Prairie Pines Playhouse: Murder Mystery Theatre

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Outside the Prairie Pines Playhouse, Kansas. 1 July 2017.

After the crazy debacle I talked about last week (the lost suit adventure), getting a night out and another of Ryan’s big planned dates was an amazing experience. As  I said, I focused my research more on small things to see and do – basically going through my regular travel bucket list – but Ryan looked up experiences.

This is how he stumbled upon the Prairie Pines Playhouse and their Murder Mystery Theatre – a half scripted, half improve show with audience interaction served alongside a four course meal. He was searching great activities to do around Kansas – at this point we pretty much knew that staying in one place would get boring pretty quick; I mean, I love you Kansas!! There are so many great features of this playhouse that I’m going to have to pull the experience apart piece by piece:

Clothing:

So while I talked about our crazy suit adventure last week, it turns out that there was no reason for us to freak out. This place is pretty casual – it is improv in the middle of Kansas so (and trying not to sound too judgmental)  so I feel like I should have realized this. In Ryan’s tie and slacks and my black dress and heals, we were the most dressed up people in attendance. I noticed this as soon as I stepped from the car and assessed the situation.

I had Ryan roll up his sleeves, unbotton the top few buttons, and loosen his tie for a dressed down formal look which worked for a date – I wasn’t as worried about myself since a black dress, heels, and red lipstick are a pretty universal look. If you are wearing heels, just be aware that you will be walking around on gravel, grass, and other uneven  surfaces.

The Location:

If you like a good mix of beautiful and rustic, this is definitely a place for you. I decided not to bring my good camera on this trip because it was an inside show and I figured that it would be too late to do any camera work. Boy, was that a terrible plan!

The appetizer course consisted of meat, cheese, and veggie platters and was served on the patio before the show began. At this point you were encouraged to place your drink order and then grab some food to bring to the table or to walk around the grounds with until 10 to 15 minutes before the show was meant to start.

The grounds aren’t huge but lots of walking around space. There are little almost cabin looking spaces which were really cute as well as a natural rock falls into a a gorgeous pond willed with flowers. On the other side, there was another pond with a taller rock area you could climb that has a few bench swings along one side – though these didn’t seem to be used often based on the wear and spiderwebs.

Inside was just as nice – that mix of lovely and rustic. Again, this is called the Prairie Pines Playhouse for nothing – I would love to see this place in winter – another season they do plays in.

The Show:

So yes, I fell in love with the atmosphere of the place, but that would have been nothing if the show wasn’t worth the trip, however, the show was definitely worth it. The show we saw was The Altos – a murder mystery with advertised as the Sopranos: only lower. Basically, a mobster who everyone has a problem with is killed and people are gathering for his funeral. However, it turns out he isn’t dead and throughout the play, tries to figure out who is trying to kill him.

At first, some of the actors made us a little nervous – there were flubbed lines and some craziness. However, since this is a comedy and an improve show, these flubs quickly became part of the running gags and made the show more dynamic and funnier than I could ever explain.

But remember, this is also an improv show and there is audience interaction. Audience members are picked to interact with actors on and off the stage throughout the show. Ryan got picked to go up as the mobster’s son – Tony – and he seemed chomping at the bit to speak the whole time, obviously enough that he was teased about it quite a lot. He threw the actors off a bit but seemed to be a hit with the audience. Then, unexpectedly, he got tapped to go up again by one of the older ladies – she apparently missed his scene earlier in the play – to go up and play the informant. While he was funny the first time around, he was twice as sassy in the second go making a crack about the no-alive mobster’s size which resulted in a threat to put him – Ryan – in the urn instead.

So be aware when you go, no one is safe and while you aren’t forced, no one has to be as sassy as Ryan – just play along, follow the actor’s lead and do what feels right!

