The creation of Sleuths Mystery Entertainment’s Sleuths Mystery Radio and the Motive, Means, Opportunity - A Sleuths Mystery Radio Event has been a whirlwind of a project. This is its story.
Since March 13, when the danger of this pandemic was really coming to light, I canceled or postponed all of my public shows with Sleuths Mystery Entertainment. I immediately tried to find a way to continue performing. I had a community about to lose their livelihoods and an audience who were about to get desperate for a distraction. I also have a superpower that thrives in a crisis, ADHD.
Theater and comedy were about to become a much-needed commodity and with the performance spaces shut down it looked like theatre, for the time being, was dead.
I didn’t believe that. Theatre wasn’t dead, it had changed and we needed to change with it. If people couldn’t come to see us then we would have to go to them. The problem was how?
I began researching potential options and looked into software such as Zoom, Kast, and a host of others. I spent three days researching what technologies were available. I broke down the structure of shows and how they could be staged virtually. Once that was done, I began writing.
On March 17th I started writing plays specifically to be performed over Facetime or Zoom. I wrote a handful of shows in this format all while writing radio comedies for the theater I work for in Maine. It was while writing for the radio show that I came to the conclusion that by combining those two mediums, our modern video conferencing software with the radio-play style of the golden age of radio, that we had an opportunity to bring some much-needed entertainment to people.
My first test of this was to translate the interactive mystery-comedies that my company, Sleuths Mystery Entertainment, produces to this new/old format. There would need to be changes and additions to the current show structures and a way to communicate with the audience would need to be devised, but in the end, I knew it could be done.
On March 28th I started adapting a show I had written 15-years earlier. I added new scenes, cut others, and rewrote the script to fit. I went through the story and added the sound cues needed for the Foley effects. By the 29th the 97-page script was finished.
On March 30 I reached out to my premiere cast, Steve Corning, CarlaRose Dubois, Brian Files, David Hanright, Molly McGill, Nate Greene, and Marie Stewart Harmon. These are the women and men who have been with me and supported me since my first shows at Maine Repertory Theater and Somerset Abbey. The cast consists of women and men who live hundreds of miles apart, from Newburyport, Mass to Central Maine. To my delight, they all said yes.
In the first week of April, I secured the music rights to songs by Kevin MacLeod and designed the Foley effects. April 11 we had our first read-through and we recorded the raw footage on April 14th, 15th, and a final pick up to record new scenes on April 20th.
During these recording sessions, my performers recorded via Zoom using the equipment they had in their own homes during the lockdown. The technology used to accomplish this ran the gamut from laptops with built-in cameras and microphones to professional recording equipment, to an iPad. We did what we needed to make it work.
The day after I started to edit the shows together. I tossed together a teaser trailer using scenes from the first episode and a branded title card and on April 16th I released it to the web. It took off. As of today, April 23rd, one week later, it has almost 2800 views on Facebook alone. It looked like people needed this type of new entertainment. This was an experiment. We were essentially volunteering our time as a company, as actors, writers, producers, editors, and marketers. I knew that I would add a link for tips for the performers (Venmo @sleuthsmystery), and I knew that the company would be volunteering it's time for the sake of this experiment. I also knew that this was always intended to be a free production released over the internet.
I considered looking for paid sponsors. We had my dear friends at Maine Repertory Theater and Somerset Abbey sponsoring us with distribution support and I also knew that they would be more than happy to share the spotlight with others. On April 15th I decided that we would not be accepting payment for sponsorships for this episode. Instead, we would use this platform as a means to support our local small businesses who are struggling to keep business as normal during this crisis. These small businesses are the backbone of our community. They have supported us by sharing our production and I would ask you to support them if you are able.
On April 21st the first episode was completed and uploaded to Facebook, YouTube. The same day it was edited into a podcast and uploaded to Anchor, Spotify, Stitcher. It is now on Apple, Google, and a host of other services. The premiere went very well.
The story isn’t over. We have three more episodes to release. We’ll wait and see how this experiment goes. We’ll see if it finished well enough to do another. We’ll see if we can obtain paying sponsors to cover our expenses. We’ll see if people prefer it as a video, podcast, or both. We’ll see if people like it enough to want a second installment after this series is over.
This is a testament to art under the quarantine. This is proof that it can be done. I'm proud of the speed that this came together and of the work my ensemble put into making this a reality. I’m proud of my brilliant ensemble and the art we make. I’m proud that we could put this all together for you.