Audience will Decide “Whodunit?” at Opera House; Marlow Premiere of Hometown Playwright

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

Cast and crew from throughout Stephens County will take the Marlow Opera House stage this weekend and next as Duncan Little Theatre presents “How to Host a Murder Mystery Dinner Party in 15 Simple Steps,” written by Marlow alumnus Brian Taylor.

The play, directed by Beth Ann Hough, involves audience participation as well as improvisation by cast, culminating in the audience choosing the murderer each night.

The show is the hometown premiere of Taylor’s play, which was published in 2020 and has been produced in several other places.

Taylor, who graduated from Marlow in 1999, was active in theatre in high school. MHS speech and drama teacher Paula McConnell remembers Taylor fondly.

“Brian was one of my favorites that I ever had in class,” McConnell said. “He was incredibly talented at contest, doing humorous duet and humorous interp. He was also incredibly talented on stage playing in multiple shows, including Grease. He was very musical and developed great characters.”

Taylor said that he’s been a playwright since he was young.

“I’ve always had the writing bug,” Taylor said. “My earliest plays were little shows my cousins and I would do for the family. Professionally, my career began about eleven years ago, shortly after being hired by Pioneer Drama Service as one of their editors. I’ve been writing ever since.”

The playwright added that he encourages anyone who’d like to explore writing a play to give it a try.

“A lot of times, it really is as simple as just sitting down and putting words on the page,” Taylor said. “Sometimes you need time to work it out in your head, but I’ve found most writers do a lot of their thinking on the page. So whether it’s making notes or an outline or writing a scene, just jumping right in is often the best way to get going and things tend to take care of themselves from there.”

The production centers around the Host, who presents her 15-step process on how to host a murder mystery dinner party. The audience serves as the seminar attendees while the cast performs her own murder mystery dinner party on stage, and the plot thickens throughout the evening.

This marks the first time the annual Dessert Theatre is actually a Dinner Theatre, offering hors d’oeuvres, salad and bread, lasagna, and dessert. Donations are requested for dinner.

The cast includes Angela Blanton as the Host, Beth Ann Hough as the Housekeeper, Mandy Butler as the Maid, Michele Jones as the Pianist, Stacey Weddington as the Gossip, Karen Dean as the Celebrity, Caleb Pharaoh as the Lawyer, Kaycie Rogers as the Free Spirit, Shep Pampliin as the Groundskeeper, Kristine Nichols as the Doctor, Garrett Nichols as the Ladykiller, Anastacia Prucha as the Writer, Rebecca Quimby as the Lost Traveler, and Colby Eisenbach as the Inspector.

Tickets for the production are $15 for adults and $10 for students, seniors, and military and are available at the door nightly beginning at 6:45pm on September 16, 17, 23, and 24. The show begins at 7:30.