2020 was our anniversary year, and it has certainly been unforgettable one, although not in the way we expected. We won’t harp on reasons or what we’ve missed, but we have been fortunate enough that our big MMP family is still safe and sound and has even grown a little with members becoming moms and new actors joining the fold. We are thankful for this amazing and talented family of performers who continue to inspire us and work with us, even while socially distant. 2020 may have been crazy, but it hasn’t hurt the deep, lasting connections within our MMP family.
So while we are closing out a certainly different season, we asked many of our Master Mystery Productions performers–past and present–to share with us their favorite memories while working at MMP. Some are funny, some are sweet, some are reflective, all are beautiful. So why don’t you join us for a stroll down memory lane and relive some wonderful moments in our five year history!
Master Mystery Memories
Leslie Blake (Anonymous, The Silent City, What Happens at Sundown, Eat Cake, Foul Play, Lenore Nevermore): “Favorite and most surprised moment was a Diamond Mask Award win [as Kim Hyatt in What Happens at Sundown]. Wasn’t originally cast for the part, but to have gotten to take it over and get an award for it is an unforgettable highlight.”
Janis Kunz (Mutiny on the Sea Witch, Eat Cake, Foul Play, Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind, Lenore Nevermore, Woman in the Walls, Regions Beyond): “Working on Eat Cake at Amargosa Opera House! It was a whole grand adventure and I got to be involved in so many aspects of the production – and it was only my second production. I was so happy, I was floating on air as I walked around the different stations where everyone was setting up for the performance, warming up, applying make-up, studying scripts, meditating, etc. There was a buzz in the air, something special was going on! It felt like I had found a family I never knew existed. My diary entry from that day says, ‘The cast is awesome! I’m having so much fun being a part of this world… The cast/crew really does bond on a show. I totally want to keep doing theatre!’ It was a wonderful moment and working with MMP has so many it’s actually very hard to pick out a single one!”
Brianne Hardwick (Goodbye Hollywood, GH: At the Rainbow’s End, Famous Last Words, What Happens at Sundown): “Rehearsals on the dining room for Goodbye Hollywood. We were just trying to figure it out as we went. The whole thing was new and we were pioneering something great.”
Monica Dwyer (The Last Garden Party, Bury Me in Paris, Ode to Agatha, The Silent City, Exit Prima Donna, What Happens at Sundown, Eat Cake, Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind): “Performing as Madame la Comtesse in Eat Cake was seriously the most fun I’ve had with crinoline on! Madame la Comtesse, as you recall, was devoid of any empathy for anyone she felt was beneath her and at one point in an early scene, would erupt in an extended fit of laughter after recalling when one of her servants was hit by a carriage. Her giggle fest went on and on and on but at some point, I would actually break character and continue laughing at the perfect absurdity of the character. This happened in most of our rehearsals and happened in every show we did at the Amargosa Opera House. Luckily for me, no one in the audience knew any better.”
Omar Sharif (Anonymous): “Really my favorite time was hanging out with you all during weekly stage practices…when I got to sit back and watch the others practice their lines. I miss it for sure.”
Calvin Johnson (Goodbye Hollywood, GH: At the Rainbow’s End, Ex Luna, Eat Cake, Foul Play, Woman in the Walls, Regions Beyond): “I think my favorite moment would be the Eat Cake rehearsal before we went to Amargosa for dress rehearsal. That was the night I finally was able to let it all out with Henri. With that, and everything else that happened that night, that was when I knew we had a show. It felt like everything just fell into place, it all just felt right.”
Natalie Murphy (Foul Play): “I think it would have to be playing that game of Clue, all of us pulling out different voices and characters, and Cat [improvising as the psychic Madame Rose] mind-melding with the horse.”
Max Hardwick (Famous Last Words): “Mine would have to be just watching rehearsals.”
Beth Sparks-Jacques (Exit Prima Donna, What Happens at Sundown, Lenore Nevermore, Woman in the Walls, Regions Beyond): “My fav memory was from Exit Prima Donna. How we all drove down together and were so happy and silly. I filmed that day so I would never forget it and the lovely friends I had made. You are all my family now.”
Heather McGaha (Bury Me in Paris, Femme Fatales, Exit Prima Donna, Mutiny on the Sea Witch, Eat Cake, Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind): “That’s a tough one.. they all have been fun! I really enjoyed my first one, Bury Me in Paris, the character was a lot of fun….if only I could have started from the beginning and done all the performances. Exit Prima Donna is probably my favorite, because I got to sing on the stage of the Amargosa Opera House. Eat Cake was also really fun and also got to perform at the opera house, so it’s probably a close second.”
Devanne Fredette (The Last Garden Party, Bury Me in Paris, Ode to Agatha, The Silent City, Exit Prima Donna, Famous Last Words, What Happens at Sundown, Mutiny on the Sea Witch, Eat Cake, Lenore Nevermore, Regions Beyond): “It’s hard to pick one memory of MMP because most of the time. I’m having a great time, but I suppose it’s a moment in the show where it’s close to the finale and you’ll have to say goodbye to group of people at a time but watch what everyone’s hard work come to life and make people laugh or at least entertained in one point or the other and I enjoy that moment of each show that I’m in and we keep that show alive through puns, references, and jokes. MMP is a family so I enjoy a lot of these moments.”
Cat Kreidt (Bury Me in Paris, Famous Last Words, What Happens at Sundown, Foul Play, Regions Beyond): “My favorite was getting Baby Shark stuck in everyone’s heads before showtime. We were laughing so hard we almost cried.”
