Welcome to Post Mortem! This is where Master Mystery Productions looks back on the performance of its most recent show.
After many months of silence, it was good to hear laughter again. Master Mystery Productions returned to live performance with a chance to bring lighthearted laughter and hilarious hijinks to our company with a show paying homage to the zaniest of caper stories. We wanted to tell jokes, act silly, and swap identities and secrets. A veritable merry-go-round of madcap miscreants. And that’s what we got when we performed–and had our audience wonder–Who’s Who?
We returned to one of our favorite places in the world–Red Rock Books. In the spirit of the magic of word play, we crafted a puzzle all about playing with double meanings and double identities. A spiritual homage to Eat Cake in 2019, we brought back a group nefarious ne’er-so-wells working against each other for the sake of a common goal: the liberation of Gladys Honeypot’s hidden treasure. But they don’t know what the treasure is. Nothing like a bunch of ambitious boneheads trying to burgle a bookstore to birth a bevy of belly-laughs. And what better time than a costume party to hide your identity, dress yourself in ridiculous lies, and mask your real motives.
But when you are trying to trick people, some wacky things can occur. Stories can grow outlandish and impossible to try and explain away those inconsistencies. You might give yourself a fake name inspired by cars in the parking lot. And you might be forced to rhinestone the stethoscope you need for safecracking so it coordinates with your flapper costume. It all happens here in Who’s Who?, where alliances will be made and shattered, crossword puzzle clues will be encountered, and a secret connection between all the culprits is slowly brought into the light. But there are plenty of laughs as none of these thieves are the sharpest pencils in the cup when the mysterious code left behind by Gladys goes over their heads. Would anyone be able to figure it out?
While our characters weren’t the best at untangling word games, our audiences were. They had a blast at the wacky characters screaming slogans, scheming how to split the money (90-10. After taxes.), or daydreaming about getting to Oahu on No Money Per Day. They giggled at the nonsense of the business schmoozer Bernard St. Bernard dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, the wily Big Bad Wolf of the sly, sarcastic, not-imaginative-under-stress Mercedes van Chrysler, the juggernaut Georgia Georgson dressed as Marie Antoinette, her…ahem…”triplet” Georgina Georgson in flapper finery, the creepily synchronized Messrs. Bubble and Squeak costumed as Dorothy and the Scarecrow, and the mysterious and shadowy Phantom of the Bookstore–a nice, normal everyday sort of person named Ms. Meddler. But don’t trust everything to first impressions. These characters go deeper as the play went on, stripping away the outer layers of their fake identities to reveal the true motives hidden within. Nothing is as it seems at a Master Mystery Production, and our cast performed flawlessly. Who didn’t feel a sense of surprise at the eye-opening (and maybe ear-shattering) revelation at the end of the show?
It was four nights of some of the wildest, zaniest shenanigans we’ve ever created culminating in cartoonish sound effects and a chase sequence right out of Scooby Doo with some of the funniest improvised dialogue we’ve ever heard (“I am not going to be an extra in March of the Penguins!” “This is not how I chose to spend my day!” “You try running in a skirt!”). In truth, the cast felt at home to really run with this script and make it their own. We had everything from using the Electric Slide as a treasure map to the famous Honeypot jawline to overnight delivery to Antarctica (of a suspiciously large box). That’s part of the magic of theatre. To take a great script and create your own specific magic within, unique to that performance. Taking work from page to stage is alchemical; We love it when the work stops to feel like a produced product and is more like a snapshot of reality, even if its a goofy reality like the one in Who’s Who?. You can imagine how hard it was not to laugh backstage!
But no show can last forever, and closing night is our traditional awards night. And we had a LOT to celebrate in this show as the first live show in almost two years, the end-of-season show, and the first chance to celebrate with an audience the achievements of MMP members that may have gone silent. First up was The Skeleton Key Award for Service Above and Beyond, our oldest award. Each designed to uniquely reflect the show it was made for, the Skeleton Key Award is a symbol of an individual putting their heart and soul into a Master Mystery Production, going above and beyond their assigned jobs in the show to make it the best it can be. They are inspirations to us in the company, and they remain celebrated in our programs and on our website for years to come. Our winner for this production has been an extremely hands-on new member of our company who has helped out in every conceivable facet of the show. Congratulations to Martin Murphy on winning the Skeleton Key Award for Who’s Who?!
