Phil Castle, The Business Times
What would happen if you’re invited to a delightful dinner party and between the appetizer and main course someone suddenly dies?
What sounds like tragic circumstances — not to mention a significant buzzkill — is anything but for a new Grand Valley business that stages interactive dinner theater performances in which participants find themselves entangled in a murder mystery and try to deduce who done it.
After dessert is served and the mystery solved, everyone goes home well fed and safe because nobody is actually harmed in the making of the event. But in the entertaining process, many people realize how much fun they have in investigating the crime or discovering they’re suspects themselves.
“For the people who want to, it’s like karaoke,” said Kathy Applebee, owner of Mesa Murder Mysteries.
Applebee has joined with Georgia Lujan, owner of A Taste of Heaven Catering, to stage performances at Lujan’s large facility on North Avenue in Grand Junction. Dinner theater adds to an operation that offers catering, hosts events, sells balloons and just opened a bakery. “We’re really excited about it,” Lujan said.
There’s a clear division of labor, though, between who’s in charge of dinner and who’s in charge of theater, Lujan said. “I’m working to make sure everybody gets good food in a timely fashion.”
As for theater, Applebee brings to the venture experience as an actress and published playwright and novelist.
Applebee worked for 10 years for Maverick Murder Mystery while living in Virginia Beach, Va. When she returned to the Grand Valley earlier this year, she said she recognized an opportunity to open a similar operation. “We need to have fun things to do.”
Applebee also knew she didn’t want to handle food service, preferring instead to partner with a business with an established venue.
She said she found exactly what she was looking for in Lujan and A Taste of Heaven Catering. Lujan has operated a catering business for 17 years and her facility at 2817 North Ave. for five years.
Mesa Murder Mysteries differs from traditional theater, Applebee said, because performances occur not on a stage, but in the midst of an audience gathered for dinner. Actors are interspersed among the audience, and the murder victim could be sitting at the same table. So could the murderer. A “sheriff,” an experienced actor who directs the action, questions suspects and presents evidence. Otherwise, it’s up to the audience to figure who done it.
Upcoming shows include a Dec. 10 performance of “Ho Ho Homicide,” a mystery involving the murder of a department store Santa at a Christmas party. Two shows are scheduled for Dec. 31, a matinee performance of “Curse of the Pharaoh’s Tomb,” a mystery challenging the audience to use logic and critical thinking skills to unlock a missing archaeologist’s discovery, and a performance of “Assassination on the Nile,” in which the audience must determine who tried to murder Pharaoh Futty-tut-tut.
Applebee also has scheduled an improvisational acting workshop for up to eight children for Dec. 27 to 30 that will include roles for the participants in one of the Dec. 31 performances.
In addition to the regular shows, Mesa Murder Mysteries offers performances for corporate events and private parties. Scripts can even be customized to include good-natured razzing of specific guests. Educational events that teach students how to conduct research and apply scientific principles also are available, as are fund-raising shows.
Applebee said she hopes her enterprise will grow and offer additional performances that offer entertainment not only for residents, but also tourists.
Think delightful dinner parties to die for.
For tickets or additional information about upcoming performances by Mesa Murder Mysteries, visit www.cateringatasteofheaven.com. Information also is available from www.foolsforchrist.net/mesa-murder-mysteries.html.