Murder Mystery Players Takes a New Direction

Please excuse my tardiness, as this post is three weeks overdue.  I will endeavor to return to my regularly monthly schedule in June.This past month, I made a decision I have been contemplating for a little over a year.  Since 1999, I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement with America’s largest interactive comedy theatre company:  The Murder Mystery Players, expecially the past nine years as its Artistic Director for their Jacksonville, Florida operations.

Casting and producing over 50 interactive comedy productions for the past nine years has been both challenging and rewarding, and I will always relish the successes my cast and I have achieved together.  Over the past couple years, as other important aspects of my life have evolved, requiring more of my undivided attention, I have deduced that I could no longer commit the time and resources needed for MMP to remain an elite performance troupe on Florida’s First Coast.

So that the Murder Mystery Players can continue to achieve even greater successes, I am stepping aside so that new leadership can move the company forward.  I shared my decision with those closest to me, including my family, as well as the spectacularly talented and professional actors with whom I have had the delight of performing this past decade.  This “change of course” by no means indicates my withdrawal from acting on stage or screen…and the Murder Mystery Players will continue in Northeast Florida under new leadership.

My Central Florida trip was a thrill-a-minute, and the weather cooperated perfectly!  (Actually, it would have been great if there was a light rain Thursday night…the dust that blew around all day Friday got everywhere…even places on my body which, I swear, I left covered throughouth the event!)  For my Facebook friends, I made my debut video “podcast,” relaying various tid-bits through my mobile phone.  Of course, I spent more time enjoying the sights than recording video for the folks back home, and the phone I have is, well, a few generations old, so the video is less than “first-rate.”

If there is a problem with the economy, it sure didn’t show at Sun ‘n’ Fun – I understand they had record crowds, even with a parking fee charged for the first time ever during this event.  Although I am not a morning person, I really appreciated getting to the airport right when the gates opened – I had more time to see displays and participate in forums, and I got to park up front, which meant it wasn’t inconvenient to return to my car to secure items I collected throughout the day.

The airshow was fantastic, and I made sure to spend some time on the East side of the field this year.  In previous years, I would always head West, and never get over to the performer static displays, the ultralights and light sport aircraft, and campgrounds (in the picture in this blog, you can see how some attendees have learned to “rough it”!).  I also was invited to an impromptu fish fry with some of my SAAPA friends staying on the premises.  Friday night, the airport was alive with a rock concert, hot air balloon glow (tethered to the ground, they strike their burners, which illuminates the entire canopy…awesome!) and night-time airshow with pyrotechnics.

I had planned on staying the night in Lakeland to catch the hot air balloon “Fox and Hound” race.  Yes…”race”…it’s more of a test of skill and accuracy than speed and endurance – one balloon, the “Fox,” departs the airport and flies for a certain period of time, then lands in an open field to prepare a target.  The remaining balloons, the “Hounds,” then launch, and try to find the target.  The winds have changed by now, so they have to do some fancy maneuvering to first find the target, then navigate their balloon (you can actually steer…just a little bit…through careful ascents and descents) over the target.  The pilot who gets his marker closest to the center of the “X” wins a prize (usually pretty hefty…I don’t know what it was for this event).

Suffice it to say, I had important matters to attend to, and opted to return home for the night.  Some airshow performers were checking into the hotel as I was trying to check-out.  Although I was tired, there was no way I was going to pre-empt the US Air Force demonstration pilots from getting their accommodations.  I did travel back to Orlando the next day for an excellent performance of Much Ado About Nothing.  Darren Bridgett (Benedick) had terrific energy, great expressions, and spot-on comic timing and physicality this role demands – think a cross between Alan Alda and Jim Carrey.  Marni Penning (Beatrice) also put forth a stellar performance, as did the rest of the cast, including Chris Mixon as “Dogberry”, playing it like Mayberry Deputy Barney Fife!

Sunday’s performance of Merchant of Venice was a perfect way to close the weekend.  I enjoyed portraying “Shylock” several years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed the masterful interpretation by Joe Vincent.  This repertory cast just eighteen hours earlier had performed one of Shakespeare’s most produced comedies, were now escorting the audience through one of the greatest ethical dilemmas in The Bard’s canon.  Both shows were expertly performed and were a delight to see!  I cannot wait until February, when the Orlando Shakespeare Theater performs Hamlet and All’s Well That Ends Wellin repertory in 2010.Interested in my personal acting exploits?  Stay tuned…the June blog entry is right around the corner!

Scott J. Smith
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