Shawville Nov. 4, 2023
In both name and function, the Pontiac Community Players showed what they’re all about in joining forces with the Shawville Lions Club and hosting a whodunnit dinner with city firm Murder Mystery Ottawa. The “community” in their name isn’t just for show, and they set out to prove it.
Val Twolan-Graham, vice-president of the Players, took a bit of a leap of faith in coordinating the evening suggesting, “I really didn’t know where this would go.” The price point was a little higher than usual for Shawville fare and a stage show - audience extravaganza didn’t have the advantage of being well-known in town. Notwithstanding, a near sell-out crowd dressed for the occasion and filled the Lions Hall with anticipation, laughter and joy.
The decorating committee did well to organize seating in a series of chevrons all directed toward a central stage. This guaranteed that there wasn’t a bad seat in the place and also afforded space for the interactive nature of the spectacle. After all, something ill was afoot and a murderer was amongst the gathered.
For their part, Murder Mystery Ottawa entertains. While the murder scenario may have been pretense for their presence, their talent and energy carried the evening aloft. Company president Pete Dillon led the charge as Officer Torque Penderloin and his role was part emcee and part active participant in the scenes unfolding around the hall. Joining Dillon were long-time troupe members Erin McNamara as Judi Rockwell, a somewhat “desperate-housewives-of-Shawville” type character and Gabrielle Mackenzie as Sandy Beach, a Playboy Bunny wannabe.
Rounding out the cast was veteran entertainer and relatively recent addition Byron Brydges as Donnie Cocktail, the slick “Cousin-Guido-From-Jersey” fellow, and making his stage debut with the group, William Wueppelmann as Chip Rockwell, the bruised and battered not-quite-confident backseat husband to fun-loving Judi.
Rounding out the production team was stage manager Elena Ienzi, whose contributions off-stage were no less important than those parading through the chevrons with their tales of woe and intrigue.
Together, they sang, danced, schemed, plotted, lied and generally entertained. Their routine brought audience members into the fray from the get-go, with piano-playing, French language-teaching local Greg MacIntosh being the first to enter the story as the murder victim, staggering into the hall with scissors protruding from his back. From there, Ed Walsh and Mike Richardson became court judges, complete with prop wigs. Joe McCleary and Eric Smith learned some slick dance moves, and various others were seamlessly integrated into a wonderful production of fun. Laughter and engagement was secured in all corners of the hall.
In keeping with the audience participation, all attendees were invited to submit their candidate for “who murdered Greg.” Nineteen got it right, and a sampling of those were rewarded with gifts from the production.
That’s the playbill part of the evening.
The rest of the evening was one of all things community. The door was managed by Lions chair, Chris Graham, and Players treasurer, Marguerite Carmichael. The hall was decorated with a team quarterbacked by Players actor and creative designer, William Bastien. Dinner was catered by Cartrites with Lisa Cartman and her team of five hustling to and fro with buns, salads, roast beef dinners, desserts and coffee. The canteen was handled by Lions Dalton Cluff and Kevin Hannaberry, who made sure that refreshments stayed the course.
Not least of all, there was a list of sponsors which took up almost a whole page itself. It included: Boutique Bronson, Café 349, Candles in the Attic, Cartrites, Chateau de Dollar Plus, Coronation Hall, Euterra, Giant Tiger Shawville, Hursty’s, J&J Grocery, Jolie Folie, K&L Dairy, Kids-Cows-and-Flowers, Marché Bristol Market, Pontiac Community Players, Ron Strutt, Serenity Salon and Medi-Spa, Shawville Lions, Shawville Shooz, Shawville 150 Committee, Stedman’s V&S, Trevor Howard, Uniprix Ahmad Hassan, W.A. Hodgins Store and WePC Inc. How’s THAT for bringing the community together?
All that was missing were the town firemen. Oh – hang on – there they were at table six. Right there next to Shawville mayor Bill McCleary, and across from Arnprior mayor Lisa McGee. The post office person was there and that lady who works at Giant Tiger was there too. That farmer with the dairy just outside town was there and so was his wife. The lady who runs the flower shop was there and so was the one who runs the grocery. The mechanic was there and so was his neighbour, and – wow – who wasn’t there?
Five $100 draws were given out, all with products donated for the occasion, and there was a gift raffle, also with items from the broad list of sponsors. All funds raised by the 50/50 draw went back to the Lions Club and the Community Players as the lucky winner, Ruth Strutt happily donated her winnings.
This event – A Murder Mystery Evening – brought the community together in a way that should long resonate and which could, just maybe, act as a template for future events aiming to bring the best of community together. For it did that, and then some.
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