On Stage

Hellingham

A nice night for murder

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Welcome to the town of Hellingham. Please be advised that a killer is on the loose in the normally subdued burg, and he or she will claim three victims in the course of an hour-and-a-half (with a few minutes off for a break during intermission).

Don’t worry, you’re not on the hit list—unless you’re one of the players who sign up to take part in the eponymous “Hellingham,” an annual celebration of murder and mirth that sees the Upfront Theatre transform into a crime scene twice a night every Friday and Saturday in October.

As a former mainstage performer, I can tell you with authority that it’s just about as much fun to play in “Hellingham” shows as it is to watch them.

One of the reasons is because, like the audience, players performing during the improvised murder mystery have no idea who the killer is unless they’re the ones directly responsible for the carnage.

Before “Hellingham” even starts, audience members help come up with names, occupations and quirky hobbies and predilections for those who’ll be playing that night. But although this direction is helpful, their ultimate fate isn’t in patron’s hands—that spooky distinction goes to the “bowl of fate.”

Once players have received details on who they are—and introduced themselves to the audience as such—they must pick from the bowl. If the piece of paper they pluck out is blank, that means they’re safe for the duration of the show. If it’s numbered 1, 2, or 3, that’s the order in which they’ll be offed. If there’s a big “K” on it, that means they’re the one with an axe to grind—perhaps on somebody’s neck.

Players quickly learn just because they’re the killer for the night doesn’t mean they can run around acting insane and bloodthirsty. Like any good criminal, you want to deflect attention away from yourself. To keep the audience guessing, sometimes those who are innocent act not-so-nice, and the killers may or may not be under suspicion.

In fact, at a recent viewing of the format, the guy who came off as the creepiest—a photographer who intruded his lens and his sly ways on the townspeople in a number of ways—was the last to be killed. The seemingly sweet innkeeper turned out to be the unrepentant murderess, and although she gave a few hints during the show that she might not be all sugar-and-spice, she did a good job of deflecting suspicion—even going so far as to accuse others of the crimes.

Since everything in “Hellingham” is improvised, this means audiences who come to see the show can expect a different storyline—and different characters and murderers—for every showing of the format. If you’re looking for a killer way to fill your weekend nights during October, you know what to do.

SVCR TOP
More On Stage...
Ballet Blowout
A regional roundup of talent

Delci Syvertson is only 17, but she’s already been studying ballet for six years. At 18, Henry Winslow has a year more under his pointe shoes. But the two dancers have more than that in common. Both are high school seniors studying at Whatcom Community College through Running Start, as well…

more »
Kidding Around
Welcome to the School of Rock

In the movie version of School of Rock, it takes awhile for the elementary-age students in substitute teacher Dewey Finn’s class to embrace their inherent musical talents and realize they have what it takes not only to excel at playing instruments and singing, but also to share their…

more »
Smooth Jazz
Beyond the classroom at Back2Bellingham

Typically, it isn’t until graduation day has come and gone that college students see the rewards of their years of studies come to fruition.

That wasn’t the case for Teague Parker, a Western Washington University senior whose play, Smooth, Smooth Jazz, garnered him a Kennedy Center…

more »
Events
Today
BC Morgan Horse Show

9:00am| Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Twelfth Night

7:30pm|Philip Tarro Theatre

School of Rock

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Back to the basics

7:00am

Ski to Sea Race

7:00am|Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Images of Resilience Farewell

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Fairhaven Festival

12:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Audubon at the Museum

2:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Art of Jazz

4:00pm|Majestic

Village Books
Tomorrow
Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books
Tuesday
Fermented Vegetables

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Gather Round

7:00pm|Honey Moon Mead & Cider

Chamber Concerts

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

see our complete calendar »

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books Northwood Steak and Crab Lester and Hyldahl Trove Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1