Elizabeth Pomazal (Exit Prima Donna, Mutiny on the Sea Witch, Woman in the Walls, Regions Beyond): “I think honestly I love all of it. Mostly I love watching how you interact and encourage everyone.”
Celese Sanders (The Last Garden Party, Exit Prima Donna, Regions Beyond): “Since I’ve only done one live show with MMP, I don’t have many memories, but the memories I have are wonderful. It was the most perfect show I have ever been in with the chemistry of the cast, the director, and the script. That fall we spent working on that show was a very happy time for me. I will never forget all of sitting out on Daniel’s back porch rehearsing our crazy and hilarious lines until we were sure the neighbors all were concerned! Even now thinking about it brings such a smile to my face!”
Rah Herrington (Exit Prima Donna, Famous Last Words): “Hm, I think for me…that’s tough. There’s a lot of moments I really enjoyed. I think maybe the drives to the Opera House were some, because we would be practicing lines and singing the whole way, and something about that always made me happy. It was also a great way to get rid of any jitters we maybe had.”
Davis Kunz (Woman in the Walls, Regions Beyond): “It’s tempting to say my favorite memory is our dress rehearsal at Amargosa for Woman in the Walls, because it was so epic, but then I remember the special audition you held for that show. It was after hours at Denny’s, and was certainly extra work for you, but you guys convinced me to try out anyway, and helped me get past feeling intimidated, and that it was out of my reach, and to try something new — plus I was star-struck to finally meet so many of you in person! You welcomed me with much generosity and patience into the MMP family. Thank you!”
Olivia Holm (What Happens at Sundown, Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind, Lenore Nevermore, Woman in the Walls, Regions Beyond): “Ooo… it’s gotta be being in the wings and watching Beth in her full Pallas Athena makeup onstage for Lenore Nevermore. Favorite moment and favorite makeup.”
Nicole Johnson (Ode to Agatha, The Silent City, Exit Prima Donna, Eat Cake, Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind, Lenore Nevermore, Woman in the Walls, Regions Beyond): “I have so many wonderful memories of Master Mystery Productions. I have been blessed to be apart of the most wonderful and amazing theatre family in the history of the universe! It’s so hard to choose just one memory, so here’s a handful:
1. Ode to Agatha: My first MMP production. It was such a wonderful story and fabulous cast.
2. Exit Prima Donna: My first MMP production that performed at the world famous Amargosa Opera House. The story, the set, and the costumes were so beautiful and rather haunting.
3. Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind: This was the first MMP production by a different writer, my dear friend Monica Lorenz-Dwyer. Also, I got to play opposite Daniel Stallings. Daniel is normally our writer and director, so this was a lot of fun.
4. The Dickens Tea: This is a yearly (well, when we’re not in a pandemic) event put on by the Ridge Writers. MMP always provides the entertainment. In 2019 I portrayed Mrs. Cratchit at the Dickens Tea. It was an absolute blast and I was called The Quintessential Mrs. Cratchit.
I look forward to making more happy memories with MMP.”
Tiffany Cheney (Exit Prima Donna, Eat Cake, Foul Play, Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind, Woman in the Walls): “I have many favorite memories and it’s so difficult to choose just one. But if I must…since I am a lover of the game Clue, one of my favorite memories was playing Clue to help work on our improvisation for Foul Play. It was so fun to watch everyone playing different characters, it was just all sorts of awesome! I will miss working with Daniel. He is amazing and I’m so lucky I had the opportunity to work with him and all of my MMP family “
Lexi Phillips (Foul Play, Lenore Nevermore, Woman in the Walls): “I think my favorite memory is when I performed at the opera house for the first time.”
Sam Johnson (Anonymous, The Silent City, Famous Last Words, Lenore Nevermore, Regions Beyond): “Probably my favorite memory is being Agent Sly in Anonymous and being warned that I could fall through the floor if I did the joker dance where he jumps on the stairs on that stage at Amargosa. Coming up with that staff scene in Lenore Nevermore was cool too.”
Rebecca Witherell (What Happens at Sundown, Eat Cake, Regions Beyond): “I think my favorite memory is screaming into the pillow as Lady Chantilly in Eat Cake for the first time during rehearsal, and everyone broke down laughing uncontrollably for like five minutes.”
Jonathan Blair (Mutiny on the Sea Witch, Eat Cake, Foul Play, Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind, Regions Beyond): “I would have to say my favorite MMP memory would be the laughs that we always shared on every set; it always helped ease my initial nervousness goin in to each role.”
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And what about us? What’s our favorite memory? To echo what has been said many times throughout this blog post, it’s almost impossible to choose. Each production brings its own challenges and triumphs, memories that stick out like bright stars. And to risk sounding like a greeting card, the best memories are the smiles of accomplishment we see on the performers’ faces and the sight of them returning show after show, season after season simply because they love working with us. It’s those moments when longtime performers finally get the recognition for their hard work they truly deserve. It’s seeing artists who once worked in the background stepping into center stage for the first time and becoming the stars they always were. It’s seeing the first-timers find a home and family in theatre and with us. There’s simply too many of those moments to list here, but each one fills us with pride and love and joy.
We would like to thank our lovely MMP performers for contributing to this blog post and to wish everyone a very happy holidays and a bright new year. We will be back in 2021 with new adventures for everyone. Stay safe and season’s greetings!
–Master Mystery Productions