By Meagan Winker, Staff Reporter
Students of the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) were recently invited to spend an evening enjoying music, refreshment, and search for a killer character in the Landing during the annual Murder Mystery event, created by the Honors Club and the Writers’ Guild.
Students were given an hour to mingle with characters in 1920s attire to try and puzzle out who murdered Janey, a loud, moonshine-loving hillbilly (played by Victoria Luce of the Writers Guild), who suddenly dropped dead in the middle of the Landing-turned-speakeasy. Groups of students gathered around the many colorful actors, eagerly listening to and interacting with them. Then people darted off to the candle-lit, red and black covered tables to discuss what new information, or sometimes misinformation, they had just heard.
Shortly before the guessing period, the bartender, who’d been serving juices and secrets to participants, started shaking, and then dropped dead. Students had to quickly surmise which of the remaining living characters was responsible for the two “murders.” Senior Leon Leary guessed the killer first, saying it was, “the old lady.” He won the prize bag of the night, which included the 2013 DVD of The Great Gatsby.
Senior Erin Zuidema was new to the Murder Mystery event. “It was really interesting. I’ve never done one of these before,” said Zuidema. “My favorite part was when Victoria’s character died. It was really funny. Everyone crowded around her.” She figured out who the killer was but didn’t get a chance to guess.
Both the Writers’ Guild and the Honors Club members running the event were pleased with the success of the Murder Mystery event. This year’s 1920s theme was hard for people to dress up for, but that did not affect the outcome of the event. “I think this is the best one we’ve done,” said Jessica Meservey, the vice president of the Honors Club. “A lot of people got into it, even though they didn’t have 20s stuff to wear.”
Caleb Rea, a member of the Writers’ Guild and an actor for the event, agreed. “It was fun for me to act along when people got into it, especially when people got comfortable and started egging characters on,” he said. Rea played the character Marguerite, a suffragette who advocated for women’s rights and prohibition.
Writers’ Guild created the character profiles for the event and Meservey said her club is usually in charge of the plot, but due to a slight error in communication, the Writers’ Guild helped out with the plot this year. “We really worked out the kinks, plot holes, and motivations,” said Rea, who got the script together just two days before the event.
Despite the mix up, Meservey thought the Writers’ Guild did well with the sudden shift in duties. “They did really good with what they had. I was really impressed,” she said.
Students were not required to create their own 1920s characters, but a few created their own personas to talk to the Murder Mystery actors. “I’m really impressed with the people. Some of them made up their own characters,” said Luce. “This one kid got really into it. He said he was Mr. Mallet, the principal of Farmington Normal School.”
Luce marked one downside to the event, which occurred after her character was murdered and she was left sprawled on the floor for 15 minutes. “The only problem was no one came to get me, so my arms fell asleep,” Luce said with a laugh. “No one knew what to do with my ‘dead’ body.”
The Honors Club and Writers’ Guild host these Murder Mystery events every year, with a different theme each time, which is determined by the Honors Club.