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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Murder mystery returned to Essex United Church

by Sylene Argent

Essex United Church’s basement transformed into the Leland Hotel and Saloon for Friday and Saturday evening’s murder mystery performance of “Dead in Deadwood.”

  The western-themed play was selected for this year’s annual murder mystery, which has become a popular tradition in town. The play’s theme provided for a unique theme to add to the event.

  Though the annual fundraiser is a murder mystery, the volunteer actors come out of their shell to provide patrons with plenty of opportunity to laugh at the characters’ lines or antics.  

  The church welcomed around 80 patrons to each performance that had the local thespians portray their eccentric and unusual characters, while interacting with audience members, who were seated at tables in the Church’s basement.

  When some of the play’s characters started to drop like flies, it was up to the event audience to ask questions of the characters, and listen carefully to their answers, while watching how they interacted with one another, all to determine who the killer could be.  

  Attendees had to be weary of the characters’ answers as some were less honest than others.

  Patrons, while enthralled in the play’s storyline, were served a full meal and dessert, while they pondered the circumstances in the play, to conclude who could be the killer, or perhaps killers. 

  In addition to the around 10 actors who portrayed characters in the murder mystery, such as Harry Hayward, who opened the Leland Saloon for the miners when there was a gold rush, Marti, the dance hall’s newest girl, and Willie Woodcuff, who was an outlaw and a frequent visitor to the dance hall, there were many volunteers behind the scene, who cooked and cleaned up after the meal.

  Some volunteers, who wanted to help but perhaps prefer to stay out of the spotlight, lent a hand to decorate the church basement in celebration of the play’s western and saloon theme. They also decorate each table with a western-themed centrepiece and candles.

  Diana Dennis, a church member who portrayed Miss Iggy, a fearsome religious woman who ruled with an iron ruler, until she fell for another character in the play, said the members of the church enjoy putting on the play each year. The howling laughter of the event attendees certainly spurred on the play’s characters to add their own one-liners to the script, making the play one the attendees will surely remember for quite some time.

  Dennis also sat at the piano to entertain guests as they ate.

  Funds raised last week will go towards the church’s maintenance and general expenses.


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