Monday, August 21, 2017

15 Years of KILLING IT!

We've had a fantastic summer! Great shows at La Paz in Destin, Samuel's Roadhouse Grill in Crestview, the Twisted Grape in Shalimar, and various private shows all over the area including Navarre, Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola Beach. This past Saturday we had such a great show at the Elk's Lodge on Pensacola Beach that the actors in the show, KILLER IN THE KITCHEN, sent emails back and forth congratulating themselves.  One of the actors, David Smith, has his own pool cleaning business and, in fact, cleans our pool. My boyfriend/Act4Murder Ninja said that today (the day David cleans our pool) David didn't have time to clean the pool because they spent so much time patting each other on the backs!  How funny is that?!  Here are excerpts from their emails:

From Joe Chase: Last night was a uniquely special performance... Everyone was a star!  It's rare that everyone in the cast can stand out at the same time. But last night that happened and it was very special.
From Chris Manson:  What a night. You always go in hoping it will be good, but you never expect the Best Show Ever. 
From Missy Rogers We were all on point last night and it showed through in the performance. I love this show and can't imagine it with any other cast. Congrats to everyone!
From David Smith: Totally was an awesome performance by the whole cast... it was one of the most receptive audience that I have ever been a part of... such a pleasure performing with this great cast.
From Kay Yarbrough: Great show! Two standing ovations. A comment that we were better than Broadway and an on spot cast. Thank you my fellow actors and the Pensacola Beach Elks Club!

Congratulations KILLERS!  I love it that after 15 years of performance we are still KILLING it!



Posted by PAULA HILTON, ACT4MURDER FOUNDER

Monday, February 20, 2017

Our Latest Press Release - The 10th Annual Act4Murder Accolades!

Act4Murder founder Paula Hilton and Act4Murder Ninja Chris Manson hosted the 10th Annual Act4Murder Accolades Saturday, February 4, at “Beachfront Beauty" on Pensacola Beach. The party was attended by the actors and their guests, along with Ms. Hilton's parents, Paulina and Jim Hilton, sister Dr. Julie McNabb, and niece Krista McNabb. Ms. Hilton wore a floor-length metallic-mesh embroidered A-line ballgown by Jessica Howard, and Mr. Manson greeted guests in a black tuxedo with silver bow-tie. Keeping with the theme, “Stick with Act4Murder,” guests were treated to a variety of food “on sticks,” including Chinese Pork Meatballs, Deep-Fried Ravioli, Crispy Orange Beef, Mojo Pork Kebobs, Ground Shrimp, Chicken Satay, Sweet Potato Round, Crab Cake Bites and Wedge Salad.  For dessert, a Chocolate Fountain with Marshmallows and Strawberries (on sticks) complimented the delicous selection of cookies from Sundy Schwartz Keichel of Keichel Cookies.

The awards are voted on by Act4Murder's cast and crew. Winners included:  Best Show, Pirates, Lies, and Mail-Order Brides; Best Couple (tie) Jessika Kelsh and Mark Clutter, and Kay Yarbrough and Ron Altman; Best Villainess, Mary Ann Troiano; Best Villain, Ken Olson; Best Killer (Actress), Kay Yarbrough; Best Killer (Actor), Joe Chase; Best Sleuth (Actress), Kay Yarbrough; Best Sleuth (Actor), Chris Manson; Best Supporting Actress, Cynthia Bergquist; Best Supporting Actor, Joe Chase; Best Actress, Kay Yarbrough; Best Actor, Joe Chase and Chris Manson (tie). Miss Congeniality was awarded to Jessika Kelsh, and Mr. Congeniality to Ron Altman, for their rehearsal and performance night demeanor. Best "Prop and Costume" work was awarded to Mr. and Mrs. Hilton, Best Supporter to Dr. McNabb, and Best Choreographer to Rochelle Kimball.

In addition to two 15-minute videos created by Ms. Hilton featuring last year’s Accolades and performance highlights of 2016, actors were also recognized for their community service in 2016, including volunteering for several Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation events, volunteer performances for winners of the Pensacola Little Theater and Destin Charity Wine Auctions, volunteer performances for the Arc of the Emerald Coast, and performing during a presentation at the Walton County Coastal Library for their Winter series.

The evening ended with dancing to some of the top pop and country hits of 2016, with a couple of old school Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton songs slipped in for Mr. and Mrs. Hilton. 

Act4Murder was founded in 2003. In 2016 they performed for over 2000 guests at public, private and fundraising events. They are entering their 15th performance year and plan to “stick around” for some time.  For more information about Act4Murder, call (850) 862-2885 or visit www.act4murder.com.

