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Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do the mysteries work?
A. The typical time-line is 2 ½ to 3 hours of non-stop fun. As your guests enter the cocktail reception, our actors do "meet and greet", walking right up to guests, dropping their relationships and clues.
Then, we continue mingling, as your guests sit for their dinner salads, or as they go through buffet line (we’re comfortable with any type of food service, please just let us know!). During the middle of entrée, we kick in to the short "play" (7 minutes) that leads to the comical death scene. After the body is hauled off, your guests are asked to look for clues that are on the tables — the detective will be here soon!
Suddenly, the suspicious characters take the stage, denying their part in the crime, and the next thing you know, our performers are delighting your guests with songs, impressions and interactive comedy (many of our performers are good singers, dancers and general funny people, so this gives your audience more entertainment value for the buck).
Soon, you’re all in one big conga line, as the detective enters the room, swears everybody in and goes through the clues and questions. The investigation takes about 35 to 40 minutes, after dinner.
The culmination comes when the detective hands out ballots and pens to each table to become a team, create a team name and vote on "whodunit" (this is a great time for desserts to be served, by the way). Each team captain will be asked to state the team’s vote (this is a hilarious part of the show), confessions are made and then each person at the winning table gets a prize (if more than one table guesses the correct culprit, we put the ballots in a hat and draw out one winning team).
Q. I would like to surprise my group with the mystery. Is that a good idea?
A. In the first years of doing these mystery dinners, we almost always did them as surprises, but we soon learned that many audience members felt "hood winked" by the actors once they knew that they had been conned. Your guests might feel offended when these weird characters come up to them and start talking to them. Also, if your guests know they are coming to a mystery, they have a tendency to play along from the get-go, with the end result being that they have more fun throughout the entire evening. It’s truly better to let your guests know they are coming to a mystery.
- If you would like to keep some secrecy to your night, here are some options:
- You can tell your guests (or put on your invitations) — "Come to a night of intrigue and surprises. Keep your eyes and ears open for some suspicious characters"
- Put mystery-like décor on your tables and invitations.
- Book our "Death For Dinner" show, because the characters are in "plain clothes" and are not instantly recognizable as theme actors.
- Go for the total surprise, but with our caveat that it may not go the way you had envisioned …
Q. Where’s the best place to hold a mystery dinner show?
A. We are a traveling show and can perform in almost any location that you like, as long as we’re in a private banquet room. We do have several hotels and venues, with whom we have strong ties and working relationships. For instance, we perform our patented Interacttive Mysteries every Friday and Saturday night, at Adams Mystery Playhouse, close to downtown Denver. We can arrange the entire package for you at Adams, or simply bring the show to your location.
Q. How much space do I need to give the actors?
A. If your crowd is 10 to 40 guests, we usually stay on the floor and don’t require a stage (crowds over 40 might require a small riser, so that everybody can see). The key to these shows in intimacy — think sardines when setting up your room. Our actors need the same amount of space as a table server needs to get through the tables. We like to keep everything in close, just like the comedy clubs do. Laughter is infectious. If you hear your neighbor laughing you will want to laugh too.
Q. What if my group wants to socialize by themselves?
A. No problem! Just let us know how much time you need and the actors can enter later.
Q. If I have a large crowd, does the mystery go the same way as above?
A. Large crowds (over 100 guests) need to be executed differently to make them work. We typically cut out a lot of the "talk-y" parts on stage, keeping the entertainment bits, and doing more mingling and "one-on-one" with the guests. Proper room set-up is "part and parcel" to the success of a big crowd. Please keep in mind that many times, you’re better off to book one of our hilarious after-dinner comedy shows and have interactive theme actors during the cocktails. Sometimes the larger crowd negates the intimacy and the focus. However, we have performed mysteries to crowds of up to 1,200 and with wonderful success — they are just not as "fool-proof" as the smaller, more intimate crowds.
In large crowds, we definitely need a stage (called "risers" in hotels) of about 12’ wide x 6’ deep by 16" high. This size can vary a little, but really big stages make the performers look diminished.
For really huge crowds, we’ve done things like "mall crawls" or almost "scavenger hunt" type things out in fields or big areas. Please call our office for info on this.
Q. Do I have to have a full dinner to have an interactive mystery show?
A. Not at all! We have performed the mysteries in as short at 1 hour and as long as an over-nighter, with the wrap-up at breakfast the next day.
