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Murder's in the Heir at MHS

Posted: Tuesday, Oct 8th, 2013

The Mendota High School drama department will present Murder’s in the Heir on Friday, Oct. 18 and Saturday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium. Tickets are available at the door for $5; students with ID are free. With almost every heir having a weapon and motive to kill, it is up to the audience to decide whom the murderer is in this murder/mystery/comedy. (Reporter photo by Jennifer Sommer)

MENDOTA – The game of Clue comes to life in Mendota High School’s fall play, Murder’s in the Heir by Billy St. John. Almost every character in this play has the weapon, opportunity and motive to kill tyrannical billionaire Simon Starkweather. And it is up to the audience to determine who actually did it!

Starkweather gathers his family and employees to discuss the contents of his will. They believe he is going to leave them millions of dollars but are shocked to find out that he has amended his will and is leaving his inheritance to his cloned self.

Predictably, Starkweather is murdered before his updated will is valid. But who did it? Through secret ballot, the audience will choose Starkweather’s killer. The cast will then act out the chosen ending in this murder/mystery/comedy.

With the possibility of a different ending each night, it should be fun for the cast and audience alike stated Jenn Masini, director.

In addition to learning all their lines, cast members also need to memorize the killer’s lines in case the audience chooses them. “They have all been up to the challenge,” said Masini.

The audience participation came about when playwright, St. John had a nervous breakdown and never actually finished writing the script.

“I think not knowing the ending is a bit nerve-wracking for the cast, but they are doing a great job (in rehearsals),” continued Masini.

Masini noted that this is a bit of a ‘rebuiding year.’ Six drama department mainstays graduated last spring. But she is confident in the new group.

“We have younger actors that had smaller parts in the past that are now stepping into feature rolls and then some upper classmen that have never auditioned before. So it is really a nice combination of people with some theatre experience and some people that are just getting their feet wet,” she commented.

Masini emphasized that this is a true ensemble piece with substantial roles for everyone. “It was a pretty big investment for anyone who auditioned for the play. There were really no small cameo roles. They are all pretty big speaking parts. They have all done a really nice job with it, even those that are doing it for the first time.”

The cast of characters include: tyrannical billionaire Simon Starkweather and Simon Starkweather III, his grandson, both played by Payton Gehm; Starkweather’s niece, Fiona, played by Phyllis Brower; Fiona’s son, Jordan, played by Garrett Pattermann; Starkweather’s great-niece, Paula Thompson, played by Bethany Wohrley; the butler, Bensonhurst, played by Eric Grenter; the housekeeper, Mrs. Trent, played by Samantha Masini; the cook, Minerva Walker, played by Savanna Sondgeroth; the maid, Nancy Pollard, played by Anna Aughenbaugh; the handyman, Rufus Jones, played by Ryan Stohr; Lois Van Zandt, a lawyer, played by Haley Selman; Miss Withers, a nurse, played by Hannah Corey; Kathy Collins, a personal secretary, played by Lacey Johnson; Mike Davis, a private detective, played by Eric Masini; the director, Jean Culpepper, played by Nikki Baughan; and ushers Melissa Wohrley, Hope McDowell, Becca Wackerlin and Lizzy May.

“They amaze me all the time. They are just a really fun group to work with. Even though they are so busy and splitting their time with so many school activities, they always have really good attitudes and are really willing to work. I have really enjoyed it,” said Masini.

Their hard work will be showcased in Murder’s in the Heir, Oct. 18-19.

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