You’ve ruined a perfectly good motivational poster template!

Some “motivational” images of what to expect from You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! Created with Big Huge Labs’s Motivator and Lumi Photo’s images.

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Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Publicity



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.

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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Publicity


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Poster for the Madison encore run

Design by Al Hart

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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Publicity


Progression of ideas for The Narrator’s first line

Good evening. Welcome to Pretentious Theater.Jamie England as The Narrator

Good evening. Welcome to Splendiferous Rainbow Unicorn Theater of the Imagination. [This was the line used in the world premiere of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery!]

Good evening. We are about to embark upon a theatrical journey upon the vessel of imagination. It shall be powered by the engine of imagination. Our tickets, also taken by imagination.

Good evening. We are about to embark upon a theatrical journey upon the vessel of imagination. Or perhaps it shall be a journey of imagination upon the vessel of the theater.

Good evening. We are about to embark upon an amazing theatrical voyage. Our ship shall be the stage, the sail shall be the imagination, and the wind shall also be the imagination.

Good evening. We are about to embark upon a theatrical journey upon the vessel of imagination. Though we will have props and costumes and things like that too.

Good evening. We are about to embark upon a theatrical journey upon the vessel of imagination, propelled by the power of imagination. And theater.

Good evening. Tonight we fill the sails of artistry with the wind of imagination, embarking on a theatrical journey.

Good evening. Tonight we fill the sails of artistry with the wind of imagination, embarking on a theatrical voyage of imagin-artistry.

Good evening. Tonight we fill the sails of artistry with the wind of imagination, embarking on a theatrical voyage of artisti-gination.


Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Development



Rehearsals begin

Props to illustrate travel by air, train, and foot

The rehearsal period for the FringeNYC production of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! commenced last night at Mercury Players Theatre’s MercLab. The play had its world premiere at MercLab and it will be returning there July 15 for an encore run.

The first rehearsal was a read-through of the script and my first chance to hear modifications Rick Stemm and I made. There were three major changes:

  • An airship chase sequence Rick devised that, if the cast’s reaction is indicative, will be a hit with audiences.
  • A livelier opening for a scene at a gentleman’s club (one of two the audience can choose), where the investigator and his friend are accosted by a pair of club members.
  • A modification to one of the endings, replacing the threat of a doomsday device with a supernatural threat — a reference to Victorian spiritualism.

Rick and I made some minor dialogue changes and additions that all worked when I heard them spoken. All but three of the original cast members are returning, and I was pleased with what I heard from the new actors. Emotionally the evening was an interesting blend: fondly remembering the entertaining adventure of last fall and feeling thrilled and a little jittery about the upcoming adventure, where so much will be new for me.

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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Rehearsal


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Pro tip

The first read-through of the script for You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery! was June 9, 2010. Below is a note co-author Christian Neuhaus took at that read-through, responding to an early draft of a scene.

"Make more interesting"


Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Development



Pleasant surprises from the opening performances

Third of three posts I originally wrote for

I was entertained immensely by the first two performances of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery, a play I wrote with Rick Stemm that’s appearing at MercLab until the 25th. It was a thrill to see such exemplary work in the actors’ physical humor and character-driven comedy, and in the steampunk-influenced set design by Morgan Boland and costume design by Sydney Krieger. I had been to rehearsals last month and so was familiar with some of the unscripted bits director Sam White and the cast introduced, but there were several bits that were new for me and some overall things I wasn’t expecting but was nonetheless happy with.

The audience is essentially another character. The audience makes choices and participates in the other interactions we wrote into the script of course, but the connection between the audience, the Narrator (Jamie England), the Detective (Christopher Younggren), and the Doctor (Matthew A. Schrader) is much more tangible than I was expecting. It’s especially noticeable with the Detective, who doesn’t solicit choices like the Narrator but does somewhat antagonize the audience. Given this role for the audience, I sometimes wonder if the Detective is truly the protagonist or if the Doctor, who has to not only navigate the story’s challenges but convince the Detective to take part in the play and give the audience a satisfying show, is a sort of covert protagonist.

Christopher Younggren and Matt Schrader had some entertaining ad-libs in response to the audience the two nights I was there. Rick was in the front row those nights and at one point in the opening performance the Detective asked him something like “Are you proud of that?” in relation to some absurd line. The second night, when the Detective said something to elicit an audience “awww,” he said to Rick “Awww – you wrote it!”

The actors’ gratitude was as fulfilling as the audience’s responses. I expected that the most enriching part of this process would be hearing the audience laughing at funny lines and performances. But being thanked in person and in the program by the actors, hearing how much joy they were getting from the script, and seeing them develop friendships through their work on something I helped create were delightful as well. I’d seen all of the actors in other plays and was happy I could provide something they could have fun with and use to show talents they might not normally have a chance to.

The stage manager introduced the play. Like she did as the director of Rick’s and my Blitz Smackdown play, Bonnie Balke had some excellent aesthetic and practical ideas for the production of You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery. An example of the latter was using the program to identify the choices people would be called on to make over the course of the story. Given her contributions, how this play explicitly acknowledges that it is a play, and the challenge of literally not knowing what’s happening at each performance, I like the fact that our stage manager is the first person the audience hears from.

There is room for (relative) subtlety in the play. The Detective makes a crack near the end about being past the point of subtlety but there were comparatively understated moments (compared to things like a mime fight or a limerick contest, that is) that got good reactions. I’m thinking particularly of some amusing non-verbal communications from Daniel Torres-Rangel with respect to two props he carried in the first act, or the audience-wide sympathy Veronica Raulin got with a disappointed facial expression in the second act.

This production would get 13 Bartie nominations if it was eligible. Previously I thought 12 nominations, but it would also be a contender in the “Best Stage Kiss” category for an unscripted kiss I saw on the September 10 performance. It might even be eligible for “Most Thought Provoking Production,” as in “How is it possible that such a brilliant assembly of talent can exist?” This play has an excellent ensemble cast and outstanding entrances, sound design (Colin Woolston), lighting design (Spike Garrett), portrayals of non-homo sapiens, set design, costume design, belly laughs, poster design (Al Hart), and funny performances by actors/actresses. It’s a great comedy and could probably inspire its audiences to pursue a career in theater.

I give a pretty decent interview. These actually occurred prior to opening weekend. I’m not exactly known for being talkative but nonetheless managed to get some laughs in interviews with Alan Talaga and the Wisconsin Guys.

I’m warning up to the idea of an Aerosmith song appearing in a Victorian adventure spoof. No elaboration needed.


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