The Food:

The food timing was between the acts of the play and you are served by the actors, in character – we got a lot of commentary, including the priest discussing the probability that Ryan could be possessed and his interest in doing an exorcism later. In terms of the quality of the food, we had mixed feelings. Frankly, it was catered food and getting the chicken with pasta, it didn’t blow up away. However, it was good enough that we ate enough to be almost uncomfortably full and had really large portions. For the price you pay for the food, the play, and everything else (drinks were extra), we couldn’t really complain.


Overall, I highly recommend going to any event or play held at the Prairie Pines Playhouse, and if I were ever in the area again, I would definitely go back. The plays are limited and, especially the Christmas show, fills up fast, so keep an eye on this venue and and call in to reserve space early – when we went they were saying this Christmas was at least half filled already.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Prairie Pines Playhouse: Murder Mystery Theatre

Starlight Theater, Kansas City.

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Starlight Theater, Kansas City. 30 June 2017.

So this is Kansas: day one – and really day one. I got off the plane, picked up my bags, found Ryan’s car, and we headed straight over to Starlight Theater – these plans definitely contributed to my airplane dress code.

This is an amazing arena style theater (similar to the Hollywood Bowl for Los Angeles readers) with all outdoor seating and large screens for anyone who struggles to see from further seats. The atmosphere with a lot of twinkle lights, seating areas, shops, a show happening while sunset and twilight settled around us, and lots of red brick, this was also a lovely spot to have our official first date.

I missed a local LA production to fly out to Kansas so Ryan got us tickets to see Jersey Boys here and the production was fantastic. I actually had never seen Jersey Boys before and, while I know the Four Seasons, I never realized how many of their songs I grew up listening to (at least covers if not the real deal).

In terms of cost, like more attractions, you will pay for everything, but, luckily, this theater offers a military discount. However, you are require to purchase the tickets with this discount on the day of, at the box office which means seat choices are more limited. Still, we ended up getting relatively good seats and the production was phenomenal as this seems to be one of the main theater stops for major tours.

The theater preforms in all weather conditions (yep, rain or shine), so you don’t have to be worried about shows being cancel on you, however, you may need to be prepared for said weather or purchase a poncho at concession stands. Speaking of concessions, there are many food options from bringing something from home, your normal concessions like hot dogs and popcorn, to fancier buffet style dining. We chose that latter and, as a non-member, it cost about $30 each but the food was so good and, since we got to eat all we wanted (including ice cream) it was well worth it.

You also have to pay for parking but you get to choices: Lot or Grass. We chose grass parking (since it was a little cheaper) which was an easy walk in and, as long as you don’t mind navigating normal grass hill issues (like inclines) this is an easy option. Just remember to bring your cash!

If you are a Kansas City local, the membership seems well worth the price for all the shows and perks you have access to. If we were in the area again, we would definitely check out the line up and return.

The theater is also just outside the Zoo so if you have more time, you can also decide to send the day out here, fist at the zoo followed by a show at The Starlight! Just remember your sweater because even in the sweltering summer, it does cool down considerably. Also if you get here early and like to take pictures, bring in your camera because it really is a beautiful area and well worth a night out if you are in Kansas City!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

 

Starlight Theater, Kansas City.

Wrapping up London….

The play I almost missed but am so glad I didn’t…

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One last night. London, England. January 2016.

Anyone who has been keeping up with me knows that my schedule has been more than hectic. Tonight, I am writing from Philadelphia but wrapping up all my time in London with a final look at one of London’s overlooked treasures…. especially for anyone who loves a good story, a good play, and a good mystery.

For anyone who isn’t aware, London’s Saint Martin’s Theatre, located between the Covent Garden and Leicester Square stations, holds the record breaking run for the longest running production of Agetha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.”

In fact, this is the only place you can watch this play and discover the ending to the mystery.

The play is a fun labyrinthe of twists and turns set against the backdrop of a newly opend boarding house and a sudden murder spree. My favorite part is the fact that after 60+ years of near constant showings, audiences still agree to not share the ending.

This theatre holds the rights to put on the production which means that you can only access it within the theatre. Apparently, the contract states that until the theatre stops it’s production, they hold all the rights, meaning no print or film version may be made.

