NHS thespians launch murder mystery

Chad Frey
The Kansan
"FBI Investigators" Taylor Redington
and Morgan Hiebert, students at Newton High School, will lead murder mystery participants through the virtual production of "The Murder of Jessica Heidrick" by Newton Thespian Troupe No. 47 as a fundraiser for the troupe this month.

Newton High School needs help in solving a serious crime. 

While rehearsing a drama, a teacher was stabbed when someone switched a prop knife for a real one — and investigators are struggling to gather the evidence needed to connect the dots. 

At least, that's the plot of a new play the drama department is producing while adapting to COVID-19 regulations.

NHS Thespians Troop No. 47 is holding a virtual murder mystery experience.

"(The students) have been amazing, as usual. The students were totally on board, and we've had a blast with it," said Jessica Heidrick, drama teacher at Newton High School. "My thespians, man. They're wonderful."

The virtual event is replacing other fundraisers done in the past. Instead of individual tickets for the production, the group is charging $25 for digital clues and a box of evidence that will help participants solve the crime. Boxes will be delivered to participant doorsteps on Jan. 22. 

"We all wrote it together. It was actually mostly spearheaded by the students you see in the videos," Heidrick said.

"I've written and performed in quite a few murder mystery fundraisers, and I thought it was a good way to follow remote guidelines and keep everyone safe while still fundraising, and giving the students something to perform in."

The cast includes seven suspects and a pair of investigators who will guide detectives through the mystery. The goal is to catch a killer.

According to the group website, beloved drama teacher Jessica L. Heidrick was brutally stabbed during a stage combat demonstration. The knife had been presumed to be a retractable prop knife. However, one student switched the knife and caused her death. 

The audience will serve as the detectives tasked with discovering the killer. Participants are joined by FBI agents who have conducted interviews of all the suspects.

"This is something different from anything we've done before, so it was learning how to do a murder mystery from scratch and think of creative ways to make it super interactive," Heidrick said. "We needed to have recorded scenes, props as clues, evidence, and a murder timeline. There's quite a bit to consider in addition to coming up with the story and script ourselves."

Suspects will be played by Natalie Kuhn, Francie Robu, Jacob Phillips, Justice Murray, Creed Ekerberg, Tryston Mitchell, Mackenzie Glasmann and Matthew Montano while detectives will be played by Morgan Hiebert and Taylor Redington.

Registration for the event can be done online at https://tinyurl.com/y4cqutp6.