FAIRMONT - If you think theater is stuffy and boring, you've probably never been to a murder mystery at Red Rock Center for the Arts in Fairmont.
Paul Warshauer will return to the Red Rock as writer, director and host on Friday and Saturday, when a local cast presents "Murder at the Red Rock Speakeasy."
Warshauer currently makes his home in New Ulm, where he is in the process of repurposing an old school. Last winter, he spent an evening at the Chubb House in Fairmont, listening to Martin County Historical Society members discuss Prohibition Days in the area.
That gathering, accompanied by additional information from the historical group, made it "so easy to write the story," Warshauer said.
Warshauer's presentations in Fairmont are among more than 350 original murder mysteries he has written.
"I write these all from the origin to the end," he said. "I write them specifically for actors that are in the play." There is "a little bit of improv" during each show.
Having worked with local residents during his previous visits, he cast the eight roles based on his knowledge of available talent, coupled with telephone interviews for newcomers to his shows.
"I really like Fairmont. The actors are a wonderful collection of local characters," Warshauer said.
"Murder at the Red Rock Speakeasy" is set in 1929, when liquor was illegal throughout the country. The Fairmont locals smuggle hooch from Welcome in waterproof caskets down Lily Creek to George Lake, through a tunnel at Ward Park and past the hobo camp. Then, in the dead of night, wagons haul the liquor to the Red Rock Speakeasy.
An innocent church during the day, the Red Rock is transformed into a wild speakeasy at night. It appears federal agents are closing in on the illegal operation, and there may be a spy in their midst.
Of course, there will be a murder, and the murderer will be unmasked. The audience will serve as "detectives," asking questions of the suspects until the culprit is unveiled.
"There are two different endings, one for each night so audiences that attend on Friday night do not have any advantage over those who attend on Saturday night," Warshauer said. "Even the actors do not know the ending of the shows until the night of the show."
o Bill Busse as Rev. Fanagle. By day he runs a church; by night, he is the owner and emcee of the speakeasy.
o Barbara Jordi as Honey Fanagel, the reverend's younger sister, a faith singer by day but a jazz mama by night.
o Georgie Pfaffinger as Donna D. Dahmdan, the mob boss of Fairmont and countywide booze distributor.
o Steve Benk as Boobles D. Henschmann, a henchman Donna inherited from her dead husband.
o Phil Hansen as Glen Fidditch, an old-school bootlegger, complete with equipment and recipes.
o DeAnna Shaikoski as Jackie Daniels, Glen's business partner who does the "sales" end of the business.
o Carol Justice as Mayor Frieda Flipflappah, an inept mayor who can't make up her mind.
o Peggy McGowan as G. Gordon Piddley, the mayor's punctilious chief of staff who knows where the bodies are buried.
A three-course dinner, provided by Gerhardt's Catering, is included in the ticket price of $40. Tickets are available at Hy-Vee in Fairmont, at the Red Rock Center office, by calling (507) 235-9262 or online at www.redrockcenter.org. The deadline to purchase tickets is Thursday.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for a silent auction and to meet the cast. Beer and wine will be available for purchase. Dinner and the show begins at 6:30 p.m.