A former CEO, banker, school teacher, and two news reporters walk into a party one evening in 1986…
This isn’t the beginning of a joke line, but the scenario of the Fort Bend Museum’s fourth annual “Murder and Moore” mystery party, partnered with the Rosenberg’s CAST Theatrical Co., held Saturday at the historic John and Lottie Moore home in Richmond.
“The mystery story begins on a balmy evening in July of 1986,” described Fort Bend Museum Site Director Shereen Sampson. “With the oil crisis hitting Texas and the Cold War dampening spirits, the museum docents decide to lighten the somber mood with a soiree at the Moore Home.”
One by one, guests started arriving and the festivities had begun. A scream was suddenly heard and everyone rushed to the scene. The body of a popular local journalist was discovered lying on the ground.
“We were all enjoying refreshments and mingling when it happened,” said guest Jon-Ross Trevino. “As we rushed to see what the commotion was, we found the body face-down at the bottom of the stairs. Turns out, there was a murder afoot.”
And it was up to the guests to use their sleuthing skills to solve the crime.
Various clues were scattered around the house including a business card, a children’s book, a toothbrush, plane ticket, deposit slip, and prompting notecards.
Actor Michael Thorpe played the character of an ex-CEO who was one of the six suspects.
“I kept throwing out there, ‘I think I saw a woman run! Now I don’t know if she was running to the body or away,’” he shared.
“I already knew I wasn’t the killer, but somebody was going to think I was. I was foreclosed, living out of my car, I don’t want that information to leak out. You’re thinking, ‘This guy is an ex-CEO, he’s divorced, he’s living out of his car… It could be him!’
“But my job was to throw [the guests] off with, ‘Look what I found here. What do these notes say?’ so it looked like the reporter did it.”
His plan had worked.
“Apparently a lot of people in this room thought it was the reporter,” Thorpe said. “But it makes sense though. If you were thinking about it logically, this guy that was killed was a reporter. And you have a reporter as a suspect and you find out that she was reporting on this [small] story, and she wants the big story.
“[The victim] was about to break the big story that we have a teacher who’s doing drugs. Turns out, it was the teacher. She poisoned him. It was the easiest one to do because there were no knife wounds, no gunshots, no blood.”
To perfect his role as an ex-CEO in the ‘80s, Thorpe did his research on the decade, but also used real-life experiences living through America’s moments in history.
“We had to have that kind of resource since I didn’t know what y’all were going to ask,” he explained. “You gotta know the events of the days since we’re supposed to be in 1986.
“I remember the Columbia Space Shuttle [that was the first space orbiter in NASA launched in April, 1981] and Feb. 1, 2003 when the shuttle disintegrated and those seven astronauts died. I follow my NASA,” he said with a laugh.
He recalled “when the Saudi Arabians opened up their oil and they made our prices drop to $10 a barrel,” and when Ronald Reagan was president.
“I saw news when the Berlin Wall collapsed, now that was big news. [During] my generation, when I was growing up, just like the people in the ‘50s, there were a lot of movies that talks about [the possibility of a] World War III and the Russians and United States against each other.
“At any moment, there could be a nuclear weapon dropped. So we were always subconsciously at the back of our minds, thinking that any day now could be our last day. The U.S. had nuclear weapons, the Russians had nuclear weapons, everyone had all these weapons! When you’re living in the ‘80s, you always had that sense of, ‘This could be it.’”
Thorpe envisioned a modern scenario to compare to the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
“Imagine, say Houston for example. So you have east and west and you have a wall built right in downtown Houston. On the east side there’s Communism, on the west side is democracy. If you try to flee from the east side to the west, you’re going to be shot dead by snipers in towers waiting for you to jump over that wall.
“That was what was going on in the world. Once they built that wall, you don’t cross it unless you have the proper paperwork. It was crazy!”
Samson, who created the “Murder and Moore” mystery party, noted she found this year’s event to be a success and getting “better and better each time.”
“It’s really special,” she said. “The actors have such a blast and it’s a great event to put on for the Fort Bend Museum. CAST theatrical was involved from the very beginning and Emily Levert is always such a great script writer.
“We come up with a different theme and decade every year with a different set of characters. We were thinking of something that could be really different that could utilize the mansion in a unique and fun way, so we came up with a murder mystery.”
She pointed out the event started three years ago when the museum hosted it twice a year, and she never knows who the murderer is.
“You know what? Emily always keeps it from me so I can’t spill the beans that way I’m surprised at the end,” she noted.
“I kind of had an inkling this time because Karen [Lasater] is quite the character. I thought maybe she had something to do with the murder.”
As for the actor who played the murder victim?
“Unfortunately my son died tonight,” Samson said. “But he was very happy to make his debut in the Murder and Moore.”