Friday, May 18, 2007

Criminal Opportunities: Dramatic License by Kathy Krevat

Criminal Opportunities:
Dramatic License

By Kathy Krevat 

All the world’s a stage. And readers are fascinated by what happens behind the velvet curtain of the theater.

Researching children’s theater for my work-in-progress Stage Moms Are Murder was easy. With two teenage girls in many productions over the last few years, I had plenty of hands-on experience. I questioned professionals who have worked in children’s theater for many years, along with volunteer parents who dedicate lots of time and money to making sure the show goes on.
Being a mystery writer, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if any of the important players―the director, manager, fundraiser, board members, tech people―were targeted for murder. To tell the truth, it was difficult to find strong enough motivation for murder in a children’s theater group regardless of what people say about stage moms.
But adult theater seemed rife with possibilities. In my research, I learned that while fame and fortune is the goal for many actors, and the threat of losing it creates a strong motive for murder, plenty of people are in the business for other reasons―love of the art form, self-glorification, power, control over others, an exciting lifestyle―and the opportunities for criminal behavior abound.

Finding Focus

The concept of theater is huge, giving authors a lot of rich material. Theater has existed since the dawn of man, from storytelling around the campfire through the passion plays of ancient Egypt, the theater of the ancient Greeks (who formalized theater as an art form), the theater of ancient China and India, the early Christian theater in Europe, the folk theater of minstrels, fairs, and festivals, Renaissance theater, Shakespeare, French classicism, Italian opera, the circus, avant-garde theater, puppet theater, today’s Broadway, and so much more. Many of these periods have been the setting of mysteries, such as Simon Hawke’s series about a young William Shakespeare and Edward Marston’s Elizabethan Theater Mysteries.
Contemporary theater is integral to every culture throughout the world and encompasses everything from a one-man show in a church attic to a multimillion-dollar production in New York or London. Every city has a rich history of theater, ready to be drawn on as the base for a mystery with a little research in the right places, including local libraries, historical societies, and newspapers.
Plays have been written that expose just about every imaginable human condition, and the play a writer chooses to be the centerpiece of the mystery is the most important decision. Famous or unknown, or even fictional, plays can be exploited by the writer to emphasize the main theme, provide important clues about characters, and illustrate the message the writer wants to get across.

(Reprinted with permission from First Draft, a publication of the Guppies, Sisters in Crime)

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