Park Square’s Mystery Writers Producers Club

Park Square's Mystery Writers Producers Club

Executive Director C. Michael-Jon Pease on How It All Began in 2012 — Over Dinner!

Agatha Christie: Rule of Thumb, a well-crafted and newly discovered theatre piece comprised of three chilling one-acts, will grace our Proscenium Stage on July 12 and will run through August 25. Agatha Christie was an incredibly prolific creative writer and dramatist, having authored dozens of short stories and plays throughout her wildly successful career. A master of the mystery genre and all its complexity, most of her works delve into dark themes, such as revenge, betrayal, love triangles and of course — murder! All of these ingredients make for a perfect evening of edge-of-your seat theatre, which we’re excited to bring you this summer and early fall.

As the opening of Rule of Thumb fast approaches, we thought this would be an excellent time to reach out to Executive Director C. Michael-Jon Pease to get the scoop on why the mystery genre is so popular with Minnesota theatregoers and around the world. We also got some insights into the history of Park Square’s own Mystery Writer’s Producers Club (MWPC), a devoted community of mystery genre aficionados who help support our mystery show each season.

C. Michael-Jon: The MWPC started in 2012 when Richard Cook and I invited Robyn Hansen and John Clarey to dinner and asked them to make a major investment in our commission of The Red Box, a Nero Wolfe Mystery, adapted from the novel by Rex Stout by Joseph Goodrich. We knew John was a major Rex Stout fan and was coming up on a significant birthday. What a great present — to underwrite the commission in his name. But Robyn and John had a better idea (and, to be fair, they had just made a huge commitment to help us build the Andy Boss Stage).

“I always think it’s more fun to get your friends involved, especially since theatre is so social,” John said. Then Robyn quickly followed up with, “What if we create a club and ask each member to contribute? We’ll probably raise more money than any one of us could give. And what if we promise to do all the legwork so that it’s no more work on the staff than taking us to dinner?”

The club was born and has quickly grown to more than 40 households, who each contribute $1,000 annually. They are truly a social bunch who love to get together for potlucks or pre-show dinners, trade novels and scripts, and meet with artists behind the scenes. They are also really smart and we’ve come to rely on them as allies in the work, not just donors.

MWPC members have volunteered to proof drafts of new commissions for typos; sit in on dress rehearsals looking for continuity problems; and even hunt down hard to find items or information. During an early scene reading for Might As Well Be Dead, the playwright’s wife was reading the part of the father who first comes to Nero Wolfe with the case. The group loved her style and agreed that it would be more natural for the missing man’s mother to seek out the great detective. A few edits later (and a quick call to the Rex Stout estate to get permission to change the character) and Austene Van wound up playing the role of the mother in our production. I think the relationships among the members and the deep relationship with the theatre as a whole has kept the group vital and growing.

Interview by Rebecca Nichloson, Marketing Manager