Theydunnit! New Stage Mysteries Find Showcase in U.S. Festival June 12-17 | Playbill

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News Theydunnit! New Stage Mysteries Find Showcase in U.S. Festival June 12-17 Owensboro, Kentucky, is the unlikely setting of the first International Mystery Writers' Festival, where new thrillers and mysteries for the stage will be unveiled June 12-17.

Producers, directors, agents, publishers and critics representing national and international theatre, television and motion pictures are expected to be in attendance to view the festival's world premiere of 12 new works (six plays, six screenplays), at the RiverPark Center arts complex.

"This is the only new works festival in the English-speaking world specializing in fully staging the new mysteries and presenting them to the general public to enjoy and select the winners," stated RiverPark president and CEO Zev Buffman, who produced 40 Broadway shows and 100 national tours. "We also are proud to introduce a new award, 'The Angie,' named after Angela Lansbury, who will be honored as 'The First Lady of Mystery.' This festival will help bring the mystery back to live performances on Broadway and London, much as the Sundance Film Festival has invigorated creativity for new independent films."

The fest is "dedicated to producing, staging and presenting new works for the general public and the entertainment industry," according to organizers.

Audience members will choose the winning play, which will receive a $10,000 award at the gala on the final night of the festival. The general public also will be able to attend free classes, book signings and meet several authors.

Almost 1,000 submissions of plays — thrillers, murder mysteries, crime dramas — were received. Among the riches will be Final Curtain, a play by late mystery writer Edward McBain, known for 80 novels and screenplays, including Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." "The committee was overwhelmed by the quality of submissions — both from established writers and new talent," said Buffman.

The plays were reviewed by top professional readers from leading literary agencies.

The finalists are:

  • Final Curtain by Ed McBain. "This funny and frightening mystery involves intriguing characters where everyone is a suspect for a dark-and-stormy night murder. Twists and turns of plot will leave the audience guessing who to trust and what motive each character might have for not only one, but two mysterious murders." McBain is the author of the 87th Precinct novels, which are the most varied and longest of perhaps the most popular crime series. He received the Mystery Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award and was the first American to receive the British Crime Writer's Association Cartier Diamond Dagger in 1998.

  • Death by Darkness by Elizabeth Orndorff. "She presents her first stage play, an intriguing and innovative work set in 1841 in the wondrous Star Chamber of Kentucky's Mammoth Cave. A cast of captivating characters are led on a mysterious journey into the depths of the earth and the depths of existence, where they are confronted with murder, revenge and a world unlike anyone has ever seen." Ron OJ Parson will direct. Orndorff wrote the play specifically as an entrant to the festival. Her works have received excerpted performances during the Kentucky Human Rights Commission's Civil Rights Hall of Fame inductions and a Juneteenth Legacy Theatre fundraiser.

  • Columbo Takes the Rap by William Link. "The original co-creator of the Emmy Award-winning 'Murder She Wrote' and 'Columbo' brings us a [stage vehicle] for the comedic detective character. Cigar-toting Columbo brings his wit and wisdom to the scene of a modern crime where he confronts a powerful music producer and uncovers clues to a great murder mystery involving two rap stars." Ron OJ Parson will direct. Link has won two Emmy Awards, the Edgar Award, The Golden Globe Award, The Peabody Award, the Christopher Award, The Hall of Fame of Television Arts and Sciences, and is a past president of the Mystery Writers of America.

  • Panic by Joseph Goodrich. "Capturing a decadent lifestyle of Paris in the 1960s, this deceitful drama unravels a scheme of blackmail, betrayal and murder. A celebrated film director befriends a French film critic aspiring to be a famous director, too. But both their futures are in jeopardy when a past relationship brings blackmail to the scene and leads to a killing." Goodrich, a writer and actor from Minnesota, has written works that run the gamut from opera libretti to comic books. His plays have been produced from New York City to New Orleans to Los Angeles.

  • Widdershins by Don Nigro. "Set in Wales in 1902, a family of four has disappeared. In comes the odd but usually effective Inspector Ruffing to solve the mystery. There is one clue: the word 'Widdershins' is written on a piece of paper in the missing man's desk. It is an ancient Celtic-Druidic magic word. If you walk counter-clockwise around the church three times, you are said to be going Widdershins, which can cause all kind of terrible things to happen: evil fairies might appear or even the devil." Wes Bartlett will direct. Among the most frequently published and widely produced playwrights in the world, Nigro has won awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and a playwriting fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The film "The Manor," with Peter O'Toole, is based on his play Ravenscroft.

  • If/Then by David Foley. "A fast-paced thriller with twists and turns that will keep you guessing through to the very last deceitful moment." Kelley Elder will direct. Author David Foley pits a sharp-witted diamond diva against a sexy, sinister one-night-stand boyfriend and the sparks that fly are frightening. Foley's plays have been performed in London, Paris, Rome, Brussels and the Netherlands. He has received the Dramarama Award, the Southwest Theatre Association Award and was nominated for a 2001 American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award.

    Members of the festival's executive committee are comprised of award-winning and nationally renowned authors and screenwriters.

    Ticket prices range from approximately $13 to $29, while fully staged readings will be under $10. Master classes are free.

    For additional information on the six plays and six screenplays, or to make reservations, call (877) 639-6978 or visit


    Some of the fest's founding members are Louisville's Sue Grafton (the Alphabet Murders), Ira Levin (Deathtrap, "Rosemary's Baby"), William Link (creator of "Murder She Wrote"), current Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America and Edgar winner Stuart Kaminsky, John Jakes, Samuel "Biff" Liff and James W. Hall.


    Now in its 15th year, RiverPark Center is a regional entertainment complex. "Six professional, international touring musical productions have been built here, making Owensboro, KY, one of the top five communities outside New York City for building and premiering these shows prior to their U.S. or Asian tours."

    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.

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