Sam White, director of the world premiere of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! and the subsequent run at the New York International Fringe Festival, identifies “Ruined” as a career highlight in this recent interview: https://www.channel3000.com/madison-magazine/arts-and-culture/actor-sam-white-conquers-new-york-loses-battle-with-a-fireplace/1005306158
Author Archives: Christian Neuhaus
“Ruined” in Tucson: Aug 25 – Sept 17
The Comedy Playhouse and School (website, Facebook) in Tucson, Arizona is the latest company to produce You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! Performance times and ticket information are at https://www.thecomedyplayhouse.com/current-production.
The next “Ruined” – April 2015, San Antonio
San Antonio’s Rose Theatre Company (website, Facebook) is the next company to produce You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! In a story in the San Antonio Express-News (‘You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery’ gets SA debut), Rose co-owner Chris Manley, who is also in the cast, said “Whenever I produce a show, I’m in the mindset of, ‘I want to do a show I want to see.’ This is something I want to see.” The production is directed by Matthew Byron Cassi and will apply the fight choreography experience of cast members Joseph Travis Urick (The Detective) and Morgan Clyde (The Narrator) to showcase more combat than the previous productions.
Below is the poster for the Rose production and a photo taken by Erin Polewski that accompanies the Express-News story. The Facebook event is here.
This is the first production of Ruined to take place after the “Free Sherlock” legal decision that ruled Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are characters in the public domain. That decision means we don’t have to be concerned about referring to Sherlock Holmes in descriptions of the play. It also means that there is a diminished imperative for referring to the investigators as only The Detective and The Doctor. Nonetheless we won’t be rewriting the play to give the characters their “true” names, as that would be, well, less funny.
#ExplodeHamlet – Shakespeare in Busan’s “To Be or Not to Be”
On March 25th Shakespeare in Busan performed a theatrical adaptation of Ryan North’s To Be Or Not to Be: That is the Adventure, a “chooseable-path” retelling of Hamlet. Like You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery, the play featured a narrator soliciting choices from the audience. But in this case the audience was (potentially) global: the performance was livestreamed on YouTube, and viewers could vote by commenting on the YouTube video or by adding #tobeornottobe to a tweet. I enjoyed observing through @ruinednarrator the audience engagement on Twitter and the enthusiasm for this form of theater.
Below is a recording of the performance, which features multiple passes through the book. In addition to choosing different directions for the plot, To Be Or Not To Be gives you the option at the beginning of following one of thee characters: Ophelia, King Hamlet (deceased), or Prince Hamlet.
“Ruined” in 15
In December 2005 the film The Producers opened: a movie based on a stage musical that was based on a movie. In December 2012, Rick Stemm and I created a short version of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery: a 15-minute (or thereabouts) play based on a full-length play that was based on a 15-minute play. The motivator was the opportunity to submit a script to the Simian Showcase produced by Monkeyman Productions, which calls itself “Toronto’s Geekiest Theatre Company.”
There are elements of the original short script from 2009 that we used in the 2010 full-length: similar opening scene, audience interaction, Narrative-Detective tension, and an investigation at Heaving Hall. But the plots are different. We nevertheless used the 2009 script as a starting point, keeping its basic structure and rewriting to incorporate concepts and dialogue from the full-length version. We replaced the single ending of the 2009 play with abridged versions of two of the three endings from the full-length. This meant we had to rewrite the original so that instead of investigating a surreptitiously drugged noblemen, the Detective and Doctor were collecting information that led to a confrontation with either clockwork men or a mind control device.
The scenes of the two scripts mapped pretty well to each other, so one of the biggest challenges for me was figuring out what to cut, to keep the script around 15 pages. I worked on a draft and sent it to Rick, who would respond with his suggestions, and after an exchange of six drafts we had a script ready to submit. It was an interesting project to work on, and I’m glad that we can now include calls for short plays in the submission opportunities we look at for Ruined.
“Ruined” – the next generation
The first organization to produce You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! after Mercury Players Theatre was the East Side Players of Madison East High School. Drama Director and Ruined cast member Paul Milisch directed a one-act version of the play for East’s entry in the Wisconsin High School Forensics Association’s State Theatre Festival. The production’s public debut was Dec 8 – 10 as part of “An Eastside Night of Mystery.”
I attended a Saturday afternoon performance and took the following photos. Some familiar props, including the giant magnifying glass and Von Evilton’s device, were part of the production. Alterations from the previous production included dual narrators, an astounding red wig for Von Evilton, and a prodigious bustle for Katherine, who was renamed Katherine Booty-Heaving. And there were T-shirts for sale!
Quotes about the summer 2011 production
The top theater production of the past year was home-grown, a zany audience-participation Steampunk mystery that sprouted from the 24-hour Blitz playwriting challenge put on annually by the Mercury Players.
Isthmus Annual Manual, where readers voted Ruined #1 Favorite Theater Production
The first day of FringeNYC and I am treated to this lively, funny and well turned out comedy…Every member of this ensemble is sparkling and on their toes.
Pamela Butler, nytheatre.com
A show…that puts two of America’s favorite guilty pleasures together; a comedic murder mystery and a choose-your-own adventure book! The result is nothing short of a good time!
Spencer Howard, Artsy Fartsy Show “Art To Do” Blog
This piece is interesting in part because of the comedy interwoven into the structure (a fun mix of parody and literary criticism), but more importantly the methodologies of how the story is told (using audience participation) are worth going to the play by themselves…You’ve Ruined A Perfectly Good Mystery! is truly a good example of the type of theatre that the New York International Fringe Festival exposes to a larger audience.
Stephen Tortora-Lee, The Happiest Medium
This parody of the detective story, most specifically those about Sherlock Holmes, has a highly literate and often very funny script by Christian Neuhaus and Rick Stemm. But what really makes the play a success is Sam D. White’s superb direction and his talented cast.
Paulanne Simmons, CurtainUp
You’ve ruined a perfectly good motivational poster template!
Photos for the 2011 Madison and FringeNYC performances
By Lumi Photo. See the whole album here.
Pictured: Liz Angle, Jamie England, Tim Irvin, Andrea Kleiner, Matt Korda, Paul Milisch, Veronica Raulin, Matthew A. Schrader, Colin Woolston, Christopher Younggren.
Costumes by Sydney Krieger, props by Kirk Stantis.