Following the Skeleton Key, we presented the coveted Diamond Mask Awards for Excellence in Performance. Voted by audiences, guests select their nominees for the award based on the performances they liked best. The actors with the most votes win. On their first win, they receive a special diamond pin and subsequent wins will receive a diamond chain to create a cascade of diamonds. We crowned three champions for Who’s Who? on closing night. Congratulations to Beth Sparks-Jacques, Olivia Holm, and Calvin Johnson on your Diamond Mask-winning performances!
Then there came the most prestigious award of the night: The Founder’s Award for a Year of Outstanding Service. This award is one of the hardest to achieve at Master Mystery Productions and is the company’s highest honor. It is given to an individual, company, organization, etc. who has gone above and beyond to promote and grow Master Mystery Productions over the course of an entire production year, in this case from January to November. The winners of this award have stood out as some of the most dedicated members of the company and have done so much to make Master Mystery Productions one of the best theatre producers in the area. At closing night of Who’s Who?, the celebrations were even bigger.
2020 had been an unconventional year for us, but in some cases, that helped certain performers thrive. Beth Sparks-Jacques stepped forward as one of our most committed members during this time of crisis and reinvention. After joining us in Exit Prima Donna in spring 2018, where she won the Skeleton Key Award, she used the following season, 2019, as a chance to spread her wings in theatre and perform in shows such as The 39 Steps and Newsies before returning to our family to play Pallas Athena in Lenore Nevermore. As 2020 came, she was cast as the bubbly and bright Lucy in Woman in the Walls and served as the production’s fantastic costume designer, creating one of our favorite costume schemes of all time. Her exquisite acting and tech work made a huge impression with all of us. But then, we had to step away from live theatre, and Beth joined us as we transitioned to digital productions. She nailed the role of Witch_Plz in #MurderoftheMonth, a digital production coming in the future. And then she became a huge support and source of talent for Regions Beyond, performing in a current total of three episodes with quickness, efficiency, and immense talent and professionalism. She has shared our shows, celebrated our efforts, and kept the flame of MMP alive. Without her, MMP wouldn’t have been able to push through this crazy year, and we show our eternal gratitude by naming her our Founder’s Award winner for 2020. And finally, we got to celebrate this honor together as we awarded her her plaque at closing night of Who’s Who? to the cheers of her castmates. Thank you so much, Beth, for all you’ve done and all you will continue to do for Master Mystery Productions. We love you!
Following that, we had Beth award the Founder’s Award for the 2021 season, letting her continue to pass forward the flame of excellence to the next champion. Calvin Johnson has been a prolific performer over the years, and he has amassed more accolades than any other actor in the company. His commitment in the 2021 season was without question. He played Basil Bremerton and Aaron Astley in a remarkable vocal performance for our first full-length digital production, Mum’s the Word, in Spring 2021, where he broke records by winning his fourth Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in Performance. He continued to be a guest voice artist on our digital YouTube series, Regions Beyond. He returned to live performing with his performance as Bernard St. Bernard in Who’s Who?, our costume party caper, along with working as the Set Designer, Voice Coach, and Prop Master on the production. He went the extra mile on his work across the season, making the time to do the work and do the best he could. He shared social media posts, encouraged his fellow cast members, stayed late if needed, ran warm-ups during rehearsals, decorated the set, ran crews, and was a constant presence of fun and support throughout the show. It culminated in his record-obliterating FIFTH Diamond Mask Award for his performance as Bernard, a legendary feat that tied him with the most decorated performer in MMP history. Until now. To recognize his outstanding work this season, Calvin wins the 2021 Founder’s Award for a Year of Outstanding Service, thereby becoming the most decorated MMP member ever with seven awards to his name. What an amazing achievement! Congratulations, Calvin! You earned it!
