Murder Mystery event gives students chance to improvise
On stage, two men crashed their way through an improvised scene. They were basing the performance on cues written by the audience. Every thirty seconds, the men would pause, read off one of the cues, and the performance would veer in a wildly new direction. The setting: a clock tower. The plot: a fear of worms. And then the revelations: “You’re adopted!” “You’re also adopted!” The scene concluded with the actors embracing and the audience enthusiastically applauding.
The scene was the beginning of Murder Mystery, an event held Saturday at the International Center and organized by the University Activities Board, or UAB. About 60 students attended one of the evening’s two shows for a night of advertised drama, with audience participation sprinkled in.
The actors were members of Custom Comedy Capers, a touring entertainment company. After the improvisation, one of the performers, Neal Grofman, donned a trench coat and an Eastern European accent. Grofman introduced the mystery, entitled “Futile Moo at MSU,” to the audience.
“We are engaged in a metaphysical excursion,” Grofman said. “Your utmost cooperation is required as we explore the outer reaches of the mind.”
The next setting: 1862, somewhere east of Lansing.
Four volunteers from the audience took the stage and dressed in costumes: a country bumpkin, a pretty country girl, a swimmer and a cow. As they began to work their way through the skit, one of the student actresses collapsed mysteriously. After a brief examination of the victim, the investigation began. Foul play was suspected.
Grofman somberly addressed the audience: “I’m going to deputize you all as parapsychological investigators.”
For the rest of the show, the victim remained lying still at the front of the stage, a sheet covering her face.
The audience divided into investigative teams and began to hypothesize possible causes of death as eerie music piped through the speakers. Theories included mad cow disease, ghostly intervention, autoerotic asphyxiation, lovesick suicide and classic murder. All of the student theories were incorrect. Grofman revealed it was a case of miracle-grow poisoning, motivated by blackmail.
Spanish junior Kaitlyn West, the student organizer of the event, said she was pleased by the performance.
“It’s the first time we’ve done a murder mystery event,” West said. “I like that they swap a lot of comedy into a murder mystery event. It peaked student interest.”
Jamie Newell, one of the night’s performers and owner of Custom Comedy Capers, has been in the business for 23 years. Newell enjoys seeing students open up on stage.
“Just watching the kids relax, letting go and not thinking hard, not having to hold back,” Newell said. “They step out of that quiet comfort zone into something they’ve never done before.”
At the end of the show, the deceased volunteer was revived by the efforts of one of her fellow actors. The impromptu cast received hearty applause from the audience as the night came to a close.