With perfect political timing, a new dinner theater company brings Murder on the Campaign Trail to town
The newly minted Mystery Mayhem Theater Company’s dinner show, Murder on the Campaign Trail, opens in Springfield this weekend, with a sendup of the political process and whodunit rolled into one.
The show’s co-producer, Tony Stirpe, cut his teeth on shows like this.
“I had been a working actor in Phoenix, Arizona for many years,” Stirpe recalls. “It’s not one of America’s cultural centers, but I managed to make a living doing children’s theater by day and Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre on weekend evenings.”
Flash forward almost five years and Stirpe, a regular performer on Eugene stages, recognized a satiric void. “And now I’m just trying to plug it with a bit of what I know best,” he says.
Stirpe’s partner in crime, fellow actor Blake Beardsley, shares his vision.
“I grabbed Blake and dragged him along with this lunacy,” Stirpe says, laughing. “We’ve built the company, Mystery Mayhem, together — and from scratch. And in a very short amount of time.”
Stirpe wrote the show’s script over a long weekend, he says. And both men wear many hats.
“Blake appears as Max Sebastian, campaign manager to Thomas Jerry, running to be the first Third Senator from Oregon. And I’m directing as well as stage managing the shows,” Stirpe says.
Mystery Mayhem promises a high level of audience interaction.
“This is environmental theater,” Stirpe says. “There is no stage and there is no proverbial ‘fourth wall.’ The audience has been invited to a campaign rally and until tragedy strikes, that’s exactly what they get. By the end of the night they’ll be asked to help solve the crime and win a prize in the process.”
The performance roster will change over time, Stirpe says, and the producers have double-cast many of the roles in anticipation of a long run.
“As we open, Blake will be joined by the great Bill Campbell as Thomas Jerry, and Jennifer Sellers as his wife,” Stirpe says. “We also have Hailey Henderson as the intrepid journalist. Later, Kathy LaMontagne and Roxanne Fox will join the cast.”
Tickets include a full dinner (with a vegetarian option) and the venue features that most important inside-the-Beltway landmark: the open bar.
It’s only March, and many of us already suffer from election fatigue. So as the wangling of this pivotal year ensues, Stirpe is hoping the show taps into our collective need for a cathartic release.
“Satire is most important in an election year,” Stirpe says. “If for no other reason than to remind us that there’s supposed to be a difference between comedy and politics.”
Mystery Mayhem Theater Co.’s Murder on the Campaign Trail runs 7 pm Fridays and Saturdays, March 12-April 30, at the Holiday Inn in Springfield, 919 Kruse Way. For tickets, visit MysteryMayhem.biz or call 844-1450; $39 (including dinner.)