Unusual Suspects: Meet the Cast of Reston Community Players’ Upcoming ‘Rehearsal for Murder’

Reston Community Players heats up the winter with the thrilling whodunit Rehearsal for Murder January 16-31, 2015. Audiences are invited to test their wits as they enter a world of backstage drama where nothing is as it appears – or is it?

Wayne Jacques (Frank Heller); Christine Carter (Karen Daniels); Joan Susan Zeigler (Bella Lamb); Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs); Kevin Walker (David Mathews); and Ian Brown (Alex Dennison). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.
Wayne Jacques (Frank Heller); Christine Carter (Karen Daniels); Joan Susan Zeigler (Bella Lamb); Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs); Kevin Walker (David Mathews); and Ian Brown (Alex Dennison). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.

Rehearsal for Murder is the story of Alex Dennison, a successful playwright who, one year earlier, lost his fiancé, Monica Wells, a movie-star turned Broadway leading lady, in what police ruled as a suicide. Convinced it was actually murder, Dennison invites five acquaintances from the original production to read scenes from his new play. These scenes reveal surprising connections to the original death. “Whodunit?” asked producer Jay Stein. “You’ll have to come see the show to find out. I can almost guarantee that whatever your theory is, it will be wrong.”

Meet some of the unusual suspects who will be stealing the limelight in Rehearsal for Murder.

Please introduce yourself to our readers:

Ian Brown:  I am playing the role of Alex Dennison. This is my first time working at Reston Community Players, but I have done several shows over the past few years at the theatre formerly known as Elden Street Players, the most recent one being The Seafarer. I also happen to be the set designer for this show. In my “real” job I work for Booz Allen Hamilton as a consultant. I am also a voice actor for various clients and have appeared on House of Cards in the background.

Christine Carter: I play the role of Karen Daniels in Rehearsal for Murder. I have been onstage ever since I was a little girl, and most recently relocated from Southern Maryland to Herndon. I performed with the Newtowne Players for a number of years, and have also worked on and in a number of short films. I also perform locally with both the DC and Baltimore chapters of Mortified.  In “real” life I am a software trainer for Northern VA Community College, and I also enjoy cooking, scuba diving, and documentary filmmaking.

Joan Susan Zeigler: I play Bella Lamb, the prominent Broadway producer in Rehearsal for Murder. Lightning struck the day I played “Hans Christian Andersen” at a sleep-away camp in NYC and the rest is history. Over the years I’ve performed in Northern Virginia in musicals, comedies, and drama. Some of my favorite shows are Rumors, Plaza Suite, Fiddler on the Roof, Cemetery Club, Prisoner of Second Avenue, Lovers & Other Strangers, and Baby. In addition, I also was one of the founders of the award-winning Encore Players, the only continuous performing community dinner theatre in Northern VA (now no longer in existence), which operated for 9 years at the Marco Polo Restaurant in Vienna, VA. Since I am a people person, my career has included the following: Public Relations, Group Sales, Entertainment Booker, and Events Planner. I was the producer for an in-house television show for eight years. As the producer, I brought on celebrities and guests, wrote scripts, ran the camera and edited the film. In addition, I am a professional concierge.

Jay Stein: I play Lloyd Andrews, the director of Alex Dennison’s last play, Chamber Music, and one of five people Alex invites to read scenes from his new play as part of the events in Rehearsal for Murder. Lloyd is a nervous man, always worried about public reaction to his plays, but even more worried what the critics will say.

In real life, I have worked in television for over 25 years, doing mostly graphics creation and playback. My first job was with the ill-fated USA Today on TV, a show that did so spectacularly poorly that most people seem unaware that there ever was a USA Today on TV. I’ve been doing theater off and on since high school, and though I’ve done mostly tech, I’ve also had a bunch of roles on stage, including the lead of Neil Simon’s Fools.

What do you love most about being in a whodunit and playing a potential murder suspect in Rehearsal for Murder?

Ian: The most interesting thing about being in a whodunit, I think, is keeping the audience guessing, when you, as an actor, already know the ending. There are subtle hints along the way that, if someone came back to see the show a second or third time, might be “A HA!” moments, but probably wouldn’t be recognized the first time around. Those are pretty fun.

Christine: I think the most interesting thing about being part of a whodunit is seeing the way each element of the mystery is woven throughout the play. It seems like every time we go through the show, I discover another element of surprise, a hint, or a red herring that the author has included to throw the audience off-balance or to surprise them at the end of the show. It’s a fantastic play and, I have to admit, fooling the audience is also a lot of fun!

 Matthew Wise (Policeman) and Ian Brown (Alex Dennison). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.
Matthew Wise (Policeman) and Ian Brown (Alex Dennison). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.

Jay: The most interesting thing about being in a whodunit is being part of the process of confounding the audience, yet also knowing there are enough clues for them to figure it out if they are paying attention.

Why is your character not guilty in Rehearsal for Murder (it’s okay to be outrageous and lie to avoid giving away the real answer)?

Ian: There is absolutely no chance that I killed Monica Welles. This woman was the love of my life, our future together was looking so bright! I have never loved anyone the way I loved her. Heck, I’m the one trying to prove to the police that she didn’t commit suicide – that she was murdered! Why would I do that if I was the one who killed her?

Christine: Me? Murder Monica Welles? Look, I know it SEEMS shady with me being the understudy and all, but I would never kill Monica! She and I were friends, and besides that, the producer would never open a show with an understudy. Anyway, I’m no longer the sweet little ingenue that I was a year ago. I’ve got big things happening! It’s a tragedy, yes, but I’ve moved on and so should everyone else. Things change.

