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A Night at the Improv

Laughs and murder mystery collide

A local improv comedy troupe asked for victims—I mean volunteers—for a local author to join them for a show! They offered a fun night, the opportunity to sell my books, and free beer. (They had me at "free beer.")

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The premise? I would get up on stage, I'd read the blurb on the back of The Reluctant Coroner, and then I'd cast all the improv players in the different roles in the book—and with absolutely no other information, the players would act out the entire book.

Called "SecretStory," the night started with a bunch of improv games (think "Whose Line Is It Anyway?") related to murder mystery—all based on audience suggestions. They played a game called CSI, where players have to make bad puns over an imaginary dead body. In Interrogation, one cast member goes outside while the audience suggests 1) a crime-that's-not-really-a-crime, 2) a location, and 3) an accomplice. The cast member comes back in and then, with others taking the role of police detectives, has to guess what crime they're guilty of. It took surprisingly little time for the cast member to guess that they were blowing spit bubbles in the park with Willy Wonka.

And then, after intermission, they acted out The Reluctant Coroner. With very little information—they knew Fenway came back to town, they knew her father was rich, and they knew Sheriff McVie was a possible love interest—they began to perform.

Y'all: IT WAS AWESOME. In their version, Fenway's father had a hot-air balloon that he insisted on traveling in. Dez smoked cigars and set a national park on fire. A drunk carnival ride operator killed several ancillary characters they made up.

I hope other local authors do this—and I hope improv groups from around the country take this idea and run with it. (And offer their authors free beer, too.)