The game’s afoot!

A local murder mystery worthy of the great Sherlock Holmes is in need of investigators to solve the case.

To appease the inner Holmes – or even Watson, and now Enola – in all of us, the Gretna Theatre has created a mesmerizing murder mystery contained in a three-box set that will arrive at your doorstep this fall. So grab your magnifying glass and dust off your deerstalker cap to delve into the mystery of the bumped-off playwright, who met his shocking end in Mt. Gretna, just as the curtain was rising on his latest production.

Gretna Theatre has partnered with playwright Elizabeth Angelozzi to create this adventure in a box that not only entertains, but gives you clues aplenty to enable you to crack the case.

“This is a Gretna-themed murder mystery that we send to people’s homes,” said Brian Kurtas, executive producer of the Gretna Theatre. “This is also an original mystery that takes you back in time … in 1993, Gretna Theatre is going to produce a play and, hours before the play opens, the playwright is found dead.”

The adventure for area investigators begins, fittingly, on Halloween, when the first of three boxes of the murder mystery set in the Gretna Theatre and known as “Gretna Mystery Files: Murder at the Playhouse” will be delivered to your door.

On Halloween, the first set of Files will be waiting outside your front door.

From police testimony to autopsy reports, all the clues can be found in the boxes and, through a dedicated investigation, those clues will slowly reveal the identity of the murderer.

Was it a disgruntled actor? That shifty stage manager? The envious director? Or did the guy who dims the lights decide to put out the lights of the playwright? Who knows? Kurtas knows, but he’s not saying. Great care was taken during the production of the mystery to keep everything under wraps.

“This delivers a theatrical experience right to your door,” Kurtas said. “It all started after we had to postpone our summer productions.”

By fall, theatre management was hoping that audiences would be allowed back, but since that hasn’t happened due to the pandemic, the great criminal, oops, great theatrical minds, got together and created “Murder at the Playhouse,” going with the concept: “If you can’t go to the murder, why not bring the murder to you?”

By thinking outside the box, Gretna Theatre came up with a mystery-in-a-box to engage and delight its audience. “We want to adapt ways in which the theatre can serve the community,” Kurtas said. “This is one way that the Gretna Theatre will evolve.”

“All of this wraps into a motto; the theatre is not going anywhere, we’ll be here to educate and entertain Central Pennsylvania,” Kurtas said.

The mystery set is aimed at adults. The winner receives the satisfaction of knowing that he solved the murder. And who doesn’t love a good mystery?

“We are committed to our audience,” Kurtas said. “Murder mysteries have always been very popular with an audience and with Halloween right around the corner, “Murder at the Playhouse” brings the theatre into the home in an interactive way.” This new head-scratching, fun option involves people by bringing them into the story as they sort through the usual suspects and try to solve the crime.

Investigators will use the clues preserved in the boxes to solve the murder mystery.

“We still wanted to provide some form of entertainment for people, in an area where they can’t actually go to a theatre,” Kurtas said. “We need loyal theatre-goers to sort through evidence, uncover clues, and crack this crime.”

The original story was a combined effort of Gretna’s Production Manager Steve Cargile and veteran mystery playwright Elizabeth Angelozzi.

“Steve created the concept,” Kurtas said. “A very talented production manager, he’s the brain behind what this is going to be.”

Angelozzi wrote the narrative, giving just enough information to keep people guessing. It was Angelozzi who created the popular murder mystery weekends for the Allenberry Resort, Kurtas said. “Elizabeth has been an excellent resource; she’s got the expertise needed to write our mystery,” he said.

The mystery boxes will contain mug shots, police reports, background on the suspects, witness reports, and enough clues to help you rule out suspects. “Each box has its own objective, so by the end, hopefully you should be able to find the killer,” Kurtas said. For participants not related to Agatha Christie, there is a ‘help desk’ number to call if you get stuck and can’t get your man.

Creation of the boxed mystery also gave work to actors and production staff who aren’t currently able to create sets or tread the boards. “Creating the mystery boxes allowed the organization to employ artists,” Kurtas said. That included graphic designers who made faux police reports and cryptic ciphers, actors who posed for the mug shots so investigators could put a face to an identity, and writers to fill out the narrative.

“We wanted production values to be just as high as if you came to see a show here,” Kurtas said.

If you have what it takes to crack the case – or if you’re just looking for some fun – orders of the three-box set are now available for sale at $90, a price that is all-inclusive and covers shipping. The first set of boxes will be mailed out the week of Halloween. More information can be found at Files.

Gretna Theatre has produced summer shows since 1927 and is a non-profit organization that rents the Mount Gretna Playhouse for its productions and works in conjunction with the professional unions of Actors’ Equity Association and the Stage Directors and Choreographers society under the current leadership of Kurtas.

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