Q. We have some awards/ announcements/ speakers/ etc. When is the best time to do those?
A. Usually, awards are always best after the mystery is solved and the actors take their bow. Awards in the middle of the night hurt the flow of the mystery and actually take away from the importance of the awards themselves. Many times, the president and other representatives of the company like to give short opening remarks. No problem with these at the beginning of the dinner (beginning of salads) before the actors move in to their portion of the evening.
Q. How should the room be set-up?
A. The most important element for shows like this to work is intimacy. With a comedy club or cabaret in mind, the tables need to be as close up to the stage as possible (dance floors in front of the stage are a "killer" and create a psychological gap that can really hurt the show). Many times, hotel banquet captains and conference service personnel think that "spread out" is more elegant, but big gaps between dinner tables really hurt the group experience and the gelling of your crowd.
A private banquet room is always the best. Open areas in public restaurants don’t allow for the jokes to get flyin’ and the clues to be read out. Besides, the loud laughter coming from your crowd might interrupt the other patrons!
Please see the following pages for room set-ups and let us know if you’d like for us to send these sheets to your hotel or venue contact.
Q. I’d like to have décor. Any suggestions?
A. Absolutely! Many clients want to have centerpieces to match their mystery theme. One fun thing to do is to use Sherlock Hats, turned upside down, with flowers, glitter and "detective" stuff in them, such as rubber gloves and magnifying glasses.
Please know, that large décor pieces, as beautiful as they can be, really create a distraction and, if sightlines to the stage are obstructed, audience members get frustrated and soon are not "into" the mystery. We’ve even had tough times with balloon centerpieces, where folks couldn’t see around them and then — irritation to your guests! Décor is always good and welcome, if we keep the feel of intimacy and focus for the success of all!
Q. What about sound and lights?
A. We can provide sound and lighting at an extra charge. Hotel sound is usually used for speakers and not good for theatrical and musical applications, so we need to contract it out (there are a couple of exceptions of hotels that do have awesome sound). The truth is that adequate sound is tricky and can literally make or break a show, so it’s important that we, together, get the best options for you. Keep in mind, that many of the contracted sound guys that we use are also D.J.’s, so they can often provide nice background music and dancing after the mystery is completed. Or, if you’ve hired a D.J., we can possibly use their system for the mystery, if the room is set-up for it and we talk to them ahead of time to find out what kind of microphones they have.
Q. Should I have other entertainment besides the mystery?
A. Music going on during the mystery doesn’t really work. The only time during the night that they don’t "step on each other" is during the cocktails, when the actors are doing the close-up mingling.
Q. Do any of my guests play characters?
A. In our shows we have set up from 3-8 (depending on the show) different parts for audience members. These parts are designed to include the audience not to embarrass any one. If your persons do not want to participate our actors will pass them by.
Q. Can I have any of my mystery outside?
A. In our experience, we have found that the cocktail mixer works fine outside. As for the rest of the show, it’s pretty tough to do outside, since sound waves travel straight up and the focus becomes more "foggy". A couple of ways to get around that, is to: 1) do them in a tent; 2) do them under a tent top; 3) do them under an overhang; 4) in huge crowd (thousands), do them like a scavenger hunt with a voting booth and wrap-up on the big stage.
Q. Do I have to feed the actors and do they sit with my guests?
A. Simply put: you can if you want. Most of the time, the performers are asked to eat, but let’s face it, these expensive plated meals may be too much for your budget. With a buffet, the actors may go in the kitchen after the show and see what they can scrap up, but it’s not necessary to put them in on your count.
As for the sitting part, most of the time the actors are up workin’ the crowd, so they don’t sit down much. If you have 25 guests, or less, it might be nice to have chairs for the actor/characters at your tables, because the show becomes more like dinner conversation and very intimate.
Q. What the best food service?
A. We will work around your food service and our actors will work with the banquet captain on the spot, to alert them of when to serve and clear tables. If you choose buffet or plated, we will adapt to the service. Some of the things that can really hurt the show are: 1) dessert buffets (if guests have to get up and go through a buffet line again for dessert, it usually is right in the middle of the investigation, and that If several courses are to be enjoyed, please know that really slow service, sometimes referred to as "elegant", may actually hurt the flow of the show.
Q. Can you customize my show?
A. We work in as much of your company info as possible (from the questionnaire that you fill out for us), but we go by our tinplate, because that is material that we know works.
If you have a theme (i.e. Island, Gangster, Futuristic, Western), we can mold our look to your theme — no problem!
Many clients ask us if we can write a mystery just for them. We can, but its expensive and not tested material, so only recommended in certain cases.
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