Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair: The Making of Foul Play (Part 1)


“We’re all pawns in this backwards game of chess…”

Dahlia Rosewood calls it as she sees it, and when this costume party takes a strange turn into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, none of our colorful suspects know what could be the best move to save themselves. Games such as the classic CLUE (or CLUEDO) have been a favorite of ours for years, and, when we got the idea to create a show with two different solutions, we knew what we wanted to do. Writer/director Daniel Stallings will tell you all about the starting point behind our 23rd Master Mystery Production–Foul Play.

FAIR IS FOUL AND FOUL IS FAIR: The Making of Foul Play (Part 1)

Picture it. Tea time. I’m having a tea room lunch with one of my dearest friends and fellow theatre artists, and we get to talking about shows. She mentions an idea that had been percolating quietly in the background of my brain for a little while. The idea of having a life-sized game of CLUE. I had been wanting to do a show where there were multiple solutions, as in the “whodunit” at the end of the show alternated from performance to performance. Many interactive mystery shows work this way, but at MMP, I like to do something a touch different. I like when the clues all add up to a true solution, not one selected randomly. So this was a case of a “Tale of Two Solutions.”


Now the last time we had two endings was in The Last Garden Party in 2016. But that was an entirely different idea. For that show, we had one true solution to the crime, and, depending on how many people in the audience managed to figure it out, there would either be a happy ending…or a not-so-happy ending. With Foul Play, I wanted to write a single mystery, but two different culprits could have equally committed the crime in the show. That meant for a much more open-ended type of story with fewer physical clues or details to allow for more opportunities for different suspects to have committed the crime. That led us to the board game design of the show.


Games such as chess have long been an inspirational image for mystery writers. It’s the strategy of it, the opponents having to think twenty moves ahead of each other to win. The murderer and the sleuth have to outmaneuver each other, and sometimes, they have to manipulate the other pieces (suspects, clues, etc.) in the game to achieve their goal. So when I conceived Foul Play last year, the first name that came to mind was King. After the chess piece. The idea that the characters would need to put this shadowy King character into checkmate appealed to the old-soul mystery writer I am.

But let’s not forget the game, CLUE. CLUE is my favorite board game of all time (big surprise). And it’s a hugely popular classic. The idea of all these colorful suspects gathered together for a glamorous (and deadly) party gave me the final shape of the show and how it was going to play out. A board game like CLUE is perfect for designing multiple solutions. And, even more key, how to make the show interactive.

Cast seated
The cast of Foul Play

Another thing I wanted to play with was the concept of a cast of strangers. In many of our shows (and shows in general), we like to trade off established relationships. Mothers and daughters. Friends and lovers. Even rivals and bitter enemies. But now I wanted to explore what would happen if all the characters were virtual strangers to each other. No one would know each other intimately. How would a sub-culture form? What would their first impressions be of each other? Who would become friends? Enemies? A lot of that had to do with the acting and directing on top of the script. I asked my actors several questions about what kind of first impressions they made of the other characters and encouraged them to create their own internal storylines of what happened during that deadly soiree.


But how the story was created and conceptualized is only half of the story. Because a living board game needs to design its gameplay as well. Learn all about how Foul Play will work with its living meeples, life-sized spinner, and sneaky, larger-than-life decorations in Playing Your Cards Right: The Making of Foul Play (Part 2).

And don’t forget your tickets! They are on sale right now at Red Rock Books!

–Master Mystery Productions

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