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What: Riverfront Theatre murder-mystery dinner theater
Where: Rick's Cafe Boatyard, 345 Riverfront Drive
When: Friday and Sept. 14, 5 p.m. cocktails and dinner, show at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $20 plus food and drink at menu prices
Manya Nogg describes Theatre to Go, which marks 25 years of presenting murder-mystery dinner theater this month, as a happy accident.
Nogg, who runs the Actors Etc. talent agency in Omaha with her son, Randy, had written a script she wanted to pitch for “The Equalizer,” a TV detective series starring Edward Woodward. But Woodward had a heart attack, and Nogg said her script quickly became “good scratch paper.”
Then her attorney called and described a group that did murder mysteries in a mansion, and the audience went from room to room solving the crime. Nogg liked the idea.
She rewrote her script, and the tryout was a party to celebrate her birthday.
Just one problem: The party was only two weeks away. No time to rehearse. So a butler character introduced the other players, and the actors winged it, ad-libbing and interacting with guests.
Among Nogg's first cast: Dick Boyd, who for 30 years played Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Boyd also did Theatre to Go for years.
The beauty of Theatre to Go, Nogg said, is that it required no permanent home and brief preparation time. Clients could choose the location, and the script could be tailored to their specific wishes. Randy has taken over writing and directing, and Manya is producer.
Theatre to Go has done shows on a riverboat, in the Lied Jungle at the Henry Doorly Zoo, at museums and corporate offices, in private homes and at Joslyn Castle. This weekend it's opening “A Night in Casablanca” at Rick's Boatyard Cafe, where it has been doing periodic shows for four years.
Other show themes have included a 1939 cruise ship to Hawaii, a night on the Titanic, an Egyptian show with a mummy and a takeoff on TV game shows.
“Audience members aren't always comfortable with interaction,” she said. “But when they come to our mystery theater, they don't feel they have to participate. The mysteries are played for laughs, and the costume contests add to the fun.”
Theatre to Go has expanded its offerings to include a moment in time with historical figures of the region, such as Sarah Joslyn, General Crook and Lewis & Clark; and a speakers bureau, featuring radio hosts Otis XII or Dave Wingert, World-Herald cartoonist Jeff Koterba, actor-producer John Beasley and Heisman-winning athlete Johnny Rodgers. It also has an actor who does seances amid a high English tea.
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