By John Chambless
If you like mysteries, fairy tales or shopping, you'll love taking part in the Murder Mystery Art Stroll on Aug. 2 in downtown Kennett Square.
The Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society (KATS) will be gathering a crowd of suspects on the Genesis Walkway at 6:30 p.m., and the public is invited to come and get involved in solving a murder. The audience-participation event is "The Mystery of Snow White's Family Reunion," written and directed by Chris Ramsey, who is a member of KATS as well as the group's treasurer.
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Ramsey said the idea for this year's whodunit came from some family genealogy he has been doing.
"I had seen a connection to someone with a Swedish name, who came to the colony of New Sweden," Ramsey said. "In doing research on him, I found that he had changed his name to the Swedish name. Originally he was called Schneewittchen, which is German for Snow White. He probably got that name due to having white-blonde hair or something like that.
"So, when I was getting ready to come up with the scenario for this year's show, I thought, what if I had a family reunion of Snow White's family? That idea kind of morphed into having people who have these last names that translate into the names of the seven dwarfs. ... The rest of the idea is that this lady who's hosting the family reunion has people who have come into town the night before to see what's going on in the Kennett Square area."
In the murder mystery, the action starts on the Genesis Walkway and then spreads across town.
"We have all the suspect at the walkway," Ramsey said, "along with the audience participants. They get an introduction to the rules of the game, then a siren goes off, there's a scream and there's the body. We send the suspects out to the various stores. The audience works to solve the puzzle by going around to interview the suspects."
There are 23 suspects involved, along with a couple of people from KATS who will be selling clues on the streets, as well as a detective. With so much of the action left to chance, there's actually very little script for the actors to prepare, Ramsey said.
"There's basically no rehearsal," he said. "They get a character sheet, a description of who they are and what they know, what their motive might have been, or who they'd point the finger at, if they were pressed to do so."
Participants gather clues and try to determine who's telling the truth by talking to each character.
"There are people who plan on coming into town in August every year to play the game," Ramsey said. "Included on the sheet that people turn in is an opportunity for them to give us their e-mail address and get newsletters for KATS. It's good for both of us."
The murder mystery is fun for actors who can't make the three-month commitment to the group's major show, a pantomime in the British style that's staged each January. "They show up, hear the discussion, get a character sheet, do their thing and they're done," Ramsey said.
"Everyone that I know who's participated has been really happy," he said. "The Kennett Square Merchants Association and Historic Kennett Square get the benefit of an additional draw to pull people into town. The merchants get some good benefits, too. Even if people are focused on the play that night, they oftentimes see new stores and new things they'll come back to see again. And it's good for the restaurants, because people will stay and have something to eat after the show."
Participation in the murder mystery is free. There will be a drawing from all the correct solutions to the case for T-shirt prizes. More information on KATS is available at www.callkats.org.