Still, this is a play that – at least in my circles – was little known. For those who did know about it, most hadn’t been able to go and see it. But you should!

Saint Martins is a small, easily accessed theatre. The tickets can be a bit pricey for those on student budgets – this is London after all – but you can usually get last minute tickets, especially for weeknights.

I really do recommend this show as it’s something only London can offer you and is a true historical staple in the world of London theatre. It also helps that this thriller is immensely entertaining.

But this wraps up my London life, at least for the present, but it’s onward and upward from here – or at least that’s the hope!

Don’t forget to check out my lifestyle blog every Thursday – a month in and I’m sticking to it – but until then:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Wrapping up London….

Life in London…

After a year and a half of wandering.

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Along the Thames. London, UK. May 2015.

A few weeks before leaving London, a friend of mine – who was new to London – asked for me to write up some bits of advice and the links to information I used to navigate the area while living there. It’s taken me a while to get this all together — what with moving and all — and while bits and pieces of all this are scattered throughout my posts, I figured a master list wouldn’t be far off (though these will be written up as a two part list which will keep these posts short).

This week, I’ll focus on some highlights on living and exploring London itself.

What I loved about living in central London through most of my time here was knowing you could step outside, pick a direction and just walk. There is such a large variety of areas all with their own flavors and sites, so you’re bound to find something of interest.

Once I moved to the outer regions of the city, this was definitely harder. That’s the point where I really started looking through the lists I’ll be linking below to make much more defined plans for trips into the city.

From lists of many activities for the smallest of budgets to looking through to a variation of long walks through picturesque but out of the way green spaces to longer site-heavy central London walks, Buzzfeed is a surprisingly great portal for finding out how London may spoil you for anywhere else.

While England is not known for their food, there are many markets (which you should google or stumble upon) with everything from crafts to food to vintage wares to explore and a huge pub culture which begs to be discovered. But don’t be put off by crowds standing around in the early afternoon, already a beer or two in: this is London.

Another stop I wasn’t able to hit but is on my list in a big way is the variety of bookstore/library bars. Drinking and books? This I can get behind. Just be wary while planning; a few of these mentioned are members only!

Besides just a places to explore, London is huge in terms of shows and this spans much further than the famed west end. There are always great shows going on and many vendors which sell discounted tickets. A friend of mine (working in and writing her  dissertation on theatres) recommended this link for advice on getting great deals if you are young and/or a student which always helps.

In terms of shows, I loved Bend it like Beckham but my absolute favorite was Alice Underground which I have written about before. I went to this interactive show twice, following two of its storylines and absolutely loved every moment of it. If you are old enough to drink, for 5 GBP you can get a drink at the tea party (a choice between two wines and a cucumber vodka drink).

During my time in London, I think I explored almost every area across the city and I can attest to how much there is to do here, no matter your budget. Next time, I’ll layout some of my ground rules as well as pros and cons for quick trips out from the city, but just for now:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Life in London…

Alice’s Adventures Underground…

And everywhere else!

Flamingo walls. Alice’s Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.

Since September, I’ve been feeling a bit lost in Wonderland—or, in my case, London. It’s a place so much like home and yet so strangely different in its details that I find myself feeling a bit like a wandering Alice in a new mad world where I’m never quite sure if I’ve slipped through the looking glass forever or if I’m just searching for the best path home.

And then, within my wanderings, I began to notice that London has developed its own Alice fever… the girl is everywhere from emerging patters and silhouettes and color themes in fashion to afternoon teas (1,2,3,4), to advertised events across the city (1,2,3,4,5), even stamps! It’s only recently that I discovered why:

2015 is the 150th Anniversary of Alice and Wonderland’s first publication.

The celebrations are bigger than any un-birthday the Hatter and Hare could ever come up with, but many are probably just as mad.

Of all these events, the maddest of them all would have to be the interactive experience worth visiting again and again: Alice’s Adventures Underground.

Alice's Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.
Alice’s Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.

