The producer secured the exclusive rights to the June 2008 U.S. premiere of the work, which is based on Christie's novel, "The Secret of Chimneys." The Equity staging at The RiverPark Center in Owensboro, KY, the fest's home, will have a marquee-name actor attached — "a top Broadway or Hollywood swashbuckling star playing the lead role of Anthony Cade, a young adventuring Englishman who runs into blackmail, conspiracy, romance and murder over missing diamonds and political intrigue in a country in the Balkans," according to the Oct. 8 festival announcement.
British-born Christie (1890-1976) is the popular international mystery novelist who created such characters as detectives Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Her often-produced plays include The Mousetrap, Witness for the Prosecution and Ten Little Indians. Her work has also transferred popularly to the movies — "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile" among them.
According to the festival organizers, Chimneys was to debut in London in 1931, but the only manuscript — in Christie's own handwriting — disappeared during her trip to North America and remained lost for more than 70 years.
The play was discovered in Calgary, Alberta by the artistic director of the Vertigo Mystery Theatre, where Chimneys had its world premiere in October 2003, attended by Agatha Christie's grandson Mathew Prichard.
The Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland subsequently staged the European premiere in 2006. "The festival prides itself on discovering new mysteries — with the ultimate goal of bringing the mystery play form back to Broadway," stated Buffman, producer of 40 Broadway shows and many national tours. "We are thrilled to announce to our festival patrons that they will be seeing a lost Agatha Christie play that has not been yet been seen in New York or London. We are immensely honored, humbled and grateful to the Agatha Christie Estate for entrusting us with this treasure."
The mystery festival will be held at The RiverPark Center in Owensboro, KY, June 12-22, 2008. In June 2007, 6,500 tickets were sold for events in the inaugural festival, with "half of the advance sales" coming from from out of state. Mystery writers including Sue Grafton (the Alphabet series), Stuart Kaminsky (award-winning writer of more than 60 mysteries) and William Link (co-creator of "Columbo"” and "Murder, She Wrote") participated in the first festival, in book signings and master classes for aspiring authors.
Leon Embry, president of Samuel French, Inc., the renowned licensing representative of plays, visited his longtime friend Buffman during the first festival. Samuel French has licensed Agatha Christie's plays in the United States for many years. Embry contacted Agatha Christie Limited to request a license for the U.S. premiere of Chimneys.
In addition to Chimneys, the festival will boast the world premiere of a new Sherlock Holmes-centered play. Featuring Arthur Conan Doyle's famed late-Victorian-era sleuth, The Final Toast will be penned by Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and Edgar Award winner Stuart Kaminsky.
"In 2008, we will celebrate two of the greatest names in the world of mystery — Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes," Buffman stated. "Those legends, combined with many other new features, will make the international festival a highlight for all ages of mystery lovers."
The 2008 festival will be twice as long as the inaugural venture. Over 11 days, there will be 16 new works performed, including a musical, full-length plays, one-act plays and screenplays, plus works targeted for young mystery buffs. More than 80 performances will take place.
The other entries in the festival "will determined by a panel of top agents and entertainment executives from across the country."
Manuscripts are due by Nov. 30, but authors are urged to turn in their submissions immediately. Last year, more than 1,000 submissions were received.
For more information, visit www.newmysteries.org.
Now in its 15th year, RiverPark Center presents many entertainment events, and is also known as a popular "teching" venue for touring musical productions prior to going out on the road. The nearly 100,000 square-foot facility includes the 1,500-seat Cannon Hall, the 300-seat black-box Jody Berry Cabaret Theatre, the 1,000 capacity outdoor riverfront BB&T Plaza and the International Bluegrass Music Museum.