From left - Best Choreographer Rochelle Kimball, Founder Paula Hilton, Best Couple and Miss Congeniality Jessika Kelsh, Best Costume and Prop Master Paulina Hilton, Best Supporters Krista McNabb and Dr. Julie McNabb.  Photo by Bailey Eubanks

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Out of my head...

Hello everyone! Especially those of you who have been waiting forever to hear from me.  I've discovered I'm one of those writers who does a lot of writing in my head.  It's sort of constant, actually, thinking of how I would word this or that, and how I could make it colorful or funny or poignant. And then I just move right on to the next thing I start writing about... in my head.  If it weren't for my murder mysteries, maybe I wouldn't get anything down on paper at all! I guess that's not exactly true.  Every other month I write an 800-word essay for a local magazine under a fictitious name.  I've been doing that for 7 years now, so I guess I am at least disciplined enough to do that. And my murder mysteries. I'm working on #33 now.  Kind of stuck on the title but I'm leaning towards SLEIGHING THE RED-NOSED REDNECKS.  Hmmm, not bad.

Anyway, I've written a ton of stuff for this blog, in my head, for the past 8 months or however long it's been.  But Saturday night, October 15, I had to manage one of my shows, and it was such a great experience I decided to get out of my head and put pen to paper.

But let me start at the beginning. I say "had to manage" because normally I don't.  My second-in-command, Chris Manson, manages all the shows, leaving me to write, direct, produce, book, advertise and take care of anything else that has to happen to keep our business going.  But Saturday night I had booked two shows. It wasn't an accident - I have the casts needed to perform two shows on one night, it's just that they have to be very particular shows, shows that have unique casts to both.  I had done this, but that meant I would need to manage one of the shows, as Chris would be performing and managing the other.

The show I had to manage was a fairly good-sized show for a group calling themselves the "USS MILLS Reunion."  I figured it was a ship of some kind, so on the day of the show I spent about half an hour reading up on them.  The USS MILLS was a Navy ship built for World War II.  WWII? I started worrying we may have some trouble projecting loud enough where people who served on a WWII vessel could hear us. I sent out an email to my actors - BE SURE TO PROJECT TONIGHT! But then I saw the ship had continued working after WWII, and was involved in Operation Deep Freeze in the late 60's. My Dad was in his 30's in the late 60's, and is 83 now, so he does have some hearing problems, but with his hearing aids in he generally does OK. I stopped worrying.  My audience might be older but we'd make sure they could see and hear the show!

When my daughter and I got there (she was working as my assistant because of the number of people who were going to be in attendance) we found the walls lined with silent auction items, most of them having to do with WWII, Operation Deep Freeze and/or the USS Mills.  And the guests, who were supposed to arrive at 6:00, were already beginning to arrive at 4:30, checking out the items and visiting amongst themselves.  We noticed there was a big variety of ages, too, not just older veterans, but younger people, even kids.  And there was this warm, friendly feeling in the air - a feeling of familiarity, continuity and family.  

My part of the evening was supposed to start at around 6:30, so I didn't have a clue why they were all there so early. Turns out they scheduled a Vow Renewal for a couple who had married years and years ago. And then they had what is called the "Two Bell Ceremony," honoring crew members who died this past year, followed by a haunting recording of Taps. After that they put on their party hats and played a rousing game of Trivia, then the professional photographer they had with them started lining them up for group photos. And then finally it was our turn.  I didn't know how they'd receive this crazy murder mystery, but I shouldn't have worried.  They laughed all night long, and after the show, were effusive with their compliments.


The thing about this night that made it worth writing about though, really had to do with them, not us. Talking to the organizers afterwards, they told us that they had a crew of 175, and that every year they get at least 100 people at their reunion. That it's not just the crew, but the crew and their families that attend. And that in doing so, they've grown into a very large family of the USS MILLS. And I can't say I have ever met a warmer group of people.  They served their country, are proud of themselves and their country, and they are hell-bent to keep that family AND their country intact.  God Bless You, “USS MILLS Reunion!”  And thank you for choosing us for your entertainment this year.  My amazing cast and crew of DECKED OUT FOR DEATH, Joe Chase, Jim Downum, Kay Yarbrough, Susan DeJesus, Kristi Morris, Jessika Kelsh and I, will never forget tonight!



Monday, January 11, 2016

Act4 Rocks First Show of 2016

Many of the Act4Murder cast have participated in large scale stage productions, and I like to think of those groups as something akin to orchestras while Act4 is more like a rock band. Meaning - with our minimal props and small casts - we can adapt to last minute changes (in other words, crises) better than, say, the local production of Mary Poppins or whatever.

For our first show of 2016, we had planned to do our old tried-and-true redneck wedding show Podunk Pandemonium at La Paz in Destin (a great venue, and all you Destin residents should throw your support behind Chatham Morgan's just-announced City Council bid). We had an informal rehearsal the Tuesday prior (okay, we drank and ate a lot and might have gone over some of the script) and everything seemed fine.

