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Rutgers opens doors to crime for ‘Murder Mystery Night’

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More than 130 students were treated to colorful characters in 1920s costumes, a murder plot and pizza at the Rutgers University Programming Association’s interactive event Wednesday night. 

Rutgers students filled the lower level of the College Avenue campus’ Art Library Wednesday evening to attend RUPA’s second annual Murder Mystery Dinner, which featured actors from The Murder Mystery Company and music from the 1920s. 

The plot of the event, which was characterized by comedic and mysterious elements, took twists and turns, including but not limited to an affair with a milkman, a hitwoman, a hunt for a rival West side bootlegger and murder.

As an “interactive theater,” the actors roamed the tables set up in the library, mingling with spectators. Before the start of the show, the actors gave one student at each of the tables a hat designating them as a special character in the performance.

Students playing characters were given names like Miss Percy Featherbottom III, Teddy Roosevelt and Rat Finkle. Many portrayed murder suspects and minor characters in the story. The character Rat Finkle played an informant who disclosed another student playing a gangster.

Before the night was over, another student who played a milkman named Gus, ended the performance with lipstick kiss marks on his face after having an affair with a gangster’s girlfriend.

Erica Cipollina, assistant director and event planner for RUPA, said the initial student response to the event was so strong RUPA was forced to offer a limited number of tickets in order to keep the Art Library from going over maximum capacity.

“We thought the location would get people more excited to come, and the response was insane,” she said. “We had over 500 people RSVP on Facebook...”

Cipollina said tickets online for the event sold out within hours of availability, with many attending students having heard of the event through a friend.

In order to prepare for the event, RUPA hired three actors and one actress from The Murder Mystery Company, ordered more than 20 pizzas and draped the Art Library with black-and-white decorations to match the clothing of the actors.

“We hope people walk away well fed, and maybe have figured out if they can solve a murder,” Cipollina said.

Jennifer Simon, assistant director of Student Life, said student interest in the event was so great RUPA may consider moving the event to a larger venue next year.

Paul Valenti, an actor for The Murder Mystery Company, said he was happy to be returning to Rutgers after performing a masquerade-themed show last year.

“This is our second year. We’re very happy to be back,” he said. “This is fun and we love [performing at] Rutgers.”

Most students had a strong positive response to the event. Nearly every table was filled, and laughter could be heard throughout the show.

Avery McWilliams, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she was impressed by the performances and would “absolutely” plan to attend the event next year. 

“The best part of the event was the detective,” she said. “He was so enthusiastic.” 

Conner Dooley, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he walked into the event not knowing he would be chosen to play the milkman in the story. He said he had “tons of fun” even though the event had taken an unexpected turn for his character.

David Sor, a School of Engineering senior, said he enjoyed the 1920s mafia theme.

“With the mafia — it’s a very good atmosphere,” he said. “It’s definitely the type of environment where you think a murder would happen.” 

Harry Braich, a School of Arts and Science senior, said strongly recommended other students to attend the event in the future.

“Yeah, definitely [people should come],” he said. “Especially people that are into fun and mysteries.”

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