April 22, 2008
Fans of murder mysteries, comedy, and spontaneity the world premier of Murder We Wrote: The Improvised Whodunit, which closed the Annie Russell Theatre's landmark 75th season. The show was the first long-form improvisation ever to be performed at the Annie. Assistant Professor of Theatre David Charles created, directed and will appear alongside students as a cast member in this groundbreaking debut.
Murder We Wrote: The Improvised Whodunit was born as part of the Student-Faculty Collaborative Scholarship Program. Eight students spent the summer of 2007 laying the groundwork for the play; including designing the house, researching each character’s occupation and putting together details from the time period to make the play as authentic as possible. Even though the play is non-scripted theater, a great deal of planning and research went into the process of building the first-of-its-kind improvisational comedy. Read more about the research behind this performance.
Long-form improvisation generally follows the conventional dramatic structure of a play, incorporating the on-the-spot creative interactivity of improvisation. Each night, eight of the 12 students in the show’s company drew cards to see which role he or she will play that night. The audience provided certain information that will shape the action. Like the board game Clue, giant cards were “shuffled” at each evening’s performance to determine the murder victim, the killer, the weapon and the room. No one knows the killer’s identity, except the actor playing him or her. “Part of the fun for the audience is to try to figure out who the murderer is before the cast does,” say David, “and we’ll have a prize each night for one of the clever audience members who do.”
Although this was the first long-form to be performed at the Annie, it is familiar territory for Charles. Improvisation is the primary focus for his dissertation, conference presentations and current research. He has written and directed several long-form pieces, including The Lost Comedies of William Shakespeare, recently performed at Orlando’s SAKS Comedy Club, of which he is a member. He is also the artistic director of Rollins Improv Players (R.I.P.), the student group he founded three years ago.