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Interactive mystery dinner has students solve murder

December 7, 2006

The boss is dead and it’s up to River Falls to solve the murder, but does the city have the resources? Will the students of UW-River Falls help catch the murderer?

First Year Experience (FYE) and Student Events and Activities Committee (SEAC) have faced a large challenge as they try to engage students in a genre of show nearly 20 years old —the Murder Mystery Dinner being hosted in the new University Center next semester.

SEAC Coordinator Karyn Kling said when the idea was broached to students, very few knew what a murder mystery involved. This presented a challenge marketing the event to students.

In order to bridge this gap, the committees have been advertising the event with phrases like, “Get a Clue,” in hopes that students will make the connection between the crime-solving game Clue and the Murder Mystery Dinner, Kling said.

“Students know what Clue is,” Kling said. “[The Murder Mystery Dinner] is a highly interactive theatrical event where the audience becomes part of the performance and works together to solve the mystery.”

A murder mystery was attempted on campus a couple years ago, but didn’t muster the response programmers had hoped. Kling said the new venue and new group of students could make the event a success.

“You’re going to get a group of friends going to it, and they’re going to have a great time,” student Marcus Bonde said. “When they go back and tell their friends about it, they’re disappointed that they didn’t go.” 

Bonde is one of the students responsible for planning the Murder Mystery Dinner. He said he was excited about the event, despite not knowing very much about murder mystery parties.

“I love putting on events; I just need to know a little bit about it,” Bonde said.  “I just thought it was a great idea.”

Still, he knew it wouldn’t be an easy event to plan.

“I think a lot of [students] will be deterred, only because it costs $10,” Bonde said.

But he said the value of the evening is worthwhile.

“If a student were to go up to the cities it would easily cost $50,” he said.

Faculty, staff and community members are also invited to the event.

“It’s a great way to meet people that [students] might not know already, and a great way to interact with the professors,” Bonde said.

Another challenge faced by the committees was coordinating an event in a venue that has yet to be open to the public — the ballroom in the new University Center. The ballroom is an ideal venue for the event because it is a sit-down dinner, and the ballroom provides some elegance, Kling said.

Kling and FYE Co-Director Miriam Huffman have been able to tour the facility as professional staff to get an idea of what needs to be done. They also worked in collaboration with Chartwells, which is catering the event, Kling said.

Bonde said this will be the first major event in the new building, and that is a great selling point.  Students, faculty, staff and community members are given this opportunity to view the newest addition to the UWRF campus.

At the event, guests are placed in the center of a murder scene and asked to find out who committed murder.

The Murder Mystery Dinner is a chance for these parties to interact with each other in a setting outside of class.

Set at the employee appreciation party for the fictional company 2M, guests are asked to discover who killed the boss out of a line-up of suspects including the smarmy marketing director, the office rabble rouser and the loveable security guard.

“It’s not your traditional stage-up-front show,” Kling said. “It’s very interactive. Actors are part of the dinner and the audience is part of the show.”
Mystery Café, the nation’s original comedy mystery dinner theater, puts on the show. The theatre company is based in the Twin Cities and has been performing since 1989.

Each Mystery Café show is a fast-paced roller coaster of punch lines and pratfalls, sidesplitting gags and hair-raising suspense, accompanied by a three-course meal.

The event is scheduled for 7 p.m., Jan. 27. Tickets are $10 for students and $20 for faculty, staff and community members. They can be purchased at the Leadership Center front desk in the Student Center.