Two final honors were presented on closing night. We have recently started the MMP Hall of Fame to recognize artists who have made significant impact to the company over the years. These artists have influenced the creativity, the personal brand, the expertise, and the excellence of the company and have been inspirations to us as gifted performers, creatives, and human beings. We were honored to induct Janis Kunz and Calvin Johnson into the MMP Hall of Fame. Janis Kunz has been a gift and a treasure to MMP since she first joined us in 2018 for Mutiny on the Sea Witch, at first hoping just to be on crew but then was swept into the role of Polly the Parrot where she stole loot and hearts to win both the Diamond Mask Award for her performance and the Blood, Sweat, and Tears Award from Ridgecrest Community Theatre Troupe. Since that incredible start, she has gone on to win the Skeleton Key Award for Eat Cake, a second Diamond Mask for Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind as Captain Wallis, star as Emma Emerson in our first digital series, Regions Beyond, work in shows such as Foul Play, Lenore Nevermore, Woman in the Walls, #MurderoftheMonth, Mum’s the Word, and Who’s Who?. A talented and gifted artisan prop mistress, she has created the most dazzling specialty props and set dressing we have ever seen such as hypodermic syringes out of potato peelers, giant dice, and a bevy of safecracking tools. Her dedication and genius led her to win the coveted Founder’s Award in 2019 after only a single calendar year of work with Master Mystery Productions, the fastest champion in history. For her phenomenal work across the years in everything from acting, prop making, foley, puppetry, and so much more, we honor Janis as the latest inductee into the MMP Hall of Fame.
Calvin Johnson has been a veteran actor since long before Master Mystery Productions began, but we believe he has found his best self as a performer with our shows. After joining us way back in the early days as Geoffrey Challenger in Goodbye Hollywood, Calvin went on to focus on voice acting and won the Skeleton Key Award for his work on Ex Luna. He didn’t return to perform onstage with us until 2019 when he knocked it out of the park as Henri in Eat Cake, winning his first ever Diamond Mask Award for Excellence in Performance. After that momentous return, he has gone on to win FOUR more Diamond Masks as Rusty Clementine in Foul Play, Dr. John Forsythe in Woman in the Walls, Basil Bremerton in Mum’s the Word, and Bernard St. Bernard in Who’s Who?, making him the first performer to win this coveted award FIVE times and subsequently becoming the most decorated actor in the company. His skill in voice acting is without question with his accent and voice training on numerous productions and performances in Ex Luna, Regions Beyond, and Mum’s the Word. His dedication across the 2021 season earned him the Founder’s Award for a Year of Outstanding Service for 2021, and honor which has now catapulted him to the most decorated member of Master Mystery Productions with seven awards to his credit. With this outstanding achievement and his status as one of the greatest actors and mentors at MMP, we are delighted to honor Calvin as a new Hall of Fame Artist for his amazing endeavors which continues to better our collective troupe into the amazing artists they are.
As Hall of Fame artists, Janis and Calvin represent the very best of what Master Mystery Productions offers in the way of its amazing talent and creativity. Congratulations!
Who’s Who? proved that theatre for us is far from over, that we have lots of stories to tell, and many, many talented people ready to accept our challenge to get out their perform. It will be hard to say goodbye to a show that brought us so many laughs and brought us together as a family again, but the show must go on…to a better place! But seriously, we thank everyone who has made this production possible either by working on it or just coming to see it. We hope it made you smile. It’s good to be back. And we can’t wait to see what these artists have in store for us!
It has been a couple unconventional seasons for us, but we now hope to bring everything we’ve learned and more back to our dynamic new productions for 2022. New venues, new partnerships, and new ideas are at the heart of this upcoming season, and we are delighted to finally get there and show all of you exactly what MMP is made of. We’re going bigger than ever! Because that’s what we do best. Make great theatre.
We’ll see you in 2022! Break a leg, everyone!