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Community Players, Lincoln Community Playhouse collaborate to stage mystery plays

October 12, 2018
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Diane Kahnk, center, plays Miss Marple in the Community Players production of "A Murder is Announced." Community Players is working in collaboration with the Lincoln Community Playhouse and will stage their production in Lincoln, Oct. 26-28.

Beatrice’s Community Players is bringing Agatha Christie to the stage with a collaborative twist.

The local theater is staging “A Murder is Announced,” based off Christie’s 1950 novel of the same title.

The show features Miss Marple, one of Christie’s most famous detectives, caught up in a classic mystery of mixed motives and concealed identities.

Another of Christie’s famous detectives, Hercule Poirot, will be featured in the Lincoln Community Playhouse’s production of Christie’s “Black Coffee.”

The two theaters are collaborating to bring both shows to each other’s communities with nearly identical sets on their stages, according to Jamie Ulmer, managing artistic director at Community Players

The cast for “A Murder is Announced” will open their show in Beatrice and then travel to Lincoln in two weeks to do showings.

“We’ll throw all the furniture in the back of the truck, take the furniture up there and taking the actors up there,” said Ulmer, who also directs the mystery. “And we’ll be able to both preform the shows in the other’s venue.”

As far as Ulmer knows, this is the first time two theaters have done anything like this.

He is certain that this will be the first time two theaters will be producing two different shows by the same author with identical sets.

“We may find out why no one has ever done this before, but it’s really kind of the first of its kind as far as we know, a collaboration like this,” he said.

Ulmer said Christie, the prolific British mystery writer, invented many of the thriller sequences, plot twists and cliches found in modern mystery.

“It’s like ‘Oh, now there’s going to be a twist and there’s going to be this,’ and you know why we roll our eyes at that is because she invented that and everyone since then has copied her,” he said.

Ulmer said it is a must-see-twice kind of show. He first read the show a year and a half ago, but when Community Players were getting ready to produce the show this year, he’d forgotten how the mystery was solved.

“It was baffling me and it just shows that one, either I’m losing my mind or two, how skilled Agatha Christie was at crafting a mystery,” Ulmer said.

The show starts out with people reading a newspaper. In the personal columns, they see that a murder will take place at their address at 6:30 that night.

Many show up to see what happens. That night, the murder takes place. That’s when Miss Marple, played by Diane Kahnk, comes into the story to solve the mystery.

Kahnk, from Tecumseh, has been in other productions but did not think she was Miss Marple worthy.

She said she wants to take on her own interpretation of the Christie detective, so she has avoided watching others in the role.

“I don’t want to do somebody else doing Miss Marple,” Kahnk said. “I want to do her myself. So it’s kind of fun to try to get into it and try and figure out Miss Marple’s head. She’s got a very busy one.”

“A Murder is Announced” will be at the Community Players Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. The play can also be seen at the Lincoln Community Playhouse, Oct. 26-28.

“Black Coffee,” produced by the Lincoln Community Playhouse will come to Beatrice Oct. 26 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 28 at 2 p.m.

Tickets for the Beatrice shows can purchased at $18 for adults and $12 for children at the Community Players box office.

Ulmer said season-ticket holders will not be able to use their tickets for “Black Coffee” but will receive a discount.

During the shows’ runs, raffle tickets can be purchased for $50 for a chance to win a trip to Lincoln Escape and gift certificates for dinner and fuel. There are only 100 tickets, which can be purchased through a Community Players board member or the box office. The winner of the raffle will be announced Oct. 29.

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