Case Closed: Hosting a Mystery Dinner Theater


It’s murder most intriguing! Themed events, beloved of churches, libraries, schools, and radio stations, can highlight your products and services while helping you raise funds, and the Mystery Dinner Theater is a popular theme that can help you sell more event tickets. As a librarian, I created and hosted several successful Mystery Dinner Theater events, and you can too.

Our events were free and functioned as a way to highlight the library’s place in the community, while also spotlighting the mystery book collection. For cost effective purposes, I got creative and wrote my own plays, casting them with local actors and teens in the community, as well as a few librarians. Ready to try? Here’s a step by step guide:  how to create this deadly exciting event.

  • Theme of a Theme: Decide on a theme for your play. While the event itself is mystery-themed, it helps to create the play and the promotional materials with still another theme, allowing yourself the creative license to combine appealing elements. For example, in one of the plays, Harry Potter was found dead and the X-Files’ Scully and Mulder were sent in to solve the crime, with the help of the audience, of course. Once you have your theme down, you can create compelling event tickets using online event ticket templates.
  • Figure Out Your Cast of Characters: Think of what characters you will need (and consider how you will cast them) before you begin writing the play. After you’ve figured out the characters, the plot and clues will come easier. Your event tickets can even incorporate an image or symbol that may give your audience a clue about the characters.
  • Write Your Play: The play can begin with pure brainstorming; just get a plot going and begin to think about clues that would be appropriate to use in that plot. Of course, the plot should include a crime with clues, as well as a resolution. The resolution, however, should not be totally realized in the play itself. It will be the audience’s job to use the clues you set out in the play to solve the crime.
  • Cast Your Play: Send out a casual call to community actors and teens in the community who enjoy theater. If you do this, you will invariably get a large response from enthusiastic amateurs. Your event gives them exposure as well.
  • Promote Your Mystery Dinner Theater: I created posters in Microsoft Publisher to publicize my MDT, or you can print posters online. Create event tickets and make small postcards or bookmarks to hand out to customers. Your promotional material should include What, Where, When, as well as a clever title and tagline. For example: Solve a Mystery at Your Library: The Case of the Murdered Magician.
  • Create Event Tickets: You can create and print fun event tickets online. Using a ticket template helps you include all relevant event information, and perhaps a logo or image appropriate for your event’s purpose. Playing with the template, you can use mystery imagery like magnifying glasses, caution tape, and, in the case of a library, a stack of mystery books.
  • Something Extra: Even if your event is free, you may desire to have a raffle at the event for a door prize. Find raffle tickets templates online and sell chances for a small fee if you’re raising funds, or just use the stubs from the event tickets. Give away a prize that relates to your overall theme like a stack of Agatha Christie novels, some mystery DVDs and some popcorn.
  • Have a Successful Event: Proper planning and organization, dedicated rehearsals with your actors, and the right publicity ensure a fun and successful event!

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