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Yacht club to host murder mystery dinner theatre

After a one-year coronavirus pandemic-imposed hiatus, All Y’all Players is back with a new murder mystery dinner theatre production.

“Murder is Served” made its debut at the Smithfield Inn Sept. 24-25, and the Smithfield-based group of thespians plan to reprise the performance at the Gatling Pointe Yacht Club Oct. 16-17. Proceeds from the September show will benefit Smithfield Music, a non-profit program of the Isle of Wight Arts League that brings concerts by local and nationally-known performers to Smithfield. Proceeds from the October show will benefit Smithfield Hands & Hearts, a daycare program at Trinity United Methodist Church.

All Y’all Players founders Kathy Strozak, GiGi Smith and John Gillis met through the Smithfield Little Theatre.

“I met John during his auditions for a Christmas show he was directing at SLT a few years ago,” Strozak said. “We later connected through a post he made on Facebook about a murder mystery (Cafe Murder) he had directed at a church function.”

She and Smith, who now serve as the group’s producers, commented on that post that they had performed the same show in a one-act play festival at SLT in 2010 and began making plans to reprise the show as a dinner theatre for the Smithfield community.

The group, which had no official name at the time, then reached out to the Smithfield Inn as a potential venue and began contacting the 2010 cast members. All but two were available and agreed to reprise their roles. The resulting 2018 reprisal of “Cafe Murder” as a Smithfield Inn dinner theatre resulted in a $400 donation to the Isle of Wight Christian Outreach Program.

In 2019, the group followed with “Murder On Air,” a mystery about the production of a radio show, which netted $400 for Gimme Shelter, a non-profit thrift store on Main Street that benefits the Isle of Wight County Animal Shelter.

“I usually call upon some theatre friends when getting ready to cast a show,” Strozak said. “I have several that have regularly been a part of our shows and are veterans of SLT.”

Among them are her husband, Bob, Howard and Meredith Marchant, Jason and Amber Price, Lahnie Reilly and Kaitlin Little.

As for the plays themselves, Strozak finds herself turning to the internet for ones with 10 or less cast members needed.

“So far, my favorite website is LazyBee Scripts,” a United Kingdom-based online bookstore for one-act and full-length plays, she said.

“Murder On Air” was the first play produced under the “All Y’all Players” company banner, said Gillis, who serves as the group’s director. It featured a three-course meal, with a choice of entrees and desserts, and one table winning a prize for correctly guessing who the murderer was.

The 2021 production, “Murder is Served,” is described on allyallplayers.com as “Agatha Christie meets Fawlty Towers,” with audience members finding themselves guests at Clarissa’s surprise party. “Someone is about to die, but who will it be? With excitement, intrigue, and foul play — trickery is afoot.”

Gillis’s credentials include having directed productions in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Independence, Missouri, Smithfield and Norfolk, as well as internationally. He was also recently successful in submitting a group of players from the area to perform in Nova Scotia, Canada, in May 2022 at the International Theatre Festival — a worldwide competition for amateur theatre groups.

Strozak’s theatre credentials include having served as SLT’s co-director for productions of “Tom Sawyer,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Peter Pan The Musical,” “Grease” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” She’s also served as producer for “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Spamalot” and “The Dining Room,” and performs in reenactments at the 1750 Isle of Wight Courthouse each year.

Smith’s include “Steel Magnolias,” “Rumors,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Harvey,” and many others. She’s been involved with SLT since 1994.

“Murder is Served” will have two performance times at the Gatling Pointe Yacht Club. The Oct. 16 performance will be from 6-9 p.m. and the Oct. 17 performance will be from 2-6 p.m. The clubhouse is located at 903 Gatling Pointe Parkway, Smithfield.

Tickets are not on sale yet, but will eventually be available for purchase at allyallplayers.com.