A newly formed theatre group is making quite the first impression with a murder mystery show in Longview.
In early February, the Erratic Players' first production, Murder at Twin Cities premiered at Longview's Twin Cities Saloon.
Since then, shows have regularly been selling out five days a week.
The Erratic Players and Murder at Twin Cities, started when Katie Fournell and Logan Coutts were approached by the owner of the Twin Cities Salloon, Chris Goss.
Fournell, who is also directing the show, says Goss was looking for something to bring people to the saloon during the slower winter months.
"He wanted to do something new. What he said is 'I want to do murder mysteries.' I said 'Okay, so when you say you want to do a murder mystery, do you mean you want to do a murder mystery show or do you want to do murder mystery games?' He said 'Well, I meant the games but now I want a show.' Once he said that, we started slowly putting the pieces together to create this show."
Fournell and Coutts, having regularly contributed to local theatre productions, were pretty quickly able to put a team together.
They enlisted local playwright Jay Newman to pen the production and soon got to work on a story specific to the Twin Cities Saloon.
"We love the way that he creates stories and the way he approaches jokes, I just really love working with his writing. We had a meeting in the Twin Cities, we started looking around the building, some of the history around it. We learned from Ghost Hunters Alberta that they have six ghosts in that location, it's one of the most haunted locations in Alberta. Jay started taking all of these elements from these interviews we were having and put them all together to create the actual script of the show," says Fournell.
They emerged with a production that is very immersive for the audience with its present-day setting and mystery premise, educational with regard to its historical basis, and heavy on the laughs thanks to Newman's trademark wit.
Many members of the show's cast will be familiar faces to anyone acquainted with the local theatre scene, as much of the cast and crew have worked together previously on Dewdney Players productions.
Coutts says the audience is invited to try their best to solve the mystery as the story unfolds, or you can simply sit back and enjoy the show.
"If people are familiar with dinner theatre and murder mysteries, it's not the one where you're given an identity and you're chatting with people, you sit in your seat and your only goal is to listen for clues and try to solve the murder of the lead character, named Gary."
With a full show in place and rehearsals underway, they realized they'd need a company to attach the production to, which is how the Erratic Players came to be.
The name is borrowed from the Okotoks Erratic, also known as the Big Rock, while also alluding to their fast-paced style.
Fournell says a big part of the group's formation was the goal of providing pay for their actors.
"When we decided to create the company, we were like 'Actors need to be paid, at least a bit, if they're part of this company.' Chris was one hundred per cent on board with that and helped us find a way to make that happen. We have, now, a bunch of professional theatre actors out in Longview doing their first show ever with the Errattic Players."
The show premiered on Feb.2, with shows regularly selling out five nights a week.
Having worked on it for about a year now, the positive reception was quite a relief for Coutts.
"Anybody that's done a show or written something themselves, or created anything, you've been working on it so long and it's lost meaning to you, you think 'Is it funny? It's just oatmeal in my head!' Then you get a crowd, and the laugh, and it's sold out. It's an incredible feeling."