I was able to attend this event a few weeks back, in what one website led me to believe was the last weekend, and it was an amazing evening. And, luckier still, the event is NOT over. In fact, it’s running through August, which means I’ll be lining up to go at least one more time-seriously, I’ve booked the tickets!

This event has multiple parts from a children’s show, a literary talk series, the interactive experience for the more grown up folk and a club area that stays open later, each of which has a separate ticket and therefore price—make sure you’re buying for the right thing! (The children show is for children; no adult permitted without child—check that ticket!)

In this post, I’ll be focusing on the Interactive show.

Since this is ongoing and who knows which of you might be gearing to go out, I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll tell you a little more about what you are in for than the main website does:

So, what you’ll learn from the website is that this is an interactive show based on the works by Lewis Carroll. You’ll get to explore a unique version of Wonderland by being part of it, all located within the bowels of The Vaults under Waterloo station.

Alice’s Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.

When you pick your time, you should be aware that you MUST arrive 15 minutes before that allotted time (again, this is on the site), however, if you want to have something to drink when you get to the in-world tea party (you must prepay and pre-order before going into the show), get in the right mind set, have a pre-show drink, go to the bathroom, check your coats and bags (it costs 1 pound for each checked item), or anything else you feel you need to do, get there even earlier. It’s also a little bit crazy trying to find the entrance so set out earlier than you think you need to; you’ll thank me later.

There is also a dress code: you are in the land of the Queen of Hearts so it’s all red and black here.

Please, guys, for me (yes, this is begging) stick to the dress code! One thing I hadn’t realized before this adventure was that I’m an Alice. My wardrobe would be fit for playing the character, all blues and collars and, with my blond hair and petite frame, even the actors played with the resemblance! Still, there were a few blues popping in and out of groups and it was the biggest pain as someone who was embracing the whole experience. Seriously, enjoy the night and go all in—it’s more fun that way!

Like I said, you have to check your coat and bag, but I encourage you to keep cash on you. You are let out into a great club space where you can get more drinks and some food, and while you can go back and get your stuff and return to eat, it’s just easier if you have the cash stashed on your person. And it’s hot down there, so keep your layers light.

Now, onto the stuff they don’t tell you:

The set is amazing and you will have choices as you interact within it. You enter in through this maze of boxes which let out into a room full of artifacts; pictures hanging from the ceiling, book shelves climbing the walls at impossible angles, mirrors and toys. Take a wander and explore—it’s not exactly a museum so you can touch, just don’t disrupt anything. Beware: don’t get too close to the walls as the doors are hidden and spring open to let you down the next passage ways.

Storytelling wise, you are entering Wonderland after Alice has come and gone, her name and person is a banned subject. The black cards (the clubs and spades) are part of an uprising in Wonderland, fighting to take down the King and Queen of Hearts. The reds (Hearts and Diamonds), on the other hand, are solving the conspiracy against said royals. Each suit will follow its own adventure—even coming in a group won’t guarantee you’ll all stay together, so you should choose if you want to try sticking together as much as you can or all meet up at the end of the line.

If you are anxious about talking to characters or being approached, you should be aware that it’s possible that this is going to happen. You can either fight through or, if you are struggling, an actor will help you out. Even then, you very rarely have to do anything completely on your own. Don’t not go because you don’t want to be singled out—it’s worth it, I promise.

Alice’s Adventures Underground, The Vault, London. March 2015.

When you do get to the end, don’t think this is just a room with a band. Besides the wandering characters (who are definitely worth having a chat with), live music, and food, there is a maze that leads through to a second bar as well as the makings of a royal flamingo croquet course for you to play with some friends (through the “PIES” door and up the stairs). This is also the only space besides the pre-show room that you are allowed to take pictures in—yes, of and with the wandering characters as well.

That’s all you’re getting from me, at least, for now. Let me know with a comment if you have any questions and I’m sure to answer what I can. Also, here’s a master list I found with other Wonderland inspired events going on in and around London, so check your local listings.

Remember: It’s a mad world and we’re all mad here, but the best people usually are…

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Alice’s Adventures Underground…