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Married to the Stage: ‘Valentines Day and Murder at Mount Hope Mansion’ by Natalie McCabe

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It was a fantastic weekend in the life of this couple, “Married to the Stage.” I was able to visit my husband for the first time in three weeks, received a huge, adorable teddy bear for Valentine’s Day, and ate ice cream sundaes while snuggled next to Johnny watching one of our favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory. I had (what I hope was) a successful interview via Skype with an amazing PhD program. Penn State’s THON, the largest student-run philanthropic organization in the world, raised more than $12 million for pediatric cancer research- and has raised more than $100 million since its inception a few decades ago.

THON’s total in 2006. Photo by Natalie McCabe.

THON’s total in 2006. Photo by Natalie McCabe.

Oh, and my husband was accused of murder. Yup, it’s true – or, at least, that’s what some people seem to think, anyway.

Why? The most frequent response from various “witnesses” is that “He’s French,”- or, more specifically, playing a French character, despite the year being 1907, decades before World War II. (Johnny is directly of French descent, having grown up in Montreal with grandparents originally from France, but, at least in this instance, that is beside the point),  At the moment, he is playing Raoul Ducos in Murder at Mount Hope Mansion, an “interactive murder mystery dinner theater” playing now through March 23 at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

Happy Valentine’s Day. The awesomely huge teddy bear is from Johnny. Phot by Natalie McCabe.

Happy Valentine’s Day. The awesomely huge teddy bear is from Johnny. Photo by Natalie McCabe.

At this show, guests become shareholders in La Mente Mostra Vaudeville Company, which is currently holding a meeting – in 1907 – to determine if the company’s future would be best spent in the new realm of moving pictures- film- or its traditional vaudeville and theatre makeup. Written and directed by the passionate Doug Wallace, the actors, performers of La Mente Mostra, mingle with guests during dinner, making their opinions widely known- and possibly letting personal gripes slip, adding clues to the motives of different characters later, when one character turns up murdered, leaving the audience to determine “whodunit.”

Each character has their own opinions about whether or not La Mente Mostra should delve into film- and their own motives for killing the victim.  Some prefer the traditional realm of theatre, for which they are better suited, such as Ophelia, the “Bearded Lady,” played by our delightful friend Pete Hedberg. Some feel that they may earn more money with film. Others simply want the company to stay together- but, here, the owners will split up no matter what the shareholders decide. The one whose vision is out-voted will walk away from the meeting with a check.

Included in the price of admission is a four-course meal encompassing an amuse bouche, salad, main course, and dessert. Coffee and tea are included during dessert, as well.  Meat-eaters, vegetarians, and even those following a gluten-free diet will be delighted with the offerings.

Cast of “Murder at Mount Hope Mansion. (Johnny and Doug are, respectively, second and third from left. Pete is second from right). Photo courtesy of Carrie Emich-Wallace.

Cast of “Murder at Mount Hope Mansion. (Johnny and Doug are, respectively, second and third from left. Pete is second from right). Photo courtesy of Carrie Emich-Wallace.

So, did Johnny do it? Here, all characters are potential murderers- and victims, as the ending changes nightly. So, to determine “whodunit,” you’ll just have to decide for yourself…

P.S.  Remember when I mentioned that my husband moves better in a dress than I do?  (See earlier column post here). Well, it turns out that his good friend Pete Hedberg, aka “Ophelia, The Bearded Lady” in this show, rocks a dress pretty decently himself. Sometimes I wonder about those two…

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Murder at Mount Hope Mansion runs Fridays and Saturdays, including Saturday matinees, through March 23 at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Purchase tickets here.  (Six of the remaining 15 shows are sold out, so get your tickets soon!)

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