Friday, as my job description as the Act4 Ninja specifies, I got the Podunk props, along with my guitar, harmonica, costume and finally-broke-in cowboy boots together early so I could work on my other job as editor of the local entertainment publication The Beachcomber. I planned to arrive at La Paz around 5 p.m. to get the show ready prior to the guests' arrival around 6:30.

At around 3, I received notification that one of the cast members had been rushed to the hospital and would obviously not be able to perform. Since we didn't have an understudy for this particular role, we freaked out for a while and then decided we'd put on our go-to show Decked Out for Death. This show was written by Act4 founder Paula Hilton with the idea that we could switch out any or all of the characters and actors and still make sense.

Phone calls were made, and two of the actors not in Podunk graciously came in at the last minute, while the remainder of us had to brush up on completely different characters and dialogue.

And somehow that first show of the new year went off without a hitch. Literally. Because nobody got hitched, because we didn't do the redneck wedding show.

Anyway, big thanks to my cast mates Joe Chase, Sally Whitesell, Cynthia Bergquist and Kay Yarbrough for your spectacular hoop jumping. The cast member that had to go to the hospital is doing fine by the way. 

We're excited to be back at La Paz Friday, Jan. 22, for A Condo to Kill For. Or maybe something else depending on how things go.

Because you just never know, do you?

- Chris

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Annual October Frenzy!

The past week with Act4Murder was filled with the usual October craziness - several shows at multiple locations.  It's funny because in October we also compete with the World Series, the NFL, and about 15 different Halloween-themed fundraisers and events, but we still manage to bring in decent-sized audiences and have a blast in the process.  This year was particularly challenging because we had two shows on one night - and one of them, for over 200 guests, was in Mobile, Alabama.  It meant Chris and I had to figure out how to split up the sound equipment, table decorations, and "dead" props (stretcher, wheelchair, guns, that kind of thing). But we did it, and we both managed our shows (him in Crestview, me in Mobile) effectively with no giant problems.  Made me feel pretty good about how efficient we've become.  And both casts did a great job too!

Chris managed three more shows this week - 4C BBQ in DeFuniak Springs, La Paz in Destin, and our final Halloween show last night at The Club at Hidden Creek in Navarre.  He did a fantastic job, as usual, and I couldn't be happier with our October shows.

Next up, a slew of private parties.  They're coming in fast and furious and I'm having a heck of a time keeping up! But if you're thinking of hiring us for your own party, just send me an email and I'll get you on the calendar.

Happy November everyone! -- Paula




Friday, October 23, 2015

Two for Two at Destin, Florida's Dinner Table


Our second show at The Dinner Table in Destin was just as fun as the first, maybe more fun. Our Oct. 22 performance of Pirates, Lies and Mail-Order Brides (formerly Sex, Lies and Mail-Order Brides) was a big hit. The cast - me, David Smith, Mark Clutter, Ken Olson, Mary Ann Troiano and Kristi Morris - was spot-on, the audience was lively, and restaurant honcho Bridget Carnley and her staff did the expected great job.

Nobody outside of the cast dressed like a pirate, aside from one guy that sported an eyepatch during the last scene. Another fellow brought a bottle of Pyrat Rum that he refused to share with the cast (can't say I blame him). The audience question and answer participation segment was particularly memorable.

We can't wait to go back to this place, so call 'em up or stop by (breakfast and lunch daily except Wednesdays, dinner Thursday through Saturday) and tell them to bring back Act4Murder!

If you still want to see our latest pirate spectacular (complete with song and dance numbers!), make your reservations for next week's shows in DeFuniak Springs and Navarre at www.act4murder.com.

- Chris

Saturday, October 3, 2015

We Know All About Your Privates...

We love performing for private groups, whether it's 20 or 200 (or more). Friday night, Act4Murder customized Redneck Rivalry - a funny and songful story of feuding cousins, love triangles and bacon - for 60 very enthusiastic folks in town from California. The cast - me, David Smith, Sally Whitesell, Kristi Morris and Karen Monroe - were provided with some personal info on the guests from our generous event organizer Don Fruta, and all were well-received by the targets of our "additional dialogue."

We can do the same for you and your friends. Just check out the private party info on our website, act4murder.com.

If you'd like to see Redneck Rivalry, we'll be back at La Paz in Destin (one of our new favorite venues) Oct. 30. Restaurant honcho Chatham Morgan promises some fantastic costume contest prizes, and we're looking forward to going back there.

- Chris
Act4Murder's Sally Whitesell and Kristi Morris working on their important pre-show tasks at La Paz in Destin, Florida.