Whodunit? Murder Mystery Dinner comes to the Piggery this weekend

Whodunit? Murder Mystery Dinner comes to the Piggery this weekend
(Photo : Courtesy of Mead Baldwin)

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative

A thrilling and delicious evening awaits as the highly anticipated Murder Mystery Dinner event is set to take place on July 13 at The Piggery in North Hatley. The event will begin at 6 p.m., offering an engaging show coupled with a sumptuous buffet meal for a ticket price of $30 per person.

The themed dinner, titled “Murder at the Baking Olympics,” will feature countries from around the world competing in a premier culinary showdown. Participants will face off in a heated contest to earn the prestigious international title of “Meilleur Ouvrier Boulangier” (Best Baker).

Tickets for this event can be purchased by contacting 819-842-2431 or via email at: piggerymedia@gmail.com

Deep dive with organizer Mead Baldwin

Organizer Mead Baldwin, who also regularly plays the detective in these events, shared insights into how the evening unfolds during an interview with The Record July 8. “We usually have about 10 to 12 actors, all performing improv,” Baldwin explained. “Each actor portrays a character for the entire night, complete with name tags and photos on the wall for easy identification. It helps the audience keep track of who’s who, especially since the characters can get pretty involved.”

The format involves actors mingling with the dinner guests, each revealing secrets about their characters or others. “For example, one character might be blackmailing another,” Baldwin said. “This keeps the audience guessing and engaged. It’s fascinating to watch the interactions and see how people respond to the evolving storyline.”

After an hour or so, the plot thickens when a character is ‘murdered.’ “Each actor then has a new secret for the second part of the evening,” Baldwin noted. “And by the end, there’s always a detective, which is me in this case, who helps solve the mystery.”

Baldwin, who will be portraying a version of detective Armand Gamache from Louise Penny’s Three Pines, enjoys the complexity and engagement these events bring. “It’s all about creating an immersive experience,” he said. “We want our guests to feel like they’re part of the story, solving the mystery alongside the characters.”

This year’s theme is the ‘Baking Olympics,’ a playful twist on the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris. “We have chefs from different countries competing with their dishes,” Baldwin said. “For instance, there’s [a chef] representing Greece with her baklava and a French chef competing with his dessert. Each chef has their own story and motivations, adding layers to the mystery.”

The actors and organizers have clearly put a lot of thought into the names and characters to avoid any legal issues. “Our host this time is someone called Martha Stuart—spelled S-T-U-A-R-T,” Baldwin shared with a laugh. “We also have a character named Gordon Rambo, among others. It’s a fun way to play with familiar names without stepping on any toes.”

Baldwin reminisced about past events and characters, including notable local figures like Bishop’s’ Wade Lynch, who played Queen Elizabeth during a royal-themed mystery. “He loves doing Queen Elizabeth,” Baldwin said, chuckling. “It was totally crazy. We’ve had Queen Elizabeth come to Ayer’s Cliff for her 90th birthday, where I played Prince Philip. It was a blast.”

Fundraising is a significant aspect of these events, with proceeds often going to various community causes. “We’ve done mysteries for Grace Village, the refugee committee in Ayer’s Cliff, and even for a museum in Cookshire,” Baldwin said. “These events are a fun way to raise funds and bring the community together. It’s great to see familiar faces return year after year, eager to solve the latest mystery.”

Despite taking a break during COVID, the murder mystery dinners have made a strong comeback. “We had to pause during the pandemic, which I hated,” Baldwin admitted. “But we’re back at it, and people come every year to try and solve the crime. It’s become a bit of a tradition.”

The dinner theatre setup is designed to immerse the audience fully. “We sell about 80 to 90 tickets per event,” Baldwin explained. “We set up tables for dinner, with each table having a reserved spot for one of the actors. The actors meander around, introducing themselves and interacting with the guests. It makes for a very dynamic and engaging evening.”

The audience plays a crucial role in the event, as they are tasked with solving the mystery. “At some point during the evening, we set up an evidence table,” Baldwin said. “On the evidence table, you’ll find clues like bloody knives, secret journals, and other items pertinent to the mystery. The guests use these clues, along with the information they gather from the actors, to solve the crime.”

Baldwin takes pride in the challenge the event presents. “It’s not easy to solve the mystery,” he said. “You can’t just point at someone and say they did it. You need to figure out who the murderer is, how they committed the crime, and why. The motive is crucial.”

As the evening progresses, guests are given solution sheets to fill out. “After the murder is solved [in the detective’s mind] on stage, we give the audience some time to write down their guesses,” Baldwin explained. “We then collect the sheets and take a few minutes to sort through them. Finally, we announce the winners and reveal the true killer in a dramatic scene.”

Baldwin emphasized the importance of creating a challenging and engaging experience. “We don’t want it to be too easy,” he said. “The actors’ job is to make people think they might be the murderer, to throw them off. It’s always fun to see how many people guess wrong.”

The murder mystery dinner theatre events have a history of creative and varied themes. “We’ve done all sorts of themes,” Baldwin said. “From high school reunions and weddings to funerals and medical conventions. Last year, we had an antique art auction theme, and people were searching for valuable antiques, including a special chair supposedly used by Queen Elizabeth and her sister Mary during a visit to Canada in the 1930s.”

The event has also seen contributions from various local talents. “We’ve had a lot of local actors participate over the years,” Baldwin said. “Gordon Lambie, Shanna Bernier, and Claude Charron have all been involved. It’s a great way to showcase local talent and bring the community together.”

Baldwin and his team have been organizing these events in the Townships for the last 14 years. “It’s become a beloved tradition,” Baldwin said. “People look forward to it every summer. We started as church fundraisers and now we’re all over the place, including the Piggery Theatre.”

Tickets for this Saturday’s event are still available, with the Piggery Theatre and Baldwin encouraging those interested to join for an unforgettable evening. “It’s fun playing a dead body,” Baldwin added with a grin. “And it’s even more fun watching everyone try to solve the mystery. The dinner, the laughs, the mystery—it’s all part of the experience.”

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