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Audience tries to solve 'crime' at murder-mystery dinner

April 13, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A single shot rang out Friday night at the Waynesboro Country Club, and the guest of honor at a book-release reception was left dead.

Detectives blocked the doors and charged the audience with deciding whodunit.

"Maybe someone slipped him a roofie," one man said.

"He shot himself," another proposed.

Behind the scenes, the "author" chuckled as more than 100 people shared clues at a murder-mystery dinner hosted by the Waynesboro Historical Society.

The event started with writer "Noah Conshuns" explaining how he published a book about a diary found in a recently demolished Waynesboro house that once was the residence of Frederick Douglass.

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"Now it's a 7-Eleven," Conshuns said in a presentation meant to be a bumbling tale about the diary.

He was joined by actors posing as reporters, a Douglass descendent, authentication experts, owners of the demolished house and, eventually, the police. Audience members were further thrown into the mix when asked to pose questions during a rowdy press conference.

John Poniske of Waynesboro wrote the play's script and signed up friends and parishioners from his church to fill roles.

"We've been doing this for 15 years, but not steadily," Poniske said. "This is the most impromptu, off-the-cuff play we've done."

Although the actors generally did not have much experience, Poniske said he felt they came together very well. Much of the tale was tied to the region, with references to Hagerstown Community College and Franklin County media.

Mike and Mary McGarity of Waynesboro were soaking in the atmosphere early in the event.

"I think this will be a fun time," Mary McGarity said.

She had just learned about the dinner that day and bought tickets at the last minute.

"It was my husband's birthday, and I never know what to get him," Mary McGarity said.

Their neighbor, Annette Tychsen, moved to Waynesboro from Denmark a couple years ago, and said her home country doesn't have murder-mystery dinners.

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