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16 March 2007

Junior League Presents Stedham's Mystery Play

By: Hervey Folsom
Jacksonville News Staff Writer

Reprinted here from the Jacksonville News.

”Many Unhappy Returns”, the Junior League Mystery Dinner Theatre play showing this weekend starts with the creative mind of play writer Mike Stedham and ends in fun for all. A murder takes place at a birthday party and everyone in the cast is a suspect.

But hopefully, “returns” in this comedy will mean happy returns for the league — amusing reaction and dollars added to the pot for the fund-raiser at the Anniston Museum of Natural History.

It’s very likely that this whodunit will be a big seller and fulfill that goal.

The night starts at 6:30 both evenings. The ticket includes cocktails, dinner and the lineup of 13 “suspects”, and clues given out by the actors for $1 per clue. Finally, an announcement will spotlight the table of guessers that solve the murder mystery.

This is Stedham’s second play to be presented by the Junior League of Anniston-Calhoun, Inc. His plot last spring, involving murder at an art show earned laughs and just enough surprise about the revealed murderess at the night’s end to create good suspense and entertainment. Remembering this, league members and their fellow sleuths look forward to this weekend.

“I love writing comedies,” Stedham said. “I love making people laugh.” Actually, he already has ideas for the next year’s mystery if he is invited to write the script for the fund-raiser.

What seems magic about this and last year’s productions is the individuality and originality of the cast. “We always seem to have the right people for the right roles,” Stedham remarked. And, take it from this cast member; each actor adds just the right spark of interest in presenting the puzzle.

Stedham has cast Wayne Claeren as “Rich Greene”, the richest and most unloved man in town, who meets an unexpected (or expected?) death. The other characters are in Greene’s family plus his employees, and inspectors. Julie Jackson portrays the detective. Sonya Surrett was cast as the nurse, Annette Wolfe as the secretary and Thom Pratt, as the attorney. Bob Folsom, the butler and Hervey Folsom as the maid are the employees.

In the “Greene family” are Debby Tyson as Mrs. Greene, Kara Silvers and Laura Rigsby as Greene’s daughters, Kate Stedham as his rebel granddaughter, and agents Tim Doyle as Billy Joe and Chris Willingham as Joe Bob. All have something to gain from his death. But, the deeper the mystery, the better the evening, as cast members are finding out.

Dr. Claeren in key role

Dr. Wayne Claeren, professor of drama at Jacksonville State University, is enjoying the interlude of acting the role of Rich Greene in Stedham’s play while fulfilling the responsibility of being professor of drama, one of three artistic directors in the JSU drama department, and teacher. He played major roles in “The Late Mr. Shakespeare”, and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” at JSU as well as Anniston Community Theatre’s “The Dresser”. Dr. Claeren describes his current role as “the bad guy with not many redeeming qualities”.

“It’s refreshing being in a show like this one,” Dr. Claeren said. “I can enjoy doing something like ‘Hamlet’ and I can enjoy being ‘Rich Greene’, which is just the opposite, and strictly for fun. It’s good being involved in both and good for a director to get back to acting.”

He added that the focus in this entertainment is the mystery itself instead of complicated characters. Viewers have a chance to guess who did it so they must carefully watch what goes on.

Stedham is manager of Student Media at JSU. He also writes articles for publications for colleges, including the University of Alabama in Birmingham and Longleaf Style, a magazine published by The Anniston Star.

Tickets for the mystery dinner theater are $50 per person. For ticket information, call April Mefford at 591-7669 today.

See story at The Jacksonville News's website: .

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