Sunday, February 18, 2018

It's been too long...

... since I've had the time or opportunity to perform with Act4Mystery. Honestly, it takes up all my time writing new shows, directing, producing, advertising, modifying our website and dealing with all the things you have to deal with when you have a small business.  Add to that the decision to change our name from Act4Murder to Act4Mystery and you can imagine the amount of "free time" I have.  Not much. So the idea of learning lines and getting out there again was a little daunting. But the opportunity came up, I felt sort of caught up, and so I decided to do it. And what fun I had!

We had two performances of KNOCK 'EM DEAD this week where I played the deliciously funny role of Miss Royal Payne, a real royal pain! We had great audiences at both La Paz in Destin and Samuel's Roadhouse in Crestview, the cast was amazing (thank you to Debby Geisen, Cynthia Bergquist, Joe Chase, Jim Downum and Chris Manson for your great performances, and to Jessika Kelsh for managing the Samuel's show for us), and overall I think I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  We may perform this one a time or two this summer at La Paz, so if you didn't get a chance to see it, the opportunity may come up again.  And keeping my fingers crossed I'll get to keep my role and get out there again!  Thanks to all our fans - we'd be nothing but a group of tired old actors rehearsing in our garage if it weren't for all of you!  :)  -- Paula Hilton

Divas Royal Payne (Paula Hilton), Marion Haste (Debby Geisen) and Augusta Wind (Cynthia Bergquist from KNOCK 'EM DEAD.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Act4 what?!

Wow, things are happening at Act4Mystery!  Wait... what? Act4 what?

Let me explain!

I started Act4MURDER in 2000 in California by writing a couple of scripts and putting them up on the world wide web to purchase for performance.  Things weren't all that bad in 2000 as far as the world went. But here we are in 2018 and you can't turn on the TV without seeing something horrible that someone has done to someone else.  I decided I do not want to add to that, and I was afraid the word "murder" in our name might lead some people to believe we are all for it, which isn't the case at all. We're all about laughter, having a good time, making fun of ourselves, and offering adult entertainment that includes great stories, music and fun.  So, when I started running out of merchandise at the end of 2017, it seemed like a good time to make a name change. And now we are Act4Mystery.  Same performance group, just a different name doing the same thing: Performing comedic murder mysteries for dinner theater.

I made another change too. Because some people would prefer NOT to share a table during dinner, we're now giving you that choice. When you make your reservation, let us know if you are OK with being seated with others, you aren't OK with that, or if it doesn't make any difference to you one way or the other you can tell us that too.  Hopefully this will get some of you in to see us who haven't done so before because of the seating issue.

AND in February, we're offering Valentine's Day candy and a single red rose along with our VIP packages.  We're still selling the old Act4Murder shirts and notebooks in the packages until we run out, so be sure to buy them up while you can. (They're bound to be a collector's item one of these days, right? LOL!)

Thanks to all our friends and fans, and hope to see you at a show in 2018!  -- Paula Hilton, Founder (seen below with Chris Manson, Act4Mystery NINJA)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Nate who?!

The show must go on! That's what they say anyway. But tell that to my actors who were scheduled to perform last night at La Paz for a private party. "Are we cancelling?" they asked. "I mean, we're cancelling, right?"  With all the hype going on all week it was tempting... but, I got in touch with the group and nope, no way were they cancelling, so neither were we!

This group was getting married the next day (today) come hell or high water. And I do mean high water. Because Nate came and went leaving quite a mess behind him. But the point is, they were getting married, and they wanted their show! So we gave them a show! Nate conveniently didn't drop any rain on us until sometime in the middle of the night, the actors and guests all made it to and from La Paz without a spec of rain on them, and the show went on without a hitch.

Thanks so much to my fantastic cast of SEX, LIES, AND MAIL-ORDER BRIDES!  You guys were real troupers and I appreciate your hard work and dedication.  Another reason I love Act4Murder!

-- Paula

Cynthia Bergquist and Chris Manson braving the storm at La Paz!

Monday, September 18, 2017

New Mysterious Grounds!

With our summer shows behind us, we're slipping into our Fall schedule with little fanfare. EXCEPT for the fact we are FINALLY doing a show out on 30A!!  We'll be at Redd's Fueling Station Saturday night, September 23, and it's our very first public show out that way!  Excited to bring our one-of-a-kind humor to those folks.

That said, our web guru forgot to add Redd's to our pulldown list for reservations.  I chastised her (ME, I'M the web guru) and fixed the code tonight, but like my old friend Julie Shaw always said, "DAAAAAANG!" What a way to mess up.  :(

At any rate, IF the show goes on, we'll be performing A MEDLEY TO DIE FOR.  Hoping anyone reading this who lives out in the 30A area will make reservations this week (it's working now, I promise!).  Details are on our website ( and our Facebook page (

Hope to see you there!  -- Paula

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!


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

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!