Welcome to Post Mortem! This is where Master Mystery Productions looks back on the performance of its most recent show.
In 2019, we gathered under the fall skies at Crestwood Lake Campground to swap tall tales about the Big Man himself–Bigfoot. And three years later, we brought out the marshmallows, kindled the campfire, and gathered once more to bring our 31st Master Mystery Production to the people of Ridgecrest. It was time again for Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind.
Writer and director of the original production, MMP Hall of Fame Artist Monica Dwyer, pitched and spearheaded a campfire-themed Weird Weekend for Ridge Writers this year with a new Reader’s Theatre revival of her popular Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind anchoring the celebration. She unearthed the original clever signage, the billboards for Billy’s Bigfoot Fresh Jerky, the coasters for Big Red’s Tavern on Main (THEY’RE FREE!), and built a new campfire for the actors to circle around. Monica also managed to reunite much of the original cast of the 2019 production with three newcomers: Calvin Johnson as Evan Landon, Ed Kramer as Benjamin Hughes, and Devanne Fredette as April Abbot. We also had a new venue: Moe’s Music, which served as our home for Closer to Heaven earlier this year. The original dreams of a lantern-lit production remained, now with cool blue lights to give our campground an almost spooky, ghostly, nighttime glow. And Monica served up her delicious Bigfoot-themed camp meals featuring homemade treats to our guests with jerky, trail mix, s’mores brownie cupcakes, gingerbread wildman cookies, and cinnamon sugar footprint cookies. Crickets chirped in the distance. And every so often…wood knocks. Could it be…Bigfoot?
Then the show began. Back at Crestwood Lake Campground, it was as if no time had passed. The cast slipped effortlessly back into their roles as if they were comfortable, broken-in hiking boots. Nicole Johnson’s Big Red was as effervescent and entrepreneurial as ever, shelling out her free coasters to guests all night. Heather McGaha’s Madeline Conrad found a new level of brisk, cold, business acumen, a woman who knows what she wants. But her private troubles led to a hilarious mistake of vodka in a water bottle. Jonathan Blair expertly switched between the hilarious, high-strung Officer Dixon and moody, brooding Frank. Janis Kunz’s Captain Wallis provided a much needed center of sanity around the fire. Daniel Stallings brought a fresh wide-eyed wonder to event organizer and stalwart Bigfoot believer James “Jimmy Fudge” Ferguson. And Olivia Holm’s Honey Boudin was still as sweet as her name and love for all of nature’s critters. Our new castmates blended into the mix to perfection with Ed Kramer giving Benjamin Hughes a downhome humor and rustic ache for the wife who left him. Calvin Johnson was endearing as Evan Landon. And Devanne Fredette broke all our hearts with her story of tragic loss as April Abbot.
But it’s not all s’mores and stories tonight. A Wanted poster reveals a traitor is looking to capture Bigfoot for $10,000. A box of evidence disappears. A business proposition promises fortune unparalleled…for a price. An unwanted guest stirs up trouble and dark, angry secrets. Accidents happen on the trails. And someone…or something…seems to be lurking just out of sight in the shadows. Fights, frights, and falling in love are just some of the adventures this cast of characters gets up to.
Audiences adored the show with the closing night crowd roaring with laughter at each quip, comeback, subtle shade, and hilarious hijink. They were in on every joke and cheered loudly for our stellar cast at the end. Is there any better feeling than a perfectly executed production? For us theatre kids, it was the best feeling in the world. We had a blast performing, and the audience was on board for every moment of pure heart that encapsulates Monica Dwyer’s splendid play. Bravo!
Closing night is our traditional awards night. 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. Congratulations Sebastian Lorenz for winning the Skeleton Key Award for Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind 2022 Revival!
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. In a historic moment, there was a tie in votes and FIVE people won the award for Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind 2022 Revival. Congratulations to Daniel Stallings, Heather McGaha, Calvin Johnson, Jonathan Blair, and Nicole Johnson for your Diamond Mask-winning performances!
One final honor crowned the evening. When Ridge Writers’ Weird Weekend 2022, and by extension Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind, needed a home when our traditional venue fell through, we turned to Moe’s Music, who had been our partner for Closer to Heaven. And Moe’s came through for us. They gave us a place to camp out for one glorious weekend when we really needed them, and, as a token of our deepest gratitude for their assistance and generosity, we at MMP awarded them with a Special Commendation on behalf of all of us. Without them, Weird Weekend wouldn’t have happened. Bravo, Moe’s Music! You are an inspiration to us all!
Even though every show has to close some day, the 2022 revival reminded us why Close Encounters of the Hairy Kind is a beloved classic of the MMP canon, and why Monica’s imagination remains a bright beacon for so many around her. It was, truly, a hair-raising experience.
But the art of Master Mystery Productions doesn’t stop yet. We have one more show to close out our 2022 season, and for that, we are going into our time machines and taking everyone back to 1925. On the Left bank of the Seine, at the sidewalk cafes frequented by the artsy and the wealthy, two bohemian artists are sharing a little coffee break to try and solve the murder of the patron looking to set them up for life with a huge commission. But danger is lurking nearby in…
Tête-à-Tête performs October 19, November 5, November 12, and November 19 at 7:30 p.m. at The Forum Theater in Lone Pine, CA (141 N. Jackson St.). The show is $20 each and the tickets are sold on EventBrite here.
We’ll see you soon!
–Master Mystery Productions