MUSCATINE, Iowa–Just like any good tale grows in the telling, the Friends of the Muscatine Art Center’s upcoming fundraiser has grown into an outstanding evening of entertainment. When Friends of the Muscatine Art Center member Karen Cooney started planning the event, she hoped to find a suitable radio show style script for a small group of actors to perform in the Muscatine Art Center’s music room, similar to an event they had done in the past. As she reviewed scripts, she discovered “Encore for Murder: The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer,” written by Muscatine author and musician Max Collins, who created the play from a single page of notes written by Mickey Spillane, a noted mystery writer who Collins had worked with on several projects.
Elated by the local connection, Cooney began working with Collins to make the show a success. In passing, Cooney joked that the production would benefit from having Gary Sandy, a stage and screen actor well known for playing Andy Travis in the TV comedy “WKRP in Cincinnati” in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as he had performed the lead role in “Encore for Murder” in its two previous performances. The stars aligned. Collins reached out to Sandy, who graciously volunteered to accept the role, bringing a remarkable amount of star power to a local theatre production.
Since then, the cast of “Encore for Murder,” which includes many local actors and personalities, including Pearl City Players member Cassidy Probasco, Brian Linderman of local radio fame, President and CEO of the Stanley Center for Peace and Security Keith Porter, Muscatine High School Drama Advisor Rene Mauck, Muscatine Community College media production specialist and small business owner Chad Bishop, along with Courtney Cooper, Chris Causey, Rob Minder, Evan Maynard, Randall Cooper, and Judy Wilson, has worked diligently to bring this play to the stage. A radio show style play, actors pretend to put on a radio broadcast, using their voices and sound effects their foley artist generates to bring the story to live. However, visuals such as projections help bring the show fully to life, immersing the audience in the experience of broadcasting a live radio thriller. “It’s a hybrid between a radio show and a play because it’s still very visual,” Cooney emphasized.
A one night only production, “Encore for Murder” will take place Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Muscatine High School auditorium, located at 2705 Cedar Street in Muscatine. Theatre goers may purchase tickets online ahead of the show with general admissions tickets costing only $15 apiece, plus a $3 processing fee.
For audience members who would like an all inclusive experience, they may purchase $50 VIP tickets. These tickets will grant premium seats in the theatre as well as access to a special after party at the Merrill Hotel at 119 West Mississippi Drive in Muscatine. Attendees will get to sample special desserts, sip on prosecco, and participate in a question and answer session with Collins and Sandy, take photos with them, and even get to enjoy some exclusive perks organizers will reveal the night of the event.
With all funds raised going to support programming and staffing at the Muscatine Art Center, Cooney hopes to have a huge turnout for this once in a lifetime event. “It’s important we do everything we can to support the arts and the Art Center for Muscatine and Muscatine County,” she emphasized. “It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the arts.”