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ArtsRevive brings Mardi Gras mystery to Selma

Sturdivant Hall will be packed with amateur sleuths donning Mardi Gras masks and pounds of shiny, plastic beads Friday night, as part of ArtsRevive’s Mystery Night 2009.

For just $20, guests will be treated to food and drinks, and become part of a murder-mystery. Like a real-life game of “Clue.”

“It’s a chance to try and solve a puzzle,” said Arts Revive treasurer Cindy Stoudenmire. “Instead of sitting and watching it on a stage, the actors are in the crowd. This way, you’re part of the action.”

The interactive play, titled “The Case of the Loathsome Lout,” is set at a Mardi Gras party hosted by Rhett Beauregard Butler and his wife, Hortensia Hufflemeyer Butler.

During the party, one guest will be “murdered,” and it will be up to the others to figure out who is the culprit. When a decision has been made, the guest will write down the culprit’s name along with the current time on a piece of paper. The first person to figure out whodunit wins a prize basket from ArtsRevive.

Guests can purchase “clues” attached to Mardi Gras masks and beads for $1 or $5 to help them along the way. However, a keen eye and a sharp ear might be the best tool for solving the mystery. There is no telling what kind of fights, arguments or secrets might occur at any moment, since the entire evening is improvised. Actors are only given a character name and brief background. The rest is up to them.

“Even though I wrote it and I know who did it, I just sit back and grin the whole time,” Stoudenmire said. “They just make it all come alive.”

Ed Greene, who plays retired attorney and hunter Cliff Snodgrass, said the combination of improvisation and a historic setting just cannot be beat.

“The whole thrill of trying to figure out who the guilty party is, is something that people just by nature enjoy,” Greene said. “It tends to make a really fun evening.”

The evening’s proceeds will help ArtsRevive remodel the Carneal Auto building on Water Avenue, which the organization recently purchased to use as a home base. This is the fourth year Arts Revive has hosted a Mystery Night, and each year, more people turn out for drinks and drama.

“It’s a good way to go out in town, and actually do something good for a charity,” Greene said.