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What Makes a Murder Mystery Party a Success or Flop

Jul 24, 2008
These days there are more and more event hosting companies venturing into the murder mystery genre for parties. Your options are growing, with most cities in America now having several to choose from. Why the growth in popularity?

Because a good murder mystery is thrilling. A truly good mystery is challenging to participants. When a troupe knows what they are doing, the party-goers can escape their daily lives and be transported to a different time and place - a world full of mystery and suspense.

So how do you choose the right murder mystery party for your guests? It depends on your tastes; there are many styles to choose from and many questions to ask. Do you want a real mystery that is a challenge to solve and keeps them guessing? or do you want a campy comedy show that is light and silly? Or a little of both? Would you like the setting to be contemporary, or shall we transport your guests back to the Forties or Victorian England? Do you want actors that blend in with you guests, or center stage campy actors? Would you enjoy a Sopranos parody, or a classic gumshoe detective story?

When I was 23, I got my first taste of the mystery dinner theater world. In NJ, I worked with a troupe that specialized in the campy over the top mystery dinner theater. Silly scripts, comedic characters that were hokey, but it was so much fun. That was the style and what people expected. I fit in perfectly, I got to hone my spontaneous improv skills, table to table, cracking people up. I even wrote a campy script that is still being used today by that same company.

When I moved to California a few years later, the genre was now called Interactive Theater, and the style was changing. The trend was now to have the actors blend in to the party, you would think they were just another guest. Figuring out who was an actor and who was a guest was challenging and stimulating to the audience. And the plots were more serious, less predictable. It bothered me though that there was so much down time for the audience with this style, and great actors were being under utilized.

The only character that is not supposed to be a 'blend-in' is the lead detective. I auditioned for this important role, developing a character that was part Columbo and part Jay Leno. Improv comedy involving the participants by name, and that casual detective questioning was a perfect mix.

Finally I started my own Sharpo Mysteries, with my wife Nora. We have crafted the company to be a perfect mix of fun comedy and serious sleuthing. We write mysteries with diabolic motives, some characters that blend in, and some that are over the top to keep everyone entertained. It's a perfect mix. The mysteries are intense and clever, but the main focus is for the participants to truly have fun. We like to add strolling magic and party starters during the cocktail hour, it's an all encompassing entertaining night.

This balance is actually hard to come by in a mystery dinner troupe, so be sure to ask these questions when making your choice. See you at the show!
About the Author
Los Angeles based Sharpo Mysteries, with Eric Sharp's unique mix of intrigue and comedy, is perfect for private and corporate parties. Book an one of a kind murder mystery for your next big party!
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