How to "Kill It" at Your First Murder Mystery Dinner Show
As you walk in, you're greeted by a woman in a fringed flapper dress—her bob, her lilting voice, dripping with 1920s style. She eyes you suspiciously, but you're not sure why. Has the show already started? Do you have lipstick on your eyebrows? Or has she marked you as a cold, hard killer? If you've never attended a murder mystery dinner theater show before, consider this lesson one: everyone's a suspect from the moment they walk in the door.
We talked to Michael O'Hair, a cofounder of The Murder Mystery Company, who had several tips to help murder mystery newbies make the most of their experience, and maybe even solve the crime.
Dress the part.
Often the murder mystery show has a theme (a 20s speakeasy or a masquerade ball), and you're usually encouraged to dressed in accordance with it. While it definitely helps with the immersive experience, at The Murder Mystery Company's events, those with standout costumes are bestowed with awards and accolades in front of the rest of the house.
Another reason to dress the part? "At least one person from each table will become part of the cast," Michael says.
Before the show begins, actors mingle with the audience, going from table to table. As they do this, they choose audience members to play a part in the mystery.
If you're chosen, you will receive a briefing on your character and you should prepare for two things: being interrogated by the detective and accomplishing assigned objectives, such as slipping someone a note or confessing your love to another character. Depending on the murder mystery dinner, you could easily be the killer, but you probably won't know it.
If you're interested in playing a role, have someone else in your party nominate you. If you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other special event, let the staff know ahead of time, and they'll try to accommodate you.
Look for clues between courses; investigate during courses.
Observe the action between courses at your murder mystery dinner. Remember, it can take place just about anywhere in the room. Your actual investigation will take place during the meal itself. This is the "interactive" portion of the show, and Michael highly recommends getting up and talking to the actors. Ask them questions, then share what you learn with your group.
You can also expect cast members to join your table while you eat. That way, you and your friends can continue to collect information while enjoying your meal.
Don't get too cocky.
Think you've solved the crime? Take another look at the evidence. Michael stresses that it's almost impossible to pinpoint the guilty party early on. Even if you do figure it out, you'll need to know how, when, and "why on earth" they'd commit the crime.
Be a supporting player, not the star.
While you're encouraged to ask questions and play along, basic dinner-party etiquette generally still applies to ensure everyone has a good time and a chance to ask questions.
"Random blurting is OK," Michael says. "We want people to have fun and really be a part of the show. But don't try to drive the show to a certain point." And if you feel compelled to shout something out, keep it PG-13, meaning no curse words.
One last rule: no nudity. You would think we wouldn't have to mention this, but Michael's seen it all—"literally."
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