Joan: As Bella, a prominent Broadway producer, my life does not permit me the time to kill anyone. My schedule is a non-stop continuation of business and cocktail parties, luncheons, meeting with backers, famous playwrights, actors, rehearsals, reading plays, being at rehearsals, office work and occasionally sleeping. Who has time to even contemplate killing someone? I HATE guns, they make me tremble. Besides my husband would kill me if I ever killed anyone!!!!!!!!!!

Jay: A mutual friend of Alex and Lloyd’s asked Lloyd if he was guilty. This is how Lloyd replied: “I was heartbroken to learn of Monica’s death. Though she’d been a movie star for years, Chamber Music was her on-stage debut, and in that respect she was inexperienced. I wanted her to succeed and made it my business to help her be as big a star on stage as she had been on screen. I’ve heard mumblings that some people think I might have been responsible. How outrageous. What possible reason would I have to kill the star of my own production?”

What makes Rehearsal for Murder a special production?

Ian: What is special about this production of Rehearsal for Murder is that it’s not just a murder mystery – it’s a love story. Alex and Monica were deeply in love, very committed to each other, and really brought out the best in each other as people. Which makes it that much more unfortunate that Monica was killed. She indeed had her best years in front of her, and that was tragically cut short. This absolutely devastates Alex, and it motivates him to bring her killer to justice through the only means he would know – by writing another play. So this isn’t your run of the mill whodunit. These characters aren’t just cardboard. They are very rich and complex. Especially Monica…

Christine: The cast for Rehearsal for Murder is one of the most close-knit group of actors I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. Every single person is looking out for each other, helping each other, and trying to make this the best show imaginable. We all just gel together, and that camaraderie is so important in a show that has so many layers of relationships between the characters, and I really think that shines onstage. For me, this is one of the best casts I’ve ever been a part of!

Joan: Everyone from our very talented director to the entire cast and crew are so creative, dedicated, and seriously determined to make this show a winner for our audiences. In addition our lovely cast is very supportive of one another. There are no divas among us. And we are having a blast doing this show. It’s a tricky, tricky show to do, but I can’t tell you why: remember one of us is a Murderer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jay: What is special about this production? The script goes outside the typical murder mystery formula. It’s more complex, and therefore more fun. And the cast easily carries that complexity.

Why should audiences come see Rehearsal for Murder at Reston Community Players this January?

Ian: People will be entertained, intrigued and will try to guess who did it, probably changing their minds several times throughout the show. But in the end, they will be moved, I think, by Alex’s commitment to Monica, his love for this woman, and his desire to bring closure to her death and justice to her killer.

Christine: Audiences should definitely get bundled up and come see Rehearsal for Murder because this show keeps you excited until the very end. Every character is dynamic, there’s a ton of movement and excitement, and it’s a really creative take on live theater. The “fourth wall” is completely broken from the beginning, and I think it appeals to everyone’s innate sense of voyeurism because the audience is literally a “fly on the wall” during the entire show. This is not a show to be missed!

Christine Carter (Karen Daniels), Kathy Ohlhaber (Monica Welles), and Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios
Christine Carter (Karen Daniels), Kathy Ohlhaber (Monica Welles), and Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios

Joan: If you love murder mysteries or have never seen one, most certainly this is the one to see. We will inspire the detective in you and keep you on your toes till the end. This is truly a different type of a fun evening.

Jay: Why should people brave the winter cold to come see us? Partly because community theater is such a great entertainment bargain. Considering the talent, ticket prices are downright cheap. And people should come see our show because it’s so much better than just staying home. Besides, Alex NEEDS you to help solve the crime!

Rehearsal for Murder is directed by Jessie Roberts. Producers are Jocelyn Steiner and Jay Stein. The cast includes Ian Brown (Alex Dennison), Kathy Ohlhaber (Monica Wells), Kevin Walker (David Matthews), Jay Stein (Lloyd Andrew), Joan Zeigler (Bella Lamb), Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs), Christine Carter (Karen Daniels), Heather Miska (Sally Bean), Steven Palkovitz (Mr. Santoro), Matthew Wise (Policeman), Wayne Jacques (Frank Heller), Meg Miller (Policewoman), Carol Watson (Loretta), and Matt Cederholm (Ernie/Lt. McElroy). D.D. Brooke’s Rehearsal for Murder is based upon the teleplay by Richard Levinson and William Link for the 1982 film featuring Robert Preston and Lynn Redgrave.

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Rehearsal for Murder plays January 16-31, 2015 at CenterStage at the Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, VA. CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired. For tickets, call the Box Office at 703-476-4500 x 3, or purchase them online. All performances are at 8:00 p.m. with the exception of a 2:00 p.m. matinee on January 25th.

CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired.

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Whodunit? Reston Community Players Offers a Heady Mix of Backstage Suspects in Thrilling ‘Rehearsal for Murder’ Playing January 16-31, 2015 by Diane Jackson Schnoor.

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Diane Jackson Schnoor
Diane Jackson Schnoor is delighted to be back in the DC metro area after nearly two decades away. She earned her BA at The American University, with a minor in theatre arts, and holds a master's and doctorate in elementary education from the University of Virginia. A lifelong devotee of the arts, Diane's reviews and arts feature stories have been published in The Millbrook Independent and DC Metro Theatre Arts. As an actress, Diane has performed with the Cape Fear Regional Theatre, the Fort Bragg Playhouse, TriArts Sharon Playhouse, and in musicals and dance shows in Millbrook, NY, Amenia, NY, and Lakeville, CT. Her day job career has run the gamut from adjunct college faculty to preschool director to public relations director and back again, but her primary occupation these days is as chauffeur to the two young actresses who inhabit her home in Winchester, VA.