest Blvd.) in Ridgecrest, CA. Tickets will be on sale soon at Red Rock Books.

Avast me hearties! We hope to see ye there!

–Master Mystery Productions

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