Lake-Lehman homecoming weekend includes original murder mystery

First Posted: 10/6/2014

Life is not fair.

This is one fact of which the characters of the fictional village of Badtown make certain to inform the audience in the opening number of “Catherdale Manor: An Original Musical.”

But despite this grim outlook, the murder mystery aims to get people laughing with its satirical elements, as well as teach a lesson: that when working only to benefit oneself, a person will lose the support of everyone around them, creating chaos.

“It’s just funny,” said Jenna Mortenson, co-writer and co-director. “It’s a very good satire, it’s a good story, the characters are likeable. It’s a good way to spend your Friday night.”

The production is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 17, the middle of homecoming weekend, in the Lake-Lehman Junior/Senior High School Auditorium.

Mortenson, a high school senior, along with her classmates Ron Ziomek and Jasmine Moku, began working on the play about a year ago for their senior completion project. Ziomek said he mostly wrote the music, while Mortenson and Moku wrote most of the script. All three students are directing the cast of 26 7-12 grade students.

“More than anything else,” said Moku, “because most murder mysteries are just about the murder, in this one we’re actually trying to teach a lesson throughout most of it.”

Set in the mid-1950s, “Catherdale Manor” tells the story of the peculiar owners of a mansion, their six unlikely house guests and the household staff, all stranded overnight by a bad storm. When a murder occurs, everyone seems to have a motive, with much at stake.

Dickie, the Badtown mail carrier, played by Katie Kaminski, best knows the town and its people and pauses the story throughout the play to introduce characters and offer narration.

The three directors agreed the cast members are doing a “phenomenal” job, and are all dedicated to the production.

When asked what they learned from the experience of writing and directing the play, Ziomek said, “There is so much more to it than we thought.”

Mortenson agreed, adding, “Being on stage is a whole lot of it — without actors, there would be no point in having theater — but there’s so much behind the scenes that you have to do.”

“Everyone is so important to bringing it together,” said Ziomek.

“Oct. 17 is going to be such an amazing night,” he said, “because with how much hard work we put into this, and being able to see our creation come to life., it’s just amazing how it’s all coming together.”

Each of the writer-directors spent much of their high school years participating in the theater program at Lake-Lehman, which is why they chose to follow this passion for their graduation project, the proceeds from which will benefit the department.

Mortenson enjoys theater because it gives an opportunity to “put yourself out there in your rawest form. When you go up on stage([as opposed to playing sports or other extracurricular activities_, and you’re up there and you’re performing, it’s you. Your voice is your talent, your acting is your talent, you’re putting yourself out there for other people.”

Ziomek said he, too, was never good at sports, and knew from a young age that theater is what he wants to do.

“It really has taken over so much of my life in the best way possible,” he said.

Moku said the aspect of theater she enjoys most is working with the costumes, set and makeup. After high school, she plans to attend college to study interior design.

Mortenson’s college plans include a major in broadcast journalism with a minor in theater, and Ziomek hopes to major in communications and minor in technical theater.

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