I’ve been writing and producing interactive murder mysteries since 1986 when I sort of stumbled into the mystery business by accident.  All I wanted to do was act in a participatory murder mystery but there weren’t any theater companies in Washington DC (where I lived) who were  doing  them so I decided to write and produce my own play. I did so, enlisted several  actor/friends, found a venue and, on Friday the 13th (an appropriate date) presented An Elegant Murder  to a very enthusiastic audience of over 150 people.
I was completely satisfied and ready to return to my “real” life of acting in regional theaters, writing for a local newspaper and enjoying, with my husband, our four almost grown children and our new home in Georgetown but,  some completely unexpected things began happening.

Newspaper articles reviewing ” An Elegant Murder” appeared and called it “a fun, new form of theater”,  the venue where I presented the show (Coolfont Resort in West Virginia) sent a contract for six more mysteries  over the next year, the owner of an art deco train contacted me about presenting mysteries on the train between Washington and New York and the  manager of a local radio station called to discuss presenting a mystery show at a fund-raiser. He added that that Vincent Price would be the guest of honor and would it be possible to somehow work him into the plot?

Does an actor ever say “No”? Of course not so, within the space one month, I became the producer/director of  my own theater company,Mystery On The Menu, wrote three more mysteries, formed a core company of ten actors, conferred with lawyers and accountants about contracts and book-keeping  and negotiated contracts with  several  businesses and resorts for future mystery plays.  I was in business; Mysteries were hot!

Since that time I’ve done thousands of mysteries aboard trains, cruise ships and buses, at resorts, hotels, restaurants, museums, conference centers, private homes and gardens.  I’ve written dozens of different mysteries and created characters who are sometimes more real to me than actual people.   Seven years ago, when the economy and therefore the mystery business started slowing down, I developed the  economical one- woman murder mystery series and called in Murder Is Served.  It proved to be a very profitable idea, people loved the idea of becoming a character and being a vital part of the play.

I’ve had a wonderful, successful twenty-seven  years but maybe, maybe  it’s time to quit.   Mystery On The Menu  was once  one of the  only murder mystery companies  in the country,  now there are  dozens and more springing up everyday.   When I started out in 1986  it was impossible to find a script for a participatory murder mystery  (which is why I started writing them) now hundreds (even free ones) can be found on the  internet with the click of a mouse.   This year I only did  the  ” A Very Merry Murder” holiday show two times as opposed to the year when I did it in five different  locations with five different  casts on one night.  My agent for the cruise line shows retired, three cruise lines decided not to do murder mysteries in their enrichment programs and my new, public  show, Bingo! It’s Murder , which I thought would be so successful, is selling very, very slowly.  

Maybe it’s time  to quit and concentrate on finishing my novel.  I’m writing  the third in my Inn series, Murder In the Inn and Another  Murder in the Inn were published a few years ago; now I’m working on Murder in Another  Inn.  I certainly have enough to do, swimming, line dancing, reading, traveling, people-watching on Lincoln road , traveling, going to the shows at the Hollywood beach bandstand, playing pickleball but…I miss my mystery shows.  I miss seeing people participate and ask questions and laugh; i miss the fun of seeing characters I created come to life. I miss the satisfaction, the high that comes from hearing applause for something I  created.  However, business is slow!  Maybe I have to face facts, be realistic.  Maybe it’s time to quit but…wait!  Someone just called to make reservations for six for the bingo show and a restaurant emailed about booking a mystery for a private party….maybe it’s not!