My Play Scripts by Joh Mann                              

FAQ's from Joh

Suppose I wanted to do a murder mystery.  How do I start?  
Buy a script.  Find some actors (friends) and a place to rehearse....and set the date and start rehearsing.  I don't expect Academy Awards, so I only rehearse for three to four weeks.  Find a reasonable caterer, get local radio stations to do PSAs to asdvertise for you...and you're off to a great start.   Before you know it, you're an expert.        

How much should I charge per person? 

I have had success selling tickets for $30-50 per person.  Of course, this is in my state of Oklahoma.  You'll have to compare this to your area to determine if this ticket price is comparable.  I've found that cost per ticket really depends most on what type of meal you serve.   If you serve spaghetti, keep the ticket price on the lower end.

Aren't theater sets expensive?  How much does it cost to produce one of your shows?

I write each show with a minimum set, sound, and lighting expectations.  I have produced shows (sets and printing costs) for $200-$400.   One of the best elements of the murder mystery event is the ability to move it from site to site with minimum adjustment to the sets.  I write my shows to accommodate any venue. 

What kind of meal do people expect?  What sells best?

In my experience, simple meals are fine.  Anything from spaghetti to prime rib will work.  Remember, the more money you spend on food, the less you will net after expenses, so keep it simple.  Think: salad, entree, and dessert.  One of my most successful shows (in a church with a sellout crowd of 200 in attendance!), was a family-style meal that was prepared by the church ladies.  Of course, a cash bar has always been a big plus for some audiences, but it isn't a must.   Just remember that the more you spend on food, decor, and "extras", the less you will net overall.  I always ask the caterer to provide decor that compliments the play...e.g: for Karaoke Killer, the caterer provided those tiny umbrellas for the drinks.  It adds to the decor and was FREE.  You'd be amazed at how creative people can be on items like table decor and centerpieces...all done very inexpensively or free.  You can also ask the organization that benefits from the fundraiser to provide centerpieces for the tables!  Their volunteers can be extremely creative.

Should the meal be served by "servers" or should it be "buffet style"?

Both work.  If you have enough help, the waitress thing works just fine.  If you are short-handed, send them through the line.   I've found that I prefer the buffet, because it takes less time and it costs less (fewer servers).  I always have the caterer save dessert for later (between Acts 2 and 3), so we can enjoy it during the voting.   This is something you should discuss with the caterer during negotiations.

I'm convinced!  How can I get a script - how much do they cost?

Scripts are available for a small rental fee of $80 for the first performance and $50 for each additional performance.  I recommend a minimum of two shows...you will have worked hard to get the show ready, and you don't want to get to the performance, sellout, and not be able to offer another performance because you didn't advertise or plan enough food for it.  This is the most common mistake of new murder mystery fundraising groups. 

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