Tag Archives: interactive theatre

“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

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Posted by on August 5, 2017 in Performances


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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.

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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Performances


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#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.

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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


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“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.

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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Development


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“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!

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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Performances


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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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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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