The Riverbank High School’s Drama and Culinary Arts departments teamed up on Saturday, April 13 to present a Murder Mystery Dinner at the Black Box Theatre on campus.
It was no easy production, with a new configuration for the theater. The risers that usually contain the seating for the audience were missing. Instead, the floor was bare, occupied by a series of eight tables, with seating for eight diners at each, complete with place settings, a centerpiece and candelabra. Seating risers were stored outside the theatre for the production.
The diners were ostensibly attending a memorial dinner in honor of 1920s business tycoon Charles Hemingsworth, who had died recently. The actors were members of the various Drama Department classes on campus, and the Culinary Arts and Food and Nutrition classes provided and served the food.
Right from the start, the audience was kept on its toes, beginning with a filmed (video) message from the tycoon, played by Sebastian Mauzy. He told those in attendance that, if they were seeing it, that he had been murdered, and he challenged them to help figure out ‘whodunit.’
As dinner was served the various actors, performing their roles, interacted with the audience, making it difficult to know what things were clues and what weren’t.
The student actors portrayed a variety of characters with varying relationships to the deceased.
Nathan Alanis played the detective who takes over the investigation. The police officers in attendance included Kacie Figueroa and She Kendrick.
Other obvious suspects included his ex-wife played by Cecilia Temps, a party girl daughter, played by Marissa Garza, and a spendthrift daughter, played by Tasha Woods.
Others included Hemingsworth’s gangster brother, played by Guadalupe Vasquez.
Then there’s the Maid, Linda Reyes, a Butler, played by Ryan Hetzler, and a Psychic played by Jenise Perryman. There was also a Personal Assistant, played by Andrew Stone.
Drama teacher Lezlie Acker ran the technical equipment, including the video playback.
The production was written by RHS Media Arts instructor Jon Gianelli, who was in attendance. He has another play script completed, he said, as well as a couple of screenplays in the works.
At the end, cast members had the audience vote on whodunit, based on the clues they were able to collect, revealing that detective Alanis was the culprit.