by Joanne Quarrie

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Pumpkins, ghosts, scarecrows, tasty treats, creative costumes – they’re all part of the Halloween season – but – how about adding a murder mystery to the mix? 

‘Halloween – The PreKill’, a dinner theatre production, is being presented by the Columbia Valley Players at the Windermere Hall on October 29. Peter Skagen, producer and writer of the play, is inviting folks to join in the scary, interactive fun.

“We say it’s just like a real murder, only funnier,” Skagen said in an email. 

A multi-course dinner will be served and the bar is open that evening.  A DJ will provide tunes so you can bust a move until at least midnight.  

Skagen encourages attendees to bring non-perishable food to donate to the local food bank that evening.

“Otherwise, just bring your funny bone,” he cracked.

Halloween – The PreKill is not just a sit-and-watch deal. “The audience is part of the show,” Skagen said. “They are always encouraged to dress the part. And since it’s a Halloween show, they really have every excuse to dress up. They can dress for a Hollywood party, or as any sort of ghoul or superhero they want. We’ll have a prize for best costume as well.

“All our actors are terrific singers, improvisers, and some are internationally recognized dancers as well. So, in the midst of all the comedy, mystery and general shenanigans, the actors also break into song. For example, in the Halloween show, Chili Charmer, the hit man from New York, sings My Way with the ‘original hit man lyrics’, to let Morty the movie producer know how much trouble he’s in. It adds yet another layer of fun for the audience, on top of everything else.”

Audience members are integral what happens. Skagen said, “As you arrive and have a drink, you meet and mingle with the six characters in the show. It turns out that one of them isn’t being so nice, and the rest have a grudge against him or her. In this case, we’re at a Hollywood Halloween party, where Morty Feebleman is trying to raise money for his latest horror film: Halloween – The PreKill. But he’s not doing a very good job of it. He already lost $200,000 at the craps table in Vegas that he borrowed from the mob. And that’s just the beginning of his problems. The mingling turns into a play that happens in and around the audience. Several people might even be asked to pretend to be other movie stars if they want to join the fun.  Things get more and more heated, and the songs get more and more hilarious. Just before dinner, sadly, somebody is murdered (in very comical fashion of course). After dinner, there’s arguing about whodunit, and lots of accusations. The only way to solve it is to get the audience involved in a courtroom scene. They question the suspects one by one, then write down their verdict. After dessert, we reveal with best (and wackiest) answers, and award a prize for best sleuth.”

Skagen said action happens right next to your table. “Morty (the producer) and his girlfriend Sally Yellerman, the scream queen, might have a ‘discussion’ about whether she’s going to get the starring role. And if she doesn’t… well… could she be capable of murder? And what will happen when Bruce-Mel Harrison shows up? He’s the biggest movie star in the world.  But he wants out of the movie now. He’s been offered James Bond. How far will he go to get what he wants? It’s all very mysterious and intriguing, and it happens on the floor with the audience. 

Other characters include Anna Notherthing, the British author of the novel and screenplay; Bruce-Mel Harrison, the movie star; Flo Fenokee, the cocaine dealer from Florida and; Chili Charmer, the hit man from New York. 

Skagen told the Pioneer he started writing plays when he was just nine years old; he made a movie when he was 14. The bright lights called when he was 23, pulling Skagen to film school in Los Angeles at  California State University. He got a Master of Arts (MA)  in Film with a focus on screenwriting in 1987.

Skagen returned to West Vancouver where he produced corporate videos for a few years. “It was fairly boring,” he said. “Show business is a lot more fun! I like building community with people by doing a live event.

“I have been producing shows since the 90s in Calgary. I did the hit off-Broadway show Tony & Tina’s Wedding for example, that ran for over a decade.  I’m also a film and TV actor with over 50 credits (Reacher, Supernatural, Fargo), and I ran an acting studio in Calgary for 20 years. My book, Screen Acting Trade Secrets, is available on Amazon. I now live in Radium, and hope to bring love and laughter to the valley for years to come.”

After the thrill of Halloween – The PreKill, Skagen noted, ‘Yule Be Sorry’ is coming for Christmas. “Then we hope to do a New Year’s show and a Valentine’s show,” he said.  “Hopefully, the valley will support us along the way. And if anybody wants to be in one of our shows, they should let us know. There’s some very talented people out here. It would be great to have an all-valley cast.”