“You may use pen, and remember to use the text to support your answer,” Melissa Gruver-LaPolt said.
Some might say that this sounds like instructions for a standardized test, but they would be wrong.
On April 5, New Paltz teachers and parents united at the New Paltz Jewish Community Center to solve a mystery, catch a murderer, and raise money for their students in their performance of “Murder on the Oriental Rug At Downturn Abbey.”
The New Paltz United Teachers (NPUT) hosted the murder mystery dinner to raise money for the New Paltz United Teachers’ Scholarship Fund which helps local high school students prepare for college.
The event has been held semi-annually for the past seven years, according to Lenape Elementary School teacher Linda Sinforoso. The show was directed by Elizabeth Burdick, a fourth-grade teacher at Lenape, and produced by Meri Lederer, the NPUT Public Relations Coordinator. This year the event sold around 100 tickets for a minimum donation of $40 per ticket, Lederer said.
Performers in the show were teachers from the New Paltz School District. There were around 20 actors, who each played multiple roles.
“We spent six to eight hours a week for the past two months to prepare for this show,” Daniel Monheit, one of the actors in the production said.
Monheit said it is a great community-building event and a chance to work with other teachers he wouldn’t normally get the chance to work with.
Patrons arrived for a cocktail and mingling before the formal dinner began. The dinner was catered by P&G’s restaurant. After dinner the murder-mystery portions of the night began.
The setting of the show was a TV recording station filming episodes of Downturn Abbey, a parody of the show “Downton Abbey.” This show parody contained characters like “Lady S. Trogen, and Lady Muedswing” who want to use a doctor’s “Hot Flash Extractor” to end their menopausal suffering.
Characters on the set of the parody show are afraid of getting killed off, and being forced to find a new acting gig. Unfortunately for one character, literal death befalls them, setting the stage for the mystery. Then the hunt for the murderer began.
The show contained seven musical numbers including one where nearly 50 audience members were grabbed from their seats to create a conga line.
“The crowd is mostly parents, families of the cast, and teachers — the advertising was done throughout the local school district,” Monheit said.
Local businesses donated prizes for the first five guests to solve the murder and identify the motive. The prizes consisted of gift certificates to the Gilded Otter, Hokkaido, the Hudson Valley Wine Market and the Center for Therapeutic Massage.