- Category: Murder Mysteries
- 16 September 2011
- Published Date
- Annelise Murphy
The Five Levels of Audience ParticipationOur murder mysteries are meant to be fun and entertaining, but this means different things to different people. Occasionally, I will get a concerned caller who is booking tickets that wants to know what audience participation means. Will they be forced up on stage? What if they just want to sit in a chair all evening? What if they want to get their friend up on stage to be involved? What if they want to “star” in the show? What does it all mean?
The most laid back form of audience participation that we use is mingling. The guests can choose to interact with the actors as they come to your tables or they can sit back and watch. This interaction can be intimidating if you aren’t aware that the actors will be speaking directly to you, but keep in mind that they are there for your enjoyment and just want a listening ear.
During questioning, everyone is encouraged to get up out of their seats and interrogate the murder suspects. You will be provided with question cards for each character. If you want to ask them additional questions, please feel free to do so. If something seems fishy, pressing a suspect for more information will result in a better understanding of what happened. The actors are trained to help you solve the crime (except the murderer) and will point you in the right direction based on their characters knowledge. If you question all the suspects and think carefully about what was said then you should be able to figure it out. Questioning each suspect is key because only with the pieces from each suspect will you be able to put the puzzle together. If you don’t want to get up and question, that’s fine, but I warn you that correctly soving the crime will be much more difficult as there are vital pieces of information only given out during that time period.
#3: Audience Dances or Group Numbers
Audience dances or group numbers are next in the level of participation. In some of the shows we grab a couple of people and bring them up on stage to participate in various stage antics. Sometimes, it is a group dance where you follow the lead of the actors and do what they do and other times it is to participate in a staged improve game. Sometimes, we encourage the entire audience to get out of their seats for a moment to participate in a single action (for example, in Shadow of the King, everyone stood and bowed to the newly crowned King.) The actors will approach you during questioning to get your permission. They will give you a prop (if one is needed) and instruct you that they will let you know when you are needed and what you will be expected to do. If you don’t want to be part of this, just let the actor know and he or she will move on.
#4: Bit Audience Parts
Bit audience parts are when the stage manager will hand you a costume and scripted lines to say when you enter. The stage manager will ask if anyone in your group would like a speaking role. All of these roles have cue cards that include not only your lines but the lines and actions of them actors that will be in the scene with you. You will have the chance to look over your lines during mingling. We encourage that you become a little familiar with what you are going to say, but you don’t have to memorize it. An actor will be letting you know when you are about to enter into the scene, so be watchful. When you are finished with your part, please leave the costumes, props and lines on the table. It’s a lot of fun to get up on stage with the actors and they will always guide you and encourage you so that you need not feel nervous.
#5: Questionable Characters
The most interactive part that an audience member can play does not exist in all of the shows. Sometimes, we make an audience member play a more active role as a questionable character. In Lights…Camera…MURDER, we had an audience member play “Snoops”, a member of the paparazzi. Snoops was prompted by an actor to snap potentially incriminating photos of the characters engaged in various scandalous behaviors. Then, during questioning, Snoops was given a card with questions and answers and the other guests were required to ask him/her questions about what they saw. This role is given out by the Stage Manager as well and is perfect for those who want to become a star.
I was interested in finding out what levels of participation the majority of our audiences felt comfortable with, so I put a survey on the website. (Click here to take the survey located on the left of the screen) At this point, 48.1% of people want to solve the crime through questioning, but don’t want to get up on stage. 20.4% want to be very involved and go up on stage. 14.8% do not want to question the suspects and hope to figure it out just by observation (incidentally, my mother fits into that category). 13% want to sit back and enjoy the show and don’t care about solving the crime and 3.7% like to go beyond simply asking the questions and clues provided and grill the suspects with their own. In accordance with this data, we have crafted the shows to reflect these percentages.
As you can see, Poison Ivy Mysteries insures that you can feel comfortable in the level of participation that you choose for yourself. It is ultimately up to you to decide what you will get out of the Murder Mystery experience.
Let us know how you like